Temple Mount in Jerusalem
Nearly two-thirds of Israelis say the time is right to rebuild the Jerusalem Temple, according to a Ynet-Gesher survey.
Even half of non-religious Jews favor rebuilding the Holy Temple – an idea politically unthinkable in Israel just 10 or 20 years ago.
The poll was release on the saddest day on the Jewish calendar – the fasting day of Tisha B’Av, or the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av. It commemorates a series of tragedies that befell the Jewish people all on the same day, most significantly the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem, which occurred about 656 years apart on the same day. Jewish tradition calls for the reading of Lamentations.
Aside from the destruction of the Jewish Temples, a remarkably large number of massive calamities befell the Jewish people on Tisha B’Av. Jewish rebellion leader Bar Kokhba’s famous revolt against Rome failed in A.D. 136. Following the Roman siege of Jerusalem, the razing of Jerusalem occurred the next year. The first crusade pogrom against Jews in Palestine began on that date in A.D. 1096.
The Jews were expelled from Britain on Tisha B’Av in 1290 and were expelled from Spain that same day in 1492. The Warsaw Ghetto uprising was crushed by the Nazis on that day in May 1943, resulting in the slaughter of about 50,000 Jews.
Nationalists in Israel also mourn the removal of Jews from the Gaza Strip in 2005, which began the day after Tisha B’av.
The book of Lamentations, written in poetic verse, mourns the desolations brought on Jerusalem and the Holy Land by the Chaldeans.
The rebuilding of the Temple is an extremely controversial idea in Israel because currently Jewish access to the Temple Mount is restricted by the Muslim Waqf, which was granted administrative authority over the Jews’ holiest sites, which are occupied by Muslim shrines.
Some Jewish leaders believe access to Jews should be restricted until the Third Temple is built.
Israel recaptured the Temple Mount during the 1967 Six Day War. Currently under Israeli control, Jews and Christians are barred from praying on the Mount.
The Temple Mount was opened to the general public until September 2000, when the Palestinians started their intifada by throwing stones at Jewish worshippers after then-candidate for prime minister Ariel Sharon visited the area.
Following the onset of violence, the new Sharon government closed the Mount to non-Muslims, using checkpoints to control all pedestrian traffic for fear of further clashes with the Palestinians.
The Temple Mount was reopened to non-Muslims in August 2003. It remains open, but only Sundays through Thursdays, 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., and not on any Christian, Jewish or Muslim holidays or other days considered “sensitive” by the Waqf.
During “open” days, Jews and Christian are allowed to ascend the Mount, usually through organized tours and only if they conform first to a strict set of guidelines, which includes demands that they not pray or bring any “holy objects” to the site. Visitors are banned from entering any of the mosques without direct Waqf permission. Rules are enforced by Waqf agents, who watch tours closely and alert nearby Israeli police to any breaking of their guidelines.
King Solomon built the First Temple in the 10th century B.C. The Babylonians destroyed it in 586 B.C. The Jews built the Second Temple in 515 B.C. after Jerusalem was freed from Babylonian captivity. The Romans destroyed the Second Temple in A.D. 70.
The First Temple stood for about 400 years, the second for almost 600. Both Temples served as the center of religious worship for the whole Jewish nation. All Jewish holidays centered on worship at the Temple – the central location for the offering of sacrifices and the main gathering place for the Jewish people.
According to the Talmud, God created the world from the foundation stone of the Temple Mount.
The site is believed to be the biblical Mount Moriah, where Abraham fulfilled God’s test of faith by demonstrating his willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac.
Jewish tradition also holds that Mashiach – literally “the anointed one,” the Jewish Messiah – will come and rebuild the third and final temple on the Mount in Jerusalem and bring redemption to the entire world.
The Western Wall, called the Kotel in Hebrew, is the one part of the Temple Mount that survived the Roman destruction of the Second Temple and stands to this day in Jerusalem.
The Temple Mount has remained a focal point for Jewish services for thousands of years. Prayers for a return to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple have been uttered three times daily by religious Jews since the destruction of the Second Temple. Throughout all the centuries of Jewish exile from their land, thorough documentation shows the Jews never gave up their hope of returning to Jerusalem and reestablishing their Temple. To this day Jews worldwide pray facing the Western Wall, while Muslims turn their backs away from the Temple Mount and pray toward Mecca.
Muslims constructed the al-Aqsa Mosque around A.D. 709 to serve as a place of worship near a famous shrine, the gleaming Dome of the Rock, built by an Islamic caliph, or supreme ruler.
About 100 years ago, Muslims began to associate al-Aqsa in Jerusalem with the place Muhammad ascended to heaven. Islamic tradition states Muhammad took a journey in a single night from “a sacred mosque” – believed to be in Mecca in southern Saudi Arabia – to “the farthest mosque,” and from a rock there ascended to heaven to receive revelations from Allah that became part of the Quran.
While Palestinians and many Muslim countries claim exclusivity over the Mount, and while their leaders strenuously deny the Jewish historic connection to the site, things weren’t always this way. In fact, historically, Muslims never claimed the al-Aqsa Mosque as their “third holiest site” and always recognized the existence of the Jewish Temples.
According to an Israeli attorney, Shmuel Berkovits, Islamic tradition mostly disregarded Jerusalem. He points out in his book “How Dreadful is this Place!” that Muhammad was said to loathe Jerusalem and what it stood for to the other monotheistic faiths.
Muhammad also made a point of eliminating pagan sites of worship and sanctifying only one place – the Kaaba in Mecca – to signify the unity of Allah. As late as the 14th century, Islamic scholar Taqi al-Din Ibn Taymiyya, whose writings later influenced the strict Wahhabi movement in Arabia, ruled that sacred Islamic sites exist only on the Arabian Peninsula, and that “in Jerusalem, there is not a place one calls sacred, and the same holds true for the tombs of Hebron.”
Not until the late 19th century – when Jews started immigrating to Palestine – did Muslim scholars claim that Muhammad tied his horse to the Western Wall and associate Muhammad’s purported night journey with the Temple Mount.