The claim that no
Jewish temple ever existed in Jerusalem and that Jews have no rights
whatsoever on the Temple Mount is part of the "temple denial" doctrine
that has been increasingly internalized in Palestinian academic,
religious, and political circles since the 1967 Six-Day War.
Others, both Jews and non-Jews, believe that a temple did exist but
indicate that the Jews abandoned the area soon after the destruction of
the Second Temple nearly two thousand years ago. From that time onward,
Jews lost all direct contact with the Temple Mount and relocated their
central worship site to other locations, such as the Mount of Olives and
later the Western Wall.
The facts do not support either of these claims. The destruction of
the Second Temple in the year 70 C.E. did not spell the end of Jewish
activities on the Temple Mount. For many centuries, Jews continued their
attachment to the site by maintaining a physical presence on the
mountain. And when they were prevented from doing so, they prayed three
times a day for the speedy renewal of the sacrificial service in a
from the destroyed temple can be seen here. Contrary to what many
believe, Jews did not abandon the Temple Mount after the temple's actual
destruction in 70 C.E. There is even evidence that sacrifices continued
for some time on a surviving altar. It was only after the Bar Kochba
revolt (132-35 C.E.) that Jews were barred from the site and from
Jerusalem by the victorious and vindictive Emperor Hadrian.
Both the first and second temples were located in a mountainous
portion of Jerusalem that Jewish tradition identified with the biblical
Mount Moriah, site of Abraham's attempted sacrifice of Isaac. Over time, the site was referred to as the Temple Mount (Har Habayit),
and it was here that Herod (r. 37-4 B.C.E.) transformed a relatively
small structure into a wonder of the ancient world. However, the
magnificent edifice he built stood for less than a hundred years; it was
destroyed in 70 C.E., three years after a Jewish rebellion against
Roman rule broke out.
The Jewish people's response to this cataclysmic event is in some
sense the entire post-70 history of the Jews as they built institutions
and created an entire culture that kept the people alive for millennia.
But what role did the actual Temple Mount play in their lives after its
physical destruction? Despite the conventional wisdom that the Jewish
people were banished from this holy site, the evidence suggests that
Jews continued to maintain a strong connection to and frequently even a
presence on the Temple Mount for the next two thousand years. Even when
they were physically prevented from ascending the site, their attachment
to Har Habayit remained strong and vibrant.
Roman Rule (70-300)
Once the Jewish revolt had been put down, Jews were again permitted
to visit the site of the former temple since the Romans generally did
not object to the worship of local gods. As far as they were concerned,
once the rebellion was suppressed, there was no longer any impediment to
Jewish worship on the mount. Many stories in the Talmud testify to the
fact that leading rabbis continued to pray on the now desolate Temple
Ascent to the Temple Mount was not limited to rabbis; the people's
attachment to the former sanctuary also remained very strong. One story
relates that "Ben Zoma once saw a [large] crowd on one of the steps of
the Temple Mount."
The people continued to bring sacrifices that were offered on a
Temple Mount altar that had survived the destructive fire by the Romans.
The Mishnah, a central code of Jewish law codified in the early third
century C.E., states that "one may offer sacrifices [on the place where
the temple used to stand] even though there is no house [i.e., temple]."
Some rabbis held that the sacrificial services continued almost without
interruption for sixty-five years following the temple's destruction
while others suggest that sacrificial services ceased in 70 C.E. but
were resumed for the 3-year period when Bar Kochba controlled Jerusalem.
Not only did the Jews continue to offer sacrifices and prayer on the
mount, but at least once in the half-century following the temple's
destruction, they began to build a new edifice for a third temple.
Emperor Hadrian (76-138), eager to gain the cooperation of the Jews,
granted them permission to rebuild their temple. The Jews started to
make the necessary preparations, but before long, Hadrian, at the
instigation of the Samaritans, went back on his word and the project was
Following the defeat of the Bar Kochba rebellion in 135 C.E., Jews
were barred for the first time from the Temple Mount. The victorious and
vindictive Emperor Hadrian ordered that the Temple Mount be ploughed
under and issued strict orders prohibiting Jews from living in Jerusalem
and from praying on the Temple Mount. As an alternative, Jews assembled
for prayer on the Mount of Olives from whence they had an unobstructed
view of the temple ruins. While this prohibition was strictly enforced
during Hadrian's lifetime, Jews did pray on the Temple Mount at various
times during the second and the third centuries because the prohibition
was not always fully enforced. Some scholars question whether Hadrian's
decree was ever legally formulated, but all agree that a policy of
prohibiting Jews in Jerusalem and on the Temple Mount was in effect.
Byzantine Period (300-618)
The transformation of the pagan Roman Empire into a Christian realm
early in the fourth century marked a decisive turning point in the
history of the Western world. Under pagan rule, Jerusalem had become a
relatively insignificant provincial city, but now it attracted many
pilgrims who came to worship at Christian holy sites. A new church, the
Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher, was built on the purported site of
Jesus' crucifixion and became the city's central religious site. Until
the Crusader conquest of the city eight centuries later, the importance
of the Temple Mount was deliberately de-emphasized. Though many churches
and other religious buildings were erected throughout the city at sites
associated with the life of Jesus, only one or two were built on the
Temple Mount. Until recently, it was widely believed that in the
Byzantine period the Temple Mount was deliberately abandoned by
Christians and turned into the local garbage dump
in order to fulfill the New Testament prediction that the temple would
be totally destroyed and "not one stone will be left here upon another."
These views were challenged by the recent publication of suppressed
archeological findings. The excavations, the only ones ever permitted on
the Temple Mount by the Muslim waqf in modern times, were
conducted by British archeologists in the 1930s. Under al-Aqsa mosque,
they found evidence of a mosaic floor, dated to the fifth to seventh
centuries, that was quite similar to floors of churches found in
Bethlehem. Most likely they are remnants of a Byzantine church that was
built on the Temple Mount—contrary to the accepted theories.
Emperor Constantine (272-357) renewed the laws that prohibited Jews
from living in or even visiting Christian Jerusalem, allowing access to
the Temple Mount once a year on Tisha b'Av (the ninth of the Hebrew
month of Av, the anniversary of the day the temples were destroyed).
In 333, the anonymous Pilgrim of Bordeaux described in some detail the
desolate Temple Mount, noting a "perforated stone" (perhaps today's
Foundation Stone found in the Dome of the Rock), which the Jews anointed
with oil once a year on Tisha b'Av. On this day, he heard the Jews
recite the Book of Lamentations on the Temple Mount and saw them tear
their clothes as a sign of mourning. Later Byzantine writers, including Jerome, corroborate that Jews continued these mourning practices on the actual Temple Mount.
Constantine's nephew Julian, who became emperor in 361 C.E., turned
his back on Christianity and issued an edict of universal religious
toleration for all—pagans, Jews, and Christians. He reversed the ban
against Jews in Jerusalem early in his reign.
In 363 C.E., Julian promised to help rebuild the temple in Jerusalem;
among Diaspora Jews, his pledge was greeted with great enthusiasm
although some rabbis were apprehensive about the undertaking,
hesitating to engage in building the Third Temple prior to the arrival
of the messiah. Julian,
nonetheless, went ahead with the project and ordered the imperial
treasury to make available large sums of money and building materials.
Many Jews came to Jerusalem to assist the skilled craftsmen and masons
in the removal of the existing foundation, the first step in the
Christian residents of the city were vigorous in their opposition to
any attempt to rebuild the temple. Many gathered in the Church of the
Holy Sepulcher to pray for the termination of the project. It would seem
their prayers were answered since all work halted abruptly in the
summer of 363; whether this was due to arson, an earthquake, or merely
Julian's death on the Persian front is a matter of some dispute.
Julian's successor, a devout Christian, immediately canceled the
By the latter part of the fourth century, the Temple Mount had
disappeared completely from the landscape of Christian Jerusalem. The
pilgrim Egeria who visited Jerusalem in the early 380s provided a
detailed description of the city in letters to her friends, but she made
no mention of the Temple Mount.
Similarly, the mosaic world map of Medaba from the mid-sixth century
depicts Jerusalem in great detail but omits the Temple Mount altogether
as does a seventh-century Armenian account of the city's holy places.
Jews, on the other hand, never forgot the Temple Mount even when none
of the original temple buildings remained standing. Wherever they
lived, they faced Jerusalem three times every day and prayed for the
restoration of the temple and the renewal of the sacrificial service.
Furthermore, there are indications that despite imperial bans, some
Jews continued to pray on the Temple Mount. The late fourth-century sage
Rabbi Bibi offered instructions to those who went to the Temple Mount
to ensure their behavior would not degrade the holiness of the place. A sixth-century aggadic work, Midrash Shir Hashirim Rabba,
includes an instruction for Jews everywhere to face in the direction of
the Temple Mount when praying, adding that "and those who pray on the
Temple Mount should turn to the Holy of Holies," an injunction that only makes sense if the ban was not strictly enforced.
The Jewish people's continued attachment to the Temple Mount is
exemplified by an event that occurred during the reign of the Roman
Empress Eudocia (401-60). When she went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land
in 438, she was greeted warmly by Jews everywhere, probably as a result
of her policy of supporting non-Christians. When the leading rabbis
asked her for permission to once again ascend the Temple Mount, she
immediately agreed. Great excitement gripped the local Jewish leaders
who sent letters to other communities throughout the world informing
them of the good news and asking them to come on pilgrimage to Jerusalem
for the coming Sukkot festival. More than 100,000 Jews came to
Jerusalem that year, but once again, Jerusalem's Christians launched a
violent protest and blocked access to the mountain.
For almost two centuries after this incident, Jews were forbidden to
live in Jerusalem. Until the Persian conquest in 618, Jerusalem was
officially a city without Jews. This would change dramatically under the
brief period of Persian rule and the subsequent, and far lengthier, era
of Muslim hegemony.
For centuries, Persian and Roman (later Byzantine) armies had battled
each other over the fringes of their respective empires. The invasion
of Palestine by King Khosru II of Persia in 613-14 C.E. succeeded in
briefly wresting control of Jerusalem from Constantinople. Khosru was
aided by Babylonian Jewry who supplied 30,000 Jewish soldiers in return
for a promise that they would participate in the capture of Jerusalem
and that a Jewish governor would be appointed to rule over the city.
Once the city was captured, the Persians appointed Nehemiah ben Hushiel
as governor, and the new governor lost no time in reestablishing the
sacrificial service on the Temple Mount.
Rabbi Elazer Kalir, one of the earliest and most prolific of Jewish liturgical poets, confirms the restoration:
When Assyria [Persia] came to the city … and pitched his
tents there / the holy people [Jews] were a bit relieved / because he
permitted the reestablishment of the Temple / and they built there the
holy altar / and offered upon it holy sacrifices / but they did not
manage to build the Temple / because the Messiah had not yet come.
But once again, this return to the Temple Mount was short-lived.
Nehemiah was soon executed either out of fear of his messianic
pretensions or because the support of the city's larger Christian
population was preferred over that of the smaller number of Jews. In any
event, in 629, only ten years after the conquest, the Persians lost
control of the city to the Byzantines who were subsequently defeated by
victorious Arab forces sweeping out of the desert.
Early Muslim Rule (638-1099)
Jerusalem was conquered by Arab forces in May 638, an accomplishment
ascribed by Muslim sources to the Caliph Umar. In return for assistance
in the taking of the city, the Jews received the right to reside in
Jerusalem and to pray on the Temple Mount without interference.
In 680, fifty years after Umar's conquest of Jerusalem, the
Damascus-based Umayyad dynasty engaged in a struggle for control of the
Muslim world with a rebel dynasty based in Mecca. The Umayyads opted to
fight the rebels by damaging Mecca's economy, which was based almost
entirely on revenues from Muslim pilgrims. Their secret weapon was to
create a competing pilgrimage site by building a magnificent edifice,
the Dome of the Rock, on the site of the destroyed Jewish temple and
hoping that this mosque would weaken Mecca's economy by siphoning off
pilgrims from Mecca. Thus, a political strategy designed to fight
mutineers in far-off Mecca transformed Jerusalem's Temple Mount into a
Muslim holy site with far-reaching implications to this day.
But the metamorphosis of the Temple Mount into Islam's third holiest
site did not result in a total exclusion of Jews from the location. Soon
after the Muslim conquest, Jews received permission to build a
synagogue on the Temple Mount. Perhaps the wooden structure that was
built over the Foundation Stone was first intended for a synagogue, but
even before it was completed, the site was expropriated by the city's
rulers. The Jews received another site on the mount for a synagogue in
compensation for the expropriated building. Most probably there was an active synagogue on the Temple Mount during most of the early Muslim period.
Solomon ben Jeroham, a Karaite (a medieval Jewish sectarian) exegete
who lived in Jerusalem between 940 and 960, affirmed that Jews were
permitted to pray on the Temple Mount, noting that "the courtyards of
the Temple were turned over to them and they prayed there [on the Temple
Mount] for many years."
Al-Aqsa Mosque (the Furthest Mosque), the second mosque on the Temple
Mount, was built in 715 and was linked to a Muslim legend, based on an
ambiguous verse in the Qur'an concerning Muhammad's night journey to
heaven. In this way, the
Umayyads cleverly associated Muhammad's life with Jerusalem even though
the prophet died years before the city's capture by the Muslims. This
construction further cemented the site's holiness to Islam. Nonetheless,
during this first phase of Islamic governance, Muslim rulers were
generally tolerant of Jewish activities on the mountain. Whenever
a more intolerant ruler assumed control of the city, Jews were
forbidden from praying on the mount but instead worshipped at one of the
many Temple Mount gates; an eleventh-century document found in the geniza
or storeroom of a Cairo synagogue describes the circuit followed by the
pilgrims and the prayers they recited at each of the gates.
After the conquest of Jerusalem by the army of the Fatimid dynasty
(969), a Temple Mount synagogue was rebuilt and used until the Jews were
banished by Caliph al-Hakim in 1015. When a subsequent ruler canceled
Hakim's eviction order, the Jews again returned to this synagogue on the
Temple Mount and worshipped there until the conquest of Jerusalem by
the Crusaders. Hebrew writings found on the internal walls of the Golden
Gate are believed to have been written by Jewish pilgrims at least one
thousand years ago, thus testifying once again to the continued Jewish attachment to and presence on the Temple Mount in this era.
Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem (1099-1187)
The early Arab rulers of Jerusalem for the most part did not destroy
or confiscate any of the city's churches. Although charged an entrance
toll, Christian pilgrims continued to visit their sacred shrines. This
religious tolerance came to an end when the Seljuk Turks swarmed out of
Central Asia in the latter part of the eleventh century and captured
Jerusalem in 1071. Assaults on pilgrims and attacks on churches became
commonplace. As reports of these anti-Christian activities reached
Europe, Pope Urban II in 1095 demanded that Christians rescue the Holy
Land from the "infidel," an appeal that resulted in the First Crusade.
Within hours of breaching the walls of Jerusalem in 1099, the
victorious Crusaders had massacred almost all of the city's Jewish and
Muslim inhabitants. The
Crusaders ascended the Temple Mount and after giving thanks to God for
their victory, converted the mosques into churches, renaming the Dome of
the Rock the Temple of God (Templum Domini) and al-Aqsa Mosque, the
Temple of Solomon (Templum Solomnis). The mount was declared off-limits
to all non-Christians and became the center of religious and civil life
in Crusader Jerusalem.
Despite the prohibition, Jews continued to ascend the mount even
during the Crusader period. The prominent medieval Jewish commentator
and leader Maimonides (1135-1204) wrote in a letter in 1165 that he
"entered the Great and Holy House [and] prayed there."
The Jewish traveler, Benjamin of Tudela, who visited Jerusalem sometime
between 1159 and 1172, also recorded Jews praying "in front of the
Western Wall [of the Dome of the Rock], one of the [remaining] walls of what was once the Holy of Holies." Thus, even in one of the darkest and most intolerant periods of Jewish history, the faithful did not abandon the Temple Mount.
A Medieval Dispute
Less than a century later, the Kurdish Muslim warrior Saladin
regained control of the city, thus putting an end to the Crusader
Kingdom of Jerusalem in October 1187. Even though the Temple Mount was
re-consecrated as a Muslim sanctuary, Saladin permitted both Jews and
Muslims to settle in Jerusalem and to worship on the Temple Mount. The
Muslim authorities permitted Jews to erect a synagogue on the site
although the situation vacillated over the next few centuries. For
example, Saladin, who at first had urged Jews to come back to Jerusalem,
a few years later forbade them to go on the Temple Mount. From the late
thirteenth century to the mid-nineteenth, the mountain was, for the
most part, off-limits to Jews with occasional interludes of access.
During the first millennium following the destruction of the Second
Temple, Jews did not hesitate to ascend the mount, but by the Middle
Ages, two distinct halakhic (Jewish religious law) views on the
permissibility of doing so had crystallized. The dispute centered
largely on issues of the degrees of holiness associated with the areas
where the temple once stood and on whether Jews who could no longer
attain ritual purity might inadvertently enter the location of the
former temple. According to most rabbinic authorities, in the first
centuries after the temple's destruction, it was permissible to walk on
the Temple Mount because the ashes of the Red Heifer, which were
necessary for attaining ritual purity, were still available.
But by the medieval period, these ashes were no longer available, and
thus prevented Jews from achieving ritual purity. Under these
circumstances, Maimonides taught, "Even though the Temple is in ruins
today due to our sins, everyone is obligated to revere it like when it
was standing … one is not permitted to enter any place that is
forbidden." On the other hand, Rabbi Avraham ben David of Provence [Raavad] (c.1125-98), the author of critical glosses on Maimonides' Mishneh Torah, concluded that "one who enters [the Temple Mount] nowadays does not receive the penalty of karet [literally, cutting off]."
Though there are various interpretations of the meaning of Raavad's
gloss, he probably held that the Temple Mount without a temple no longer
had its original holiness.
In the subsequent halakhic literature, the vast majority of
rabbinical authorities "built a fence around" Maimonides' conclusion and
forbade entering any part of the Temple Mount, fearing that some might
inadvertently enter a forbidden area. Of the classical authorities, only
Rabbi Menachem Meiri (1249-1316), a noted French Talmudic scholar,
expressed the view that in his days it was permissible for Jews to enter
the Temple Mount.
And yet Jewish attachment to this ruined site persisted. In 1211,
three hundred European rabbis, mostly from England and France, embarked
for the Holy Land. One, Rabbi Shmuel ben R. Shimshon, wrote about his
visit to the Temple Mount. Early in the fourteenth century, Rabbi Ishtori Haparchi (1280-1366) wrote in his halakhic and geographic book Kaftor ve-Ferah about an earlier rabbinic ruling that urged people to come to Jerusalem and offer sacrifices on the Temple Mount.
While nothing apparently came of these plans, it is significant that a
noted authority of the period could contemplate such an act, despite the
self-imposed rabbinic ban. Toward the end of the Mamluk period, there
is evidence from the chief rabbi of Jerusalem, David ben Shlomo Ibn
Zimra (1479-1573), who wrote that the city's Jews regularly went to the
Temple Mount in order to view the entire temple ruins and pray there. He
added that "we have not heard or seen anyone object to this."
The Ottoman Empire (1516-1856)
With the Ottoman conquest of Jerusalem in 1516, the relationship
between the Jewish people and the Temple Mount entered a new phase.
Sultan Suleiman I (the Magnificent, 1494-1566) ordered the rebuilding of
the city's walls and encouraged many European Jews, especially those
who had been expelled from Spain and Portugal a generation earlier, to
settle in the Holy City. Suleiman also instructed his court architect to
prepare a place for Jewish prayer in an alley at the bottom of the
Western retaining wall of the Temple Mount because he had prohibited all
non-Muslims from entering any part of the Temple Mount. A royal decree
was issued that guaranteed for all times the right of Jews to pray at
this Western Wall in compensation for the Jews' relinquishing their
legal rights to pray on the mount itself.
Subsequent Ottoman rulers invested little effort in the upkeep of the
Dome of the Rock or al-Aqsa Mosque. There are no records of important
Muslim clerics or kings or even large crowds of ordinary Muslims praying
on the Temple Mount. Even
those rabbinical authorities, who agreed in theory with the precedents
that permitted ascent, hedged their rulings in view of the actual
situation on the ground. Rabbi Yosef Di'Trani, who visited Jerusalem
during the 1590s, noted that there were locations on the southern and
eastern sides of the Temple Mount where Jews could walk freely without
any concern of entering a prohibited area, but he ruled that Jews
should, nonetheless, avoid going there because they were not ritually
clean. In the nineteenth century, students of the rabbinical giant, the
Vilna Gaon, arrived in Jerusalem and became the prototype of today's
ultra-Orthodox haredi community. The leader of this group, Rabbi
Yisrael of Shklov (d. 1839), held that though there were areas on the
Temple Mount that they were allowed to enter, Jews were, nevertheless,
forbidden to ascend as the exact location of these permitted areas was
in some doubt. This ruling
became the normative position of the Orthodox world for the next 150
years. Despite rabbinical decrees prohibiting access to the mountain and
the death penalty threat for any Jew caught on the mountain, the
deep-seated Jewish attachment to the Temple Mount remained strong. An
unknown number of Jews ascended the mountain surreptitiously during
these centuries. No records were kept of these visits because of their
clandestine nature, but occasional references in Muslim court records
and travelers' accounts give evidence of their occurrence.
Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
In the aftermath of the Crimean War (1853-56), the Temple Mount was
opened daily (except on Fridays) to all visitors, regardless of their
religion—a concession demanded by the victorious British. Nevertheless,
the Jerusalem rabbis again issued a decree prohibiting Jews from going
up, threatening to put any Jew who ignored their ruling under the ban, a
form of rabbinical excommunication from the community. While the vast
majority of Jews abided by the decree, many ignored it, including
prominent visitors, such as Sir Moses Montefiore and Baron Edmond de
Rothschild. Many of the new secular settlers also disregarded the
rabbinical instructions and visited the site.
Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook (1865–1935), the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi
of the Jewish community in Mandatory Palestine, repeatedly prohibited
entering any part of the Temple Mount, a position also reiterated by his
successor Rabbi Isaac Herzog (1888-1959). Herzog testified in 1938
before the British Partition Committee that Jews were not allowed to go
onto the Temple Mount until the coming of the messiah.
Just before the outbreak of the 1948 War of Independence, Herzog
instructed Gen. David Shaltiel, the Jerusalem sector commander of the
Jewish underground forces, that should his forces capture the Temple
Mount, they should make every effort to expel all enemy soldiers, but
once they had accomplished this task they were to leave the Temple Mount
as quickly as possible because of the holiness of the place. These
instructions became moot since the Jordanian army succeeded in occupying
all of the Old City, including the Temple Mount. For the next nineteen
years, no Jew was allowed to approach the Western Wall or the Temple
Mount despite provisions in the Jordan-Israel armistice agreement that
called for free access to all holy places.
In June 1967, on the second day of the Six-Day War, Israeli
paratroopers entered Jerusalem's Old City and made their way to the
Temple Mount; Col. Mordechai Gur, the brigade's commander, soon
broadcast a momentous message to the Israeli nation: "The Temple Mount
is [again] in our hands." For the first time in almost two thousand
years, the Temple Mount was under the control of a sovereign Jewish
Gur ordered three paratroopers to climb to the top of the Dome of the
Rock and unfurl an Israeli flag over it; four hours later Defense
Minister Moshe Dayan ordered the flag taken down. This order initiated a
schizophrenic diplomatic and political state of affairs that continues
to this day.
Dayan proclaimed that, henceforth, there would be unrestricted Jewish access to the Temple Mount.
This compound was our Temple Mount. Here stood our Temple
during ancient time, and it would be inconceivable for Jews not to be
able freely to visit this holy place now that Jerusalem is under our
Rabbi Shlomo Goren, Israel Defense Forces chief rabbi at that time,
was among the first soldiers to appear on the Temple Mount and described
his activities on that historic day:
When we arrived on the Temple Mount, I blew the shofar,
fell on the ground and prostrated myself in the direction of the Holy of
Holies, as was customary in the days when the Temple still stood. …
[Later] I found General Moti Gur sitting in front of the Omar Mosque. He
asked me if I wanted to enter, and I answered him that today I had
issued a ruling permitting all soldiers to enter because soldiers are
obligated to do so on the day when they conquer the Temple Mount in
order to clear it of enemy soldiers and to make certain that no booby
traps were left behind. … I took along a Torah scroll and a shofar and
we entered the building. I think that this was the first time since the
destruction of the Temple almost two thousand years ago that a Torah
scroll had been brought into the holy site which is where the Temple was
located. Inside I read Psalm 49, blew the shofar, and encircled the
Foundation Stone with a Torah in my hand. Then we exited.
Some weeks later Rabbi Goren established a synagogue and study hall,
as well as his office, on the Temple Mount and held organized study and
prayers on the site. But within days, Goren's efforts were brought to a
halt. At the behest of Dayan, the Israeli government prohibited Rabbi
Goren from undertaking any further activities on the mount.
As a result of another government decision that same year, the
general public, including Jews and Christians, was allowed to visit the
Temple Mount without hindrance but not to pray there. Many visitors have
taken advantage of this permission, but most observant Jews continued
to follow the instructions of the chief rabbinate, which prohibit Jews
from entering the mount because of the issue of ritual impurity. A small
number of rabbis have followed Rabbi Goren's plea to permit and
encourage Jews to visit those areas on the Temple Mount that do not
require complete ritual purity.
At the outbreak of "al-Aqsa intifada" in September 2000, the
Temple Mount was closed to all non-Muslims because it was feared that
the area might become a tinderbox of clashes with Palestinians. The
mount was reopened to non-Muslims in August 2003, but visiting hours
were severely curtailed with the authority of the waqf (Islamic
religious endowment), the Muslim custodians of the Temple Mount,
increasing in significance. During certain hours, Jews and Christians
are allowed to go up to the mount but only if they conform to a strict
set of guidelines, including a ban on prayer and bringing any "holy
objects" to the site. Visitors are forbidden from entering any of the
mosques without direct waqf permission; rules are enforced by waqf
agents, who watch tourists closely and alert nearby Israeli police to
any infractions. Thus despite the fact that the Israeli parliament
passed laws ensuring freedom of worship to all at every holy site,
Jewish prayer on any part of the Temple Mount continues to be
Even after the Roman armies destroyed the temple in 70 C.E., the Jews
never abandoned the site. No matter what obstacles or decrees others
placed in their way, Jews continued to ascend and pray at or near the
area where their temple once stood.
Whenever their physical presence on the mountain was outlawed, they
selected alternate prayer sites, such as the Mount of Olives from where
the Temple Mount could be seen. In more recent times, the Western Wall
served as such an alternative. But even during those periods, Jews
attempted, legally or otherwise, to go up unto the mountain to pray. In
recent decades, despite the opposition of the Muslim waqf and the Jewish chief rabbinate, the number of Jews going up on the Temple Mount in order to pray has increased year-by-year.
Against this backdrop, the continued denial that Jews have any
connection with the Temple Mount cannot but pose a formidable obstacle
to a settlement of the Arab-Israel conflict.
F. M. Loewenberg is a professor emeritus at Bar-Ilan-University and lives in Efrat, Israel.
 David Barnett, "The Mounting Problem of Temple Denial," Meria Journal, June 2011.
 Eli Schiller, Kipat ha-Sela Even Hash'tiya (Jerusalem: Ariel, 1976), pp. 19-28.
 Rashi's comment on the Babylonian Talmud (hereafter, BT), Pesachim 88a.
 See BT, Makkot 24b; BT, Shabbat 15a; BT, Rosh Hashanah 31a; BT, Sanhedrin 11b; BT, Avoda Zara 20a.
 BT, Berakhot 58a; see, also, Mordechai Fogelman, Beit Mordechai (Jerusalem: Mossad Harav Kook, 2009), p. 205.
 Mishnah (M) Eduyot 8.6; see also Maimonides, Hilkhot Bet Ha-bechira 6.15.
 M Eduyot 8.6; Maimonides, Hilkhot Bet Ha-bechira 6.15; Ha'emek Davar commentary on Leviticus 26.31.
 Genesis Rabba 64.10.
 Oded Irshai, "Ha-issur shehetil Konstantinus Hagadol al k'nissat Yehudim Lirushalayim," Zion, 60 (1996), pp. 129-78; J. Rendel Harris, "Hadrian's decree of expulsion of the Jews from Jerusalem," Harvard Theological Review, 19 (1926), pp. 199-206.
 Galyn Wiemers, "Jerusalem 101: An introduction to the city of Jerusalem," Generation Word, West Des Moines, Iowa., accessed Apr. 24, 2013.
 Matthew 24:2, Mark 13:2, Luke 21:6.
 Etgar Lefkovits, "Was the Aksa Mosque built over the remains of a Byzantine church?" Jerusalem Post, Nov. 16, 2008; Leen Ritmeyer, "Third Jewish Mikveh and a Byzantine Mosaic Floor Discovered on the Temple Mount," Ritmeyer Archeological Design, Nov. 17, 2008; Israel Hayom (Tel Aviv), June 29, 2012.
 Irshai, "Ha-issur shehetil Konstantinus Hagadol al k'nissat Yehudim Lirushalayim," pp. 129-78.
 Michael Avi-Yonah, The Jews of Palestine: A Political History from the Bar Kokhba War to the Arab Conquest (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1984), p. 81; Menachem Elon, Temple Mount Faithful-Amutah et al v. Attorney-General, et al., in the Supreme Court Sitting as the High Court of Justice, Sept. 23, 1993, in Catholic University Law Review, Spring 1996, pp. 890-2.
 Jerome's commentary on Zephaniah 1.6.
 Ephraem the Syrian, Bibliothek der Kirchenväter, A. Rücker, trans., 20 (1919), First Song, p. 16; Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio V contra Julianum, 4 (GCS 35), c. 668.
 Philostorgius, Historia ecclesiastica, Joseph Bidez, ed. (Berlin: Winkelman and Friedhelm, 1972), p. 297.
 Avi-Yonah, The Jews of Palestine, pp. 196-200; Gunter Stemberger, Jews and Christians in the Holy Land—Palestine in the Fourth Century (Edinburgh: Clark, 2000), p. 208; Robert Panella, "The Emperor Julian and the God of the Jews," Koinonia, 23 (1999), pp. 15-31; Kenneth W. Russell, "The Earthquake of May 19, AD 363," The Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research,
Spring 1980, pp. 47-64; David B. Levenson, "The ancient and medieval
sources for the Emperor Julian's attempt to rebuild the Jerusalem
Temple," The Journal for the Study of Judaism, 4 (2004), pp. 409-60.
 M. L. McClure and C. L. Feltoe, ed. and trans., The Pilgrimage of Etheria (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1919).
 E. W. Brooks, "An Armenian Visitor to Jerusalem in the Seventh Century," English Historical Review, 11(1896), pp. 93-7.
 JT, Berakhot 2.4(17a), Midrash Tanchuma Ki Tavo 1.
 BT, Berakhot 62b.
 Midrash Shir Hashirim Rabba 4.
 Michael Gaddis, There Is No Crime for Those Who Have Christ: Religious Violence in the Christian Empire (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005), p. 246; Kenneth Holum, Theodosian Empresses (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989), p. 217.
 Some scholars question the existence of this treaty. See, Elisabeth Campagner, "Eine jüdische Apokalypse des 7. Jahrhunderts? Kaiser Heraklius als Antichrist?" Internet Zeitschrift fur Kulturwissenschaft, Sept. 5, 2002, pp. 1-43.
 Ezra Fleischer, "L'pitaron sh'elat z'mano u'makom p'ulato shel R' Elazar Biribi Kilir," Tarbiz, 54 (1985), p. 401.
 Jacob Mann, The Jews in Egypt and in Palestine under the Fatimid Caliphate
(Ithaca: Cornell University Library, 1920), vol. 2, pp. 188-9; Ben-Zion
Dinor (Dinaburg), "Bet Tefila u'midrash l'yehudim al har habayit bi'mey
ha'aravim," Zion, 3 (1929), pp. 54-87.
 "The riddle of the Dome of the Rock: Was it built as a Jewish place of prayer?" The Voice of the Temple Mount Faithful (Jerusalem), Summer 2001; Abraham Benisch, trans., Travels of Rabbi Petachia of Ratisbon (London: The Jewish Chronicle Office, 1856); Robert Bedrosian, trans., Sebeos' History of Armenia (New York: Sources of the Armenian Tradition, 1985), chap. 31.
 Dinor, "Bet Tefila u'midrash l'yehudim al har habayit bi'mey ha'aravim," pp. 54-87; for another view, see Jacob Mann, Texts and Studies in Jewish History and Literature (New York: Ktav Publisher, 1970), vol. 1, pp. 313-5.
 Solomon ben Jeroham, comment on Psalm 30, cited by Shlomo Goren, Sefer Har Habayit, rev. ed. (Jerusalem: Ha-idra Rabba, 2004), p. 314.
 Qur. 17.1.
 Dan Bahat, "Identification of the Gates of the Temple Mount and the 'Cave' in the Early Muslim Period," Catedra, 106 (2002), pp. 61-86; Abraham Ya'ari, ed., Igarot Eretz Yisrael (Tel Aviv: Gazit, 1943), pp. 48-53.
 Shulamit Gera, "Ha-ketuvot b'otiot ivri'ot b'sha'ar harahamim," Catedra, 61 (1991), pp. 176-81.
 Salo Wittmayer Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, 2nd ed. (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1957), vol. 4, p. 109; Hamilton Alexander Rosskeen Gibb, The Damascus Chronicle of the Crusades: Extracted and Translated from the Chronicle of Ibn Al-Qalanisi (Mineola, N.Y.: Dover, 2003), p. 48.
 Thomas Madden, The New Concise History of the Crusades (Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005), p. 212; Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, p. 109.
 R. Elazar Ezkari, Sefer Haredim (Mitzvah 83); Yitzhak Shilat, "B'niyat Bet Knesset b'Har Habayit B'yameinu," Tehumin 7, 1986, pp. 489-512.
 The Western Wall Benjamin
described was not the present Western Wall (which did not become a site
for prayer until the sixteenth century) but the ruins of the western
wall of the Second Temple building on the Temple Mount.
 Benjamin of Tudela, The Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela (Jerusalem: Hebrew University, 1960), pp. 20-4.
 Emil Offenbacher, "Prayer on the Temple Mount," Jerusalem Quarterly, 36 (1985), p. 134.
 Eliezer Brodt, "Eimatai paska taharat afar para aduma," Tradition Seforim Blog, 2009.
 Maimonides, Hilchot Beit Habechira 7:7.
 Raavad's gloss on Maimonides, Hilchot Beit Habechira 6:14.
 Menachem Meiri, Beit Habechira on BT, Shavuot 16a.
 Ya'ari, Igarot Eretz Yisrael, p. 78.
 Ishtori Haparchi, Kaftor v'Ferah, J. Blumenfeld, ed. (New York: Beit Hillel, 1958), p. 214, n. 17.
 Responsa of the Radbaz, vol. 2, no. 691; Tuvya Sagiv, "Ha-knissa l'Har Habayit—T'shuvat Haradbaz," in Yehuda Shaviv, ed., Kumo v'Na'aleh (Alon Shvut: Machon Tzomet, 2003), pp. 46-81.
 Joseph Schwartz, Geography of Palestine, I. Leeser, trans. (Philadelphia: A. Hart, 1850), p. 260.
 Manfred R. Lehmann, "The Moslem Claim to Jerusalem Is False," Algemeiner Journal, Aug. 19, 1994.
 Israel of Shklov, P'at Hashulchan, H. Eretz Yisrael (Ramat Gan: Re'ut, 2000), sect. 3:11-12; idem, Bet Yisrael commentary (Safed: n.p., 1836), subsec. 26.
 Amnon Cohen, Jews in Moslem Religious Courts: 16th Century (Jerusalem: Ben Tzvi, 1993), doc. 104, May 4, 1551, pp. 114-5, doc 107, May 19, 1554, p. 117; Schwartz, Geography of Palestine, pp. 417-8.
 Dotan Goren, "Ha-aliya l'Har habayit ul'Makom ha-Mikdash b'tram ha-medina," E-mago, 2007.
 Moshe Dayan, Story of My Life (New York: Morrow and Company, 1976), p. 390.
 Shlomo Goren, "Selection from Personal Diary on the Conquest of Jerusalem," cited in Shabbaton, no. 422, May 29, 2009.
 Yoel Cohen, "The Political Role of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate in the Temple Mount Question," Jewish Political Studies Review, Spring 1999, p. 108; Goren, Sefer Har Habayit, pp. 30-3.
 Matti Friedman, "On the Temple Mount, a battle brews over Jewish prayer," Times of Israel, Mar. 12, 2013.
Related Topics: Israel & Zionism, Jerusalem, Jews and Judaism | Summer 2013 MEQ
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