In the past year, an unprecedented number of Jews ascended to their holiest site, laying claim in a manner that some Temple Mount Activists consider even more significant than the IDF victory in 1967 that unified Jerusalem. The next step for the Jews, prayer on the Temple Mount, may be even closer than most realize, waiting on a court case set to be decided in just a few weeks.
Yera’eh, an organization promoting ascending to the Temple Mount, counts the number of Jews who ascend every day. Their statistics show that in 2017, 25,628 Jews went up to the Temple Mount. This compares to only 14,626 Jews who went up to the Temple Mount in 2016. In 2014 and 2015, about 11,000 Jews ascended to the Temple Mount each year. In 2009, the only 5,658 Jews went up to the Temple Mount.
Elisha Sanderman, a representative from Yera’eh, believes this is a revolutionary development.
“Fifty years ago, the IDF conquered the Temple Mount, and announced, ‘The Temple Mount is in our hands’, but that concept never materialized in fullness,” Sanderman told Breaking Israel News. “Now, the nation is expressing its connection to our holiest site and we can say in all sincerity, ‘The Temple Mount is in our hands’.”
According to Israeli government statistics, over 300,000 Christians visit the site annually. Included in this number are Jews who do not identify as Jews.
“There are very specific Torah laws concerning Jews who go up to the Temple Mount,” Sanderman said. “They are restricted in where they can go and the shoes they can wear. Jews must also bath in a mikveh (ritual bath) before going up.”
Asaf Fried, the spokesman for the United Temple Movement, agreed that the past year was a watershed that brought the Third Temple closer.
“The war for the Temple Mount is finally over,” Fried told Breaking Israel News. “Now, we need more Jews to go up to the Temple Mount, and we all need to do much more spiritual work because the next step is the Temple.”
Fried cited two reasons for this drastic change.
“There has been a powerful spiritual awakening among the Jews of all streams concerning the Temple Mount,” Fried said. “This is even true among the rabbis. There used to be a consensus among many of the influential rabbis that going onto the Temple Mount was forbidden. Last week, Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, a world-renowned expert on Halacha (Torah law) went up, clearly establishing his opinion that it is permitted.”
“The other reason is that the security situation is vastly improved. In 2014 I went up with my children in a group of 15. Hundreds of Arabs ran up to us, yelling ‘Allahu Akhbar’ and cursing. Even though the police were accompanying us, it was untenable. Jews and Christians alike were treated horribly.”
“Now, the site is quiet,” Fried said. “A person has the ability to meditate on the meaning of the place.”
Many elements, including increased public interest, are coming together to improve the situation for the Jews at the site. The United Temple Movements, led by Yaakov Hayman, brought a case to the High Court that will allow Jews to visit the site, unaccompanied by police or Waqf (Muslim authority) guards. The case will be decided in two weeks.
“This will greatly enhance the Jewish experience on the Temple Mount,” Hayman explained to Breaking Israel News.”We will be able to go where we want and do what we want while we are up there.”
“When we first brought the case last year, President Obama allowed a resolution to pass the UN Security Council condemning the Israeli presence in Jerusalem,” “The prime minister and the government had to take that into consideration. Now, the political situation is totally different. President Trump has just declared Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital. This has an enormous influence on what will happen on the Temple Mount.”
“The stage is totally set for things to come,” Hayman said.
Rabbi Hillel Weiss, the spokesman for the nascent Sanhedrin and head of the Mikdash B’Tzion (Temple on Zion) organization, was cautious in his enthusiasm.
“This is a wonderful and blessed phenomenon but we need to add content in order for this to have meaning,” Rabbi Weiss told Breaking Israel News. “We need to add prayer, as individuals and in a minyan (quorum of ten), and have organized places for storing Torah scrolls. This is what will bring the Temple service, and, of course, the Temple.”
Rabbi Weiss explained that this is more than an internal Jewish matter.
“The Temple Mount is the center of the world,” Rabbi Weiss said. “When meaningful changes are made here, positive changes will appear around the world.”