As the new year begins, a look back shows that the multi-year trend of Jews ascending to the site of the Jewish Temples is growing even stronger. Perhaps more significantly, many respected rabbis and leaders are joining the grass roots return to the Temple Mount.
Yer’aeh, an organization that tracks Jews ascending to the Temple Mount, announced this week that 28,800 Jews ascended in the Hebrew calendar year, 5778. This compares to 22,552 the previous year. This year’s record more than doubles the 14,094 Jews who ascended two years ago. In 2014, fewer than 10,000 Jews ascended the Temple Mount throughout the entire year.
No less impressive is the growing number of influential rabbis who ascended, setting an example for their disciples. More than 100 rabbinic leaders ascended to the Temple Mount for the first time this year, signifying a change in their policy concerning the holy site. Some rabbis have ruled that it is forbidden to ascend to the Temple Mount due to concerns that visitors may enter areas that are forbidden by Jewish law.
Yaakov Hayman, the head of Yishai, an NGO dedicated to reinstating Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, believes that the emerging rabbinic interest in the Temple Mount is a step toward resolving the halachic (Torah law) issue.
“It is a new phenomenon to have rabbinic authoritative rabbis ruling that not only is it permitted to go up to the Temple Mount, but that we are required to go up,” Hayman told Breaking Israel News. “The real shame is that since 1967 when the Temple Mount was returned to the Jews, this important issue has never been fully discussed by the Chief Rabbinate or by rabbinic authorities in any organized fashion.”
“The facts are that by not approaching this in a true halachic manner, the rabbis who object to going up to the Temple Mount have removed themselves from the decision making process. The Jewish people are voting with their feet.”
Israeli law mandates freedom of religion and universal prayer at holy sites, but Israeli police have chosen to abide by restrictions that prohibit Jews from praying in the Temple Mount so as to avoid a violent Muslim backlash.
“As the number of Jews going to the Temple Mount grows, the police claim that violating their rights is justified becomes less tenable,” Hayman told Breaking Israel News. “There is no way the police can prevent thousands, or even hundreds of Jews from praying on the Temple Mount. We haven’t yet achieved that critical mass but it is clear to everyone that we are well on our way to get there. When the Nation of Israel decides they want to pray to God on the Temple Mount, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that will be able to stop us.”
In his professional life, Hayman manages building projects and his approach to the Third Temple reflects that.
“The Temple Mount is not a historical site. It is a future construction site,” he said. “We are pouring the foundations by bringing the hearts of Israel there.”