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Visit the Temple Mount - Online

New website offers a fascinating virtual tour of the holiest, and most politically-charged, site in Israel
By Uzi Baruch and Ari Soffer
First Publish: 7/16/2013, 3:09 PM

Temple Mount
Temple Mount
Flash 90
Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount this morning found themselves facing a police barricade, as public figures - including senior government officials - joined the growing chorus of calls for an end to draconian restrictions on Jewish ascent and prayer at Judaism's holiest site.

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But there is one way for Jews throughout the world to bypass the ban - if only virtually.

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On the eve of Tisha B'Av, the fast commemorating the destruction of the two holy Temples in Jerusalem,  the Lev Ha'uma (Heart of the Nation) Association has launched a fascinating and detailed online tour of the Temple Mount.

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HarHaKodesh.co.il uses the latest technology to offers a 360-degree virtual tour of the Temple Mount. Tour "guides" include such high-profile personalities as the Minister of Housing, Uri Ariel (Jewish Home), a figure well-known for his years of tireless activism to raise awareness about the importance of the Temple Mount to the Jewish people.

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Other notables include Israeli researcher and linguist Dr. Avshalom Kor, Jerusalem archaeologist Prof. Gaby Barkai, Ethiopian-born communal leader Rabbi Sharon Shalom, "Jerusalem Tours" Instructor Rachel Rock, among others.

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The site also grants rare "access" to areas that are off-limits to (physical) Jewish visitors - either due to restrictions imposed by the Islamic Waqf which administers the site, or, in some cases, due to Jewish religious prohibitions which apply to certain particularly holy parts of the Mount.

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The Temple Mount is a politically charged topic, as illustrated by events both on Monday and Tuesday, but the purpose of the site is educational, not political, say its creators. Its objectives are to "reconnect the historic and spiritual point of contact between the Temple Mount to the Jewish people."

Minister Uri Ariel was involved with the project from the very beginning, and helped raise support for the initiative:

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"The media on Tisha B'Av media is full of stories about how people are disgruntled in Tel Aviv that the cafes and restaurants are all closed - and I understand them. 

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"No one taught them, so they don't know anything about the destruction of the Temple. They think that the Temple Mount is all about [Arabs] throwing rocks and provocations by the extreme right. How do expect them to mourn on Tisha B'Av?"

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Ariel lamented the state of the Israeli education system when it came to such crucial aspects of Jewish history:

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"Our education system does not teach them about the destruction of the Temple. Anyone who visits the Israel Museum and passes through all the exhibits, could come out not knowing that there ever was a temple!

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"At the Israel Museum a thousand years of the Temple has got lost among all the showrooms of Christian art. Thus we have no museum showing [Jewish] history, exhibiting all the archaeological findings which describe the role of the Holy Mountain in the Jewish experience for thousands of years"

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HarHaKodesh, he explained was a "modest" attempt at rectifying that problem.

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Ariel expressed hope that the website will help to introduce the topic of the Temple Mount into the Israeli educational system and wider public consciousness, and serve as a foundation for entire educational departments committed to the topic, similar to those which already exist to educate about the Holocaust and Jewish Diaspora.

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So, if you don't feel like manning the barricades and marching to the Temple Mount - here's a somewhat more convenient way for you to "ascend" the Temple Mount.