Israeli excavation works at the Rambam (Mughrabi) Gate ramp - leading from the Western Wall plaza to the Temple Mount - evoked Arab rioting and criticism of Israel by Arab leaders. Despite Israeli explanations and photos showing that the work had nothing to do with the Temple Mount, Arabs continue to accuse Israel of attempting to destroy the mosques at the site. The instigation came to a climax 12 days ago, when dozens of Arabs and police were injured in rock-throwing clashes and rioting.
Now that calm has been restored in the area, and in the wake of strong pressure by Jewish groups, the police have once again opened the Temple Mount to Jewish visitors. The hours are as restricted as before: between 7:30 and 10:30 in the morning, and between 12:30 and 1:30 in the early afternoon. At other times, Jews continue to be forbidden to frequent the holy site.
Rabbis are split over whether Jews are permitted to ascend to the site of the Holy Temples - the site the Torah considers to be the holiest in the world. All agree that there are areas on the Mount that are forbidden for entry to those who are impure - namely, everyone, until the Parah Adumah (Red Heifer) purification ceremony can be performed. However, some rabbis say that because the precise location of those areas is not entirely clear, and because of the fear that some Jews might not even care to find out, the entire Mount area must be forbidden for public entry.
Other rabbis say that following careful research and based on archaeological evidence, the forbidden areas can be mapped out, and that proper Jewish-legal precautions, including immersing in a ritual bath before visiting, can and must be taken to prevent errant wandering. These rabbis feel that there is an important national/religious value in visiting the site and perpetuating Jewish national bonds with the site, as opposed to abandoning it to the Moslems.
The monthly "March Around the Temple Mount Gates," which is held every Rosh Chodesh (the first day of each Hebrew month), was canceled by police earlier this week, at the beginning of the month of Adar. This, despite - or because of - the fact that thousands of Jews were expected to show up.
As a result, however, a large amount of public pressure was brought to bear by MK Uri Ariel and the Temple Mount organizations. The police then permitted an alternate event this past Sunday evening. Hundreds of Jews who managed to find out of the change in plans showed up outside the Southern Wall of the Temple Mount.
Foreign media often confuse the Western Wall with the Mount it supports, thus giving more credence to Moslem claims than Jewish ones.
Kiryat Arba's Chief Rabbi Dov Lior, Chairman of the Yesha Rabbis Council and a leading Halakhic source on Temple Mount matters, told the assembled, "The increase of terrorism and anti-Semitism in Israel and around the world stems from our neglect of and weakness regarding the Temple Mount. The fact that the Mount is closed whenever our enemies begin threatening, and that the hours in which we may ascend are so limited, and that we may not pray there or build a synagogue - all this reflects weakness and lack of Jewish control over the most sacred site to the entire Jewish nation."
Regarding Moslem claims that the Jews are planning to rebuild the Temple, Rabbi Lior said, "I wish this was the case... Plans should be made and the public should be prepared for the building of the Third Temple."
The Mount, not the Wall
He emphasized that the sanctity of the Western Wall, which surrounds and supports the Temple Mount area in which the Holy Temple was built and will be rebuilt, is "tens of times less than that of the Mount itself. This must be understood within the Jewish public, and first and foremost, within the religious public."
Rabbi David Dudkevich of Yitzhar also addressed the crowd, musician Ariel Zilber provided musical entertainment, and a giant video screen showed an exhibit regarding historic Jewish rights to the Temple Mount, and pictures showing how the Mount looked, looks and will look in the future.
Foreign media often confuse the Western Wall with the Mount it supports, thus giving more credence to Moslem claims than Jewish ones. BBC, for instance, in a photo-report on the area posted today, writes, "The Temple Mount or Haram al-Sharif is the most important religious site in Jerusalem. Its Western Wall is the holiest site in Judaism."
In another report, Reuters refers to "the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site."
Two days ago, however, an AP report corrected this impression by writing that the Mount is "Judaism's holiest site, having housed the biblical Jewish temples." The report adds, "Jews have gathered for centuries to pray outside the compound at the Western Wall, a remnant of the ancient compound."