Close to 30 leading religious-Zionist rabbis visited the Temple Mount "in purity" on Sunday, after taking the necessary Halakhic precautions.
The precautions involve immersing in a mikveh (ritual bath), taking off one's shoes, and clarifying the precise areas forbidden for entry - or else going only with a guide who knows the area.
The visit was unique in that it marks the first time such a large group of rabbis ascended together to the holy site. Among today's visitors were Kiryat Arba Chief Rabbi Dov Lior, Yeshivat Har Etzion Dean Rabbi Yaakov Meidan, Rabbi Nachum Rabinowitz of Maaleh Adumim, Rabbi Daniel Shilo of Kedumim, Rabbi Shalom Gold of Har Nof, Jerusalem, and others.
Rabbi Shilo, asked to explain the timing of the visit, told Arutz-7, "For one thing, Jerusalem Reunification Day is approaching. In addition, our hold on the Temple Mount is not yet strong among many people of Torah and others, because of halakhic [Jewish-legal] obstructions that we feel are no longer relevant." Biblical law forbids one from entering the holy areas of the Temple Mount, and some feel that the precise boundaries of those areas are not known. However, Rabbi Yisrael Ariel of the Temple Institute has shown that the rock under the Dome of the Rock is in fact the Holy of Holies, and most scholars agree.
Police accompanied the rabbis, and the "representatives of the Islamic Waqf [the Moslem body that oversees the site - ed.] looked quite miffed," Rabbi Shilo said.
MK Uri Ariel (National Union) expressed approval of the rabbis' move, saying, "It appears that the police now understand that the current situation of restricting Jewish presence on the Jews' most sacred site is absurd and must change... This disgrace must be stopped. Jewish prayer must be allowed on the site, in a gradual manner and in the places permitted by Halakhah."
Last week, a group of over 40 rabbis signed a declaration calling upon the religious public - those who know the laws and restrictions - to frequent the permitted sites on the Temple Mount "and to arouse love for this holy site in which our prayers are most accepted."
Among the signatories are Rabbi Chaim Druckman, head of the Yeshivot Bnei Akiva organization; Rabbi Shlomo Riskin of Efrat; Kiryat Shmonah Chief Rabbi Tzefaniah Drori; Rabbi Bnayahu Bruner of Tzfat; Rabbi Re'em HaCohen of Otniel; Rabbi Daniel Cohen of Bat Ayin; Rabbi Chanan Porat of Kfar Etzion; Rabbi Gideon Perl of Alon Shvut; Rabbi Moshe Tzuriel of Bnei Brak; and more.
Former Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, however, issued an opposite call, saying that visits to the Temple Mount could lead to the grave sin of entering forbidden sacred locations. "It's not that anyone is apathetic to our inability to pray on the Temple Mount," his son, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu of Tzfat said in his father's name. "Our pain over this is almost physical." Rabbi M. Eliyahu is of the opinion that a synagogue should be built in a permitted area of the Temple Mount.