Snow on Temple Mount
Snow on Temple MountReuters

Chief Sephardic Rabbi (Rav) Rabbi Shlomo Amar has published a call to believers not to ascend to the Temple Mount. The call appears under the heading "avoid ascending to the Mount and touching its edge," which was the ruling about Mount Sinai in the Book of Exodus before the Ten Commandments.

Rav Amar's declaration was co-signed by former Chief Sephardic Rabbi Rav Eliyahu Bakshi Doron; Rav Shalom Cohen, Head of Porat Yosef Yeshiva in the Old City of Jerusalem, Old City Rabbi Rav Avigdor Neventzal, and Kotel Rabbi, Rav Shmuel Rabinovich.

It followed in the footsteps of declarations by Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook and Rav Avraham Elkana Shapira, both Chief Rabbis and heads of the Zionist flagship yeshiva, Merkaz HaRav in Jerusalem, who expressly forbade ascending the Mount. Rav Zalman Melamed, Dean of Beit El Yeshiva, is also against it. All hareidi rabbis forbid it.

"It is a holy obligation to make you aware that it is completely forbidden by halakhah to ascend to the Temple Mount, and this prohibition has always been a simple and clear one, and this thing has been forbidden by all of the Great Ones of Israel.

"Since, in the recent period, all kinds of organizations are calling on the public to ascend to the Temple Mount, we hereby proclaim the Torah opinion, that the prohibition still stands, and it is completely forbidden to ascend to the Temple Mount at this time."

The Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi, Rav Yonah Metzger, has also issued an opinion in the matter. Rav Metzger also states that the prohibition on entering the Mount is a well known one. "Yet I could not remain silent," he wrote, "for I heard a faint voice from those who claim that there is supposedly a heter [permission] in the matter [of entering the Mount], and who mislead the believers of Israel into ascending the Mount of G-d…"

"I therefore saw myself obliged to call upon the holy assembly to refrain from ascending, G-d forbid, to [anywhere in] the entire Temple Mount," Rav Metzger added. "In addition, let me say that anyone who knows about a person who wishes to ascend to the Temple Mount – he has a sacred obligation to protest to him and to explain to him kindly the seriousness of the prohibition…" 

The prohibition has always been based on several factors:

1. There are areas on the Mount that are expressly forbidden to Jews for various halakhic reasons.

2 There are conflicting opinions on the locations of these areas. (Rabbis who have chosen to accept one opinion are the ones encouraging ascending to the Mount.)

3.  Even in areas that might be permitted by most opinions, there are preparations that must be made before ascending the Mount, such as immersion in a ritual bath, not wearing leather shoes, and other marks of awe. The rabbis are afraid that the laws involved will not be adhered to. The fact that groups of soldiers have been ascending the Mount without preparation may be the reason for the repetition of the prohibition.

Almost all areas on the Mount are forbidden by halakhah to non-Jews. In early Christian times, there were signs on the Mount delineating the limits for non-Jews.

Those who call for ascending the Mount see it as an emergency situation, as well as a holy experience. They are afraid that artifacts that prove Jewish history on the Mount will be destroyed irretrievably by the Islamic Wakf that controls the site and that Israel will lose its sovereignty over the Mount, since it has no presence there and the Muslims are now denying that the Holy Temples existed.

The rabbis among this group believe that the areas they approach are not the forbidden ones.

However, all the rabbis involved, no matter what their opinion on the issue, yearn for the coming of the Messiah and the rebuilding of the Holy Temple on the Temple Mount "speedily and in our lifetime". At that point in time, they said, all the controversies and questions will be resolved