Visiting the Temple Mount
Visiting the Temple MountIsrael news photo: Flash 90

A study day in the Knesset Auditorium was devoted to the subject of "Jewish Prayer on the Temple Mount: Halakha, Reality and Vision."

The first session of the study day focused on Temple Mount prayer as reflected in the Jewish sources. Particpants included MK Michael Ben Ari, who initiated the conference, Rav Yosef Elboim, noted rabbinical authority on the Temple Mount, Rav Yaakov Meidan, head of the Har Etzion Hesder Yeshiva, Rav Dr. ​​Avraham Walfish, Rabbi of Mitzpe Yericho Rav Yehuda Kroizer, Rav Re'em HaCohen, head of the Otniel Hesder Yeshiva, Prof. Efraim Inbar and Rav Itai Elitzur.

Rav Elboim said that he was blocked from ascending to the Mount because of a statement he made on Arutz Sheva radio, about the need for a Jewish house of learning on the Temple Mount.

The second session was devoted to "Prayer on the Temple Mount – reality and vision." Rav Yehuda Glick, one of the conference's initiators, described the personal pain he feels in being prevented from ascending to the Mount. Rabbanit Rivka Shimon spoke about women's prayer o the Temple Mount, Dr. Mordechai Kedar explained why Muslims fight against Jewish prayer on the Mount. Moshe Feiglin said that as long as the Prime Minister does not want Jews to pray on the Mount, police will continue to forbid it.

Other participants were the Rabbi of Kiryat Arba, Rav Dov Lior, and Rav Yisrael Ariel, head of the Temple Institute, who described preparations for the establishment of the Third Temple. 

On the other hand, the late Rabbi Avraham Elkana Shapira, formerly the Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel and Dean of the flagship yeshiva of religious Zionism, Merkaz HaRav Kook Yeshiva, was unequivocally against going up to the Temple Mount and this for strictly Jewish legal reasons, based on the grave Biblical prohibition of setting foot, while in an impure state, on certain parts of the Temple Mount - and the lack of absolute proof as to where those parts might be.

On the last Jerusalem Day that he spoke in Merkaz HaRav Yeshiva in the Spring of 2007, Rabbi Shapira quoted the words of the late Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, son of the founder of the yeshiva, who, when presented with maps purporting to show where one could walk permissibly on the Temple Mount, said in Yiddish “Noch a shticketl kares, noch a shtickel kares” (translation: another bit of ‘karet’, another bit of ‘karet’—i.e. every step may cause the visitor to be sentenced with mortal Divine punishment for treading on forbidden areas of the Temple Mount).k The head of the Beit El Yeshiva, Rav Zalman Baruch Melamed, refrains from going up on the Temple Mount for that reason, as do many rabbinic figures.

Rabbi Avraham Shapira told his students that Rabbi Shlomo Goren's students may follow their Rabbi's opinion, but that he disagreed. Rabbi Shapira intended to publish a short Jewish legal work on the subject and had prepared the writings before he passed away last year, according to his close students.

As far as the hareidi world is concerned, several years ago, the late Rabbi Shalom Elyashiv, his son-in-law Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, and former Sephardic Chief Rabbi Rabbi Ovadia Yosef - all renowned rabbis of the hareidi non-nationalist religious sector - sent a letter asking that the ban on Jewish entry to the Temple Mount be re-issued. The letter was sent to Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich, the Rabbi of the Holy Sites on behalf of the government of Israel.

"As time passed," the letter states, "we have lost knowledge of the precise location of the Temple, and anyone entering the Temple Mount is liable to unwittingly enter the area of the Temple and the Holy of Holies. Entrance to the Temple Mount, and the defilement of the Holy of Holies, is more severe than any of the violations in the Torah."