Dome of the Rock on Temple Mount
Dome of the Rock on Temple Mount Miriam Alster/Flash 90

Head of the Temple Institute Rabbi Yisrael Ariel emphasized in an interview to Arutz Sheva that ascending the Temple Mount is, indeed permitted.

Rabbi Ariel’s statements come in the wake of statements by Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef and Religious Zionist Rabbi Aviner that ascending the Temple Mount is forbidden.

“We can’t invent new laws,” Rabbi Ariel asserted. “When the paratroopers took control of the Temple Mount [during the 1967 Six-Day War] Rabbi Goren was appointed responsibility over the Temple Mount. Rabbi Goren was the Chief Rabbi of Israel and the IDF, and he established rulings concerning soldiers and police on the Temple Mount that still hold today. The Chief Rabbinate accepts these rulings.”

“How did the Chief Rabbi suddenly come to rule that it is forbidden from ascending?” Rabbi Ariel wondered, and explained, “Rabbi Goren instructed Knesset members concerning how and where to ascend, that you need to immerse in a mikveh [ritual bath] beforehand, where it is permitted and where it is forbidden to enter. There are religious soldiers serving on the the Mount, and they know the laws well.”

The Rabbi noted in this context that there are areas of the Mount for which entry is forbidden by punishment of karet [a spiritual punishment in which the soul of the Jew is ‘cut off’ from the Jewish people]; nevertheless, a soldier is permitted to enter those areas in order to defend the area.

Rabbi Ariel dismissed the assertion that we cannot know where the forbidden areas are such that entering all areas of the Mount is forbidden. “Only five areas near the Dome of the Rock, which was part of the “Azarah” area of the Temple, where there is a fear that a karet punishment applies to those who enter while not on duty as a priest [are forbidden].” His opinion on the delineation of forbidden areas is disputed by other Religious Zionist rabbis, such as the late Chief Rabbi Avraham Shapira.

Similarly, Rabbi Ariel dismissed an oft-repeated claim that the esteemed spiritual visionary and former Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi during the British Mandate, Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Hakohen Kook, was opposed to ascending the Mount. “Rabbi Kook wrote a 4,000-page article that describes how we will merit to ascend the Temple Mount and develop a center for religion there. He describes how we will establish a Sanhedrin [Jewish high court of law] and all of Israel will come there. It is written [in the Torah], ‘If you wonder about a legal matter, you shall get up and ascend to the place which God has chosen’ - nobody can erase that. Rabbi Kook wrote that we will first establish the center for religion and appoint judges - and then build the Temple. Whoever cites otherwise should first study the writings of Rabbi Kook.”

“There’s no Rabbi in the world who can erase [the law] and say that it is forbidden - the prohibition lies in running from fulfilling God’s command. He who runs is afraid; that’s a personal choice, but how can you give that instruction to the public?”

Rabbi Ariel said that those who oppose ascending the Temple Mount do so out of an “exile mentality.” “Those who oppose ascending are holding by a worldview that we are still in exile. We came here after 2,000 years, we returned to the courtyards of God to build the third Temple. If there are those who think we are still in exile and want to live with that feeling - that is a private viewpoint. But [a private viewpoint] is not supposed to reject commandments from the Torah.”