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Israel's Sovereignty on the Temple Mount

Islam and Arabs respect the ruling power and accept its sovereignty, provided it demonstrates strength and authority. Take away the rights of ungrateful East Jerusalem Arabs.


Rabbi Eliezer Melamed

Cheshvan 16 5776
Temple Mount: Focus of Prayers
The Temple Mount, site of the Holy Temple, is the place all of Israel yearns for, and where all prayers are directed (Berachot 30a). Two of the nineteen blessings of the Amidah prayer: 1) "…and to Jerusalem Your city, return in mercy, and dwell therein as You have spoken"; 2) "…and restore the service to the Holy of Holies in Your abode... and may our eyes behold Your merciful return to Zion." concern the building of the Temple and Jerusalem.
Upon completion of our prayers, we once again ask: "That the Holy Temple be rebuilt speedily in our days." Additionally, at every wedding we pledge our vows to Jerusalem and its rebuilding.
Similarly, in the Birkat HaMazon (Grace after Meals), an entire blessing is dedicated to Jerusalem: "Have mercy, Lord our God, on Israel, Your people, on Jerusalem, Your city, on Zion, the dwelling place of Your glory... and on the great and holy House upon which Your Name is called... Rebuild Jerusalem, city of the Holy Sanctuary, speedily, in our days. Blessed are You, Lord, Builder of Jerusalem in His mercy. Amen."
This is the appropriate occasion to praise the "Temple Institute" and all the rabbis and people engaged in the study of the laws of the Temple, who are restoring Temple consciousness and its significance to the Jewish People and the nations of the world.
The Spiritual Level Required for the Temple is Still Far-off
Although building the Temple is the pinnacle of the Jewish people’s national aspirations, nevertheless, most of us do not consider engaging in direct preparations for its building as essential. The reason for this is that we still have a long way to go – in building the entire Land of Israel, in absorption of new immigrants, and in returning the Jewish nation to its faith, study of Torah and observance of mitzvoth, so that the Torah is able to illuminate Israel’s society, economy, sciences and culture.
These processes are within our powers and are not dependent on heavenly inspiration or the laws of ritual purity whose observance is far from us. Apparently, prior to reaching the level required for the Temple, we will also observe Shmitta (Sabbatical year) and Yovel (Jubilee year) as Biblically required, which is dependent on all of Israel residing in their land, each tribe in its inheritance (see, ‘Peninei Halakha: Shevi’it’ 11:5).
It also appears that prior to building the Temple, the Sanhedrin should be established in order to decide questions related to the construction of the Temple, and the order of its service. To this end, the Torah must first return to be the spiritual focus of the majority of Jewish people’s lives, and all the rabbis from all the various ethnic groups, must unite to form a joint Beit Din.
The Process
A miracle could happen, the eyes of the blind could be opened, and all this could be achieved in a short time. However, under normal circumstances, we still have a great amount of progress and spiritual elevation to accomplish. The religious community needs to be an exemplary, ethical society made-up of Torah-based individuals, who work for a living, possess ‘derech eretz’ (good character traits), and merit Divine blessing by raising praiseworthy families and contributing to society, such that all Jews will want to come closer to Torah and mitzvoth. At that point we will be able to advance towards the building of the Holy Temple. May we merit, on the one hand, being full partners in bringing the Redemption closer, and on the other – merit it speedily.
Sovereignty over the Temple Mount
Although we are far from the appropriate spiritual level required to establish the Temple, it is forbidden for us under any circumstance to relinquish sovereignty over the place of our Temple, for this is the obligation of fulfilling the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz (settling the Land of Israel), as it is written: "Take possession of the land and settle in it" (Numbers 33:53), and also, "and you shall possess it and dwell in it" (Deuteronomy 11:31).
The meaning of the Hebrew word ‘ve’yerashtem’ ("and you shall possess it’) refers to sovereignty, as the Ramban wrote: "We were commanded to take possession of the Land which the Almighty Blessed Be He, gave to our forefathers, to Avraham, to Yitzhak, and to Yaacov; and to not abandon it to other nations, or to leave it desolate" (Supplement to the Sefer HaMitzvot, Positive Commandment 4).
In terms of the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz the most important place is the Temple Mount, as we have learned that the sanctity of the ‘mitzvoth ha’teluyot ba’aretz’ (commandments dependent on the Land) did not apply to areas of Syria which King David conquered, because he conquered them before conquering Jerusalem (Sifri, Ekev). This was also codified in Jewish law by Rambam (Terumot, 1:2-4). Thus, we see that delaying Jerusalem’s sovereignty harms the mitzvoth of yishuv ha’aretz, and the sovereignty of the entire country.
Ascending the Temple Mount Nowadays
If it were possible, it would be preferable to close the Temple Mount to all individuals, so that it remain guarded and separate in its sanctity until the Holy Temple is built. But as long as the Temple Mount is open to the Arabs, it is a mitzvah to ascend the Temple Mount in order to express Israeli sovereignty over the mountain.
During the British Mandate the position of the rabbis led by Rabbi Kook ztz"l was to forbid entrance to the Temple Mount. However, this followed three centuries during which Jews were forbidden to enter the Temple Mount, and as a result, an uncertainty arose concerning the exact location of the Temple (whose area is actually less than ten percent of the Temple Mount compound). However, following the liberation of the Temple Mount in the Six Day War a number of rabbis led by Rabbi Goren ztz"l, returned to measure the areas of the mountain, and determined where the site of the Temple was, and which areas are permissible to enter while observing the Halakhic purity laws. Thus, we can now return to the minhag (custom) practiced by gedolei Yisrael (eminent rabbis) for more than a thousand years, whereby after immersion in a mikveh, Jews ascend to areas permitted on the Temple Mount, and pray for the building of the Temple and Israel’s Redemption.
Moreover, the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz requires us to do so. Prior to the establishment of the State of Israel, owing to duress, we could not fulfill the mitzvah. At that period in time we were dependent on the mercy of the British, who, in addition to betraying the mandate assigned to them to build a home for the Jewish people, also claimed that if Jews ascended the mountain, they would not be able to guarantee the security of Jewish lives’ in the country. But today, with the grace of God, we have our own security forces who are able to protect our people and country.
Blessed are those who ascend the Temple Mount, thus fulfilling the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz in the heart of our Holy Land.
The Importance of the Vision
If one should ask: Seeing as the building of the Holy Temple is remote, why is it so important to preserve its memory, and the sovereignty of its location? The answer is that the vision is the foundation driving the entire process forward. When the vision is forgotten, the whole process comes to a halt.
Hold Fast to the Vision
When we were in the Diaspora, despite the difficult conditions we managed to survive and hold onto our faith, enduring all the persecutions and killings because, in the end, we knew we would return to Zion, ‘the Land of our life’. Today, our responsibility is far more modest: holding fast to the site of our Holy Temple.
Even if it appears to the Prime Minister that due to our security and international situation it is impossible to allow public Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, at the very minimum he is obligated not to say anything implying a waiver of our sovereignty over the Temple Mount. He must refuse any limitation of entry of Jews to the Mount, and not agree to any expressions of incitement or degradation of Jews on the Temple Mount.
By the same token, members of the opposition headed by MK Yitzhak Herzog, the grandson of the Chief Rabbi, the Gaon Rabbi Yitzhak Herzog of blessed memory, are also obligated not to turn their backs on the site of our Holy Temple.
Pragmatic Considerations
Even from a pragmatic, political-security consideration, it is forbidden to abandon any signs of Jewish sovereignty over the Temple Mount. After all, the goal is to contend with the Arab enemy, and the Arabs in general ascribe great importance to honor. In their eyes, a people who are prepared to spurn their values and dignity is considered a contemptible, spineless nation that can easily be defeated. Any objective and impartial person who pays attention to what the candid Arab leaders are saying, immediately understands this.
In all probability, had Israel's leaders demonstrated greater respect for Judaism’s holy sites, we would have been spared a number of wars and conflicts.
The Arabs in East Jerusalem
The Prime Minister's initiative to examine revoking residency rights of Arab inhabitants of hostile East Jerusalem neighborhoods, including the economic benefits that go along with them, is deserving of praise.
Unfortunately, except for a few righteous people such as the admirable Annette Haskiya, the Arabs demonstrate ingratitude for the benefits they receive from the Jews – financial assistance that costs the state coffers billions of shekels each year. Instead of singing the praises of the State of Israel and the Jews who granted them rights and a standard of living found in no other Arab state, their leaders and elected representatives spread wicked libels throughout the world about the countless "evils" that Jews supposedly cause them, such that in the eyes of the world, they are presently considered to be the most abused, oppressed, poor and miserable people on earth!
According to them, only on account of their "legendary bravery" from the days when they conquered the Land of Israel, and in actuality slaughtered Jews and Christians, and destroyed the synagogue that was on the Temple Mount, are they able to withstand the "cruelty" and "wickedness" of the Jews!
Therefore, denying them these benefits is justified. Rights entail obligations. And this does not alter our perusal to expand sovereignty on as much area throughout the Land of Israel as possible.
The Duty of Muslim Loyalty to the Ruling Authority
In principle, the ungrateful behavior of Arabs toward Jewish rule runs contrary to the accepted law of Islam, which requires a subject’s loyalty to the ruling government. Consequently, during the riots in the days of British rule, the Arabs shouted: "Itbah al-Yahud, Al-Dawala ma’ana" - "slaughter the Jews, the government is with us." However, this loyalty is conditional on the government demonstrating its power, and enforcing it with all means at its disposal. But if the rioting Arabs are given into, without fully and resolutely enforcing upon them the laws of building, driving, marriage, theft of property and payment of taxes, they despise the government.
Enforce the law on Muslim society, and many of them worldwide will praise the State of Israel.
A Story from Professor Tavger
Professor Ben Tzion Tavger, the pioneer credited with the restoration of Jewish history in Hevron after the Six Day War, related the story about how he and a few friends redeemed and cleaned-up the ancient Jewish cemetery in Hevron:
"When we got to the cemetery, we found that the Arab who received a salary from the State of Israel to guard the cemetery had planted a vineyard in it, and was using the cemetery as his private courtyard.
"We began uprooting the vineyard and cleaning-up the cemetery. The Arab guard approached us shouting threats, and claiming that it was his land and we had to leave. Without saying much, we gave him a good pounding, and continued cleaning. On the second day, the Arab approached us again, shouting and threatening, and once more, we beat him up and continued working.
"On the third morning, the Arab greeted us with a tray of tea and coffee, saying: 'How could there possibly be a vineyard in a sacred place like a cemetery?!' He also asked to be photographed with the 'wise Jews’, so he could hang the picture on his wall. From then on, the Arab helped us in our work cleaning the cemetery."
This is how Professor Tavger dryly related the story, similar to the way an experimental physicist talks about a field-tested theory proved to be correct.
This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew. Other interesting and informative articles by Rabbi Melamed can be found at:

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