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Rage over Chief Rabbis’ Prohibition of Entrance to Temple Mount


Jews walking on the outskirts of Temple Mount, March 4, 2012.

Jews walking on the outskirts of Temple Mount, March 4, 2012.
Photo Credit: Sliman Khader/FLASH90

Both Israel’s Chief Rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yonah Metzger recently signed releases prohibiting entrance to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The rabbis state that “it is our sacred duty to note that Jewish law completely prohibits climbing up to the Temple Mount, and that this prohibition is simple and clear, and the ban has been issued by all the great sages of Israel.”

The release declares emphatically that all current attempts by individuals and groups to enter the mountain top, which today is occupied by two Muslim mosques, is “absolutely prohibited.”

The Chief Rabbis explained that the prohibition is largely due to the fact that a Jew may not enter the Temple Mount area while he or she carry the impurity of a dead person, for which we do not have a remedy in our day.

But Rabbi Yuval Sherlo, Dean of the Hesder Yeshiva in Petach Tikvah, told the Jewish Press that he thinks the Chief Rabbis’ prohibition is the result of sheer fear, “which brought about an incorrect and disproportionate reaction.”

Rabbi Sherlo said the Chief Rabbis had been informed that a large group of religious Jews were planning to climb up to Temple Mount this coming Purim, and they were concerned about safety issues.

“They were looking to solve one problem, but created a much bigger one instead,” he said.

The announcement by the Chief Rabbis was endorsed by Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi Doron,  Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl, and the rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch.

Rabbi Yehuda Glick, Chairman of the Temple Mount Heritage Foundation, attacked the religious ruling, saying in response that “it seems that the rabbis made those remarks in the spirit of Purim.”

According to Rabbi Glick, “God commands us to be seen by God, in the Place that He would choose, three times a year – how can the rabbis forbid it?” He added that the Talmud, Maimonides, and late poskim “permit and command to enter the Temple Mount in holiness and purity.”

Rabbi Glick told the Jewish Press he thought the Chief Rabbis’ ruling “is reminiscent of, if not worse than the rabbis who instructed Jews before the Holocaust not to immigrate to Israel.”

Rabbi Yaakov Medan, Dean of Hesder Yeshiva Har Etzion, told the Jewish Press that he was not certain “on which Jewish law the honorable Chief Rabbis based their prohibition.” He suggested that “there are areas on the Temple Mount where, following proper and detailed preparations, including dipping in a kosher mikvah, there is no prohibition on going there.”

Rabbi Medan cautioned that “if this is a new decree against entering the Temple Mount—lest Jews access the area without proper preparations, we must weigh the benefit of such a decree against the cost, which is a declaration that we are abandoning our rights to the Temple Mount and quiet quiescence to the entire area some day being turned into a Mosque, God forbid.”

Rabbi Chaim Richman, Director of the International Department of the Temple Institute, issued an official response to the Chief Rabbis’ statement:

“The recent proclamation of the Chief Rabbinate prohibiting Jews from ascending to the Temple Mount implies that ascent to the Mount is indeed forbidden by Torah law. However, this statement is inaccurate and misleading. According to the sources of halacha [Jewish law], the place of the Holy of Holies and sanctified courtyards are well known and documented, and with proper study and proper preparations (such as immersion in a mikveh [ritual bath] and the donning of non-leather shoes) one can visit this holy site without trespassing on the sacred areas.”

“Throughout the ages many prominent halachic authorities personally ascended to the Temple Mount, including the celebrated Rambam (Maimonides). Today, many prominent, respected Torah scholars, including yeshiva heads, visit the Temple Mount on a monthly basis together with hundreds of students. To minimize or denigrate these scholars and to imply that they are acting outside of Torah law is misleading, damaging and wrong.”

About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.


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6 Responses to “Rage over Chief Rabbis’ Prohibition of Entrance to Temple Mount”

  1. Chayim says:

    B’H
    Mr Katz seems to be very upset. i think he is unfortunately ignorant of the issues at hand. i’m sorry he hasn’t had a better experience as a jew, that now he feels that violence will make him feel better. our problems are the result of our inability to come together. there is only one truth and G-d willing, Moshiach will come this Purim and then we can all make aliyah and all the world will know G-d

  2. Susan says:

    Normally, I would agree with the ruling – except for the presence of the mosques. If we’re so worried about impurity, why are we allowing idol worship to go on there?

  3. Laser says:

    There is one “authority” you consulted with who really messes up the story. Rabbi Cherlow is not at all regarded as the posek he would like people to think he is. There are many in the religious community, inlcluding Religious Zionists, who are opposed to him and will do just the opposite of what he says.

    The other rabbis you quote are more serious.

  4. Gavriel says:

    This declaration must be political because the Halacha is explicit that a person with the “impurity of a dead person” is permitted on the temple mount. In fact even a corpse is permitted.

    The Rambam (Laws of the Temple, 1:1) says:

    …it is permitted to bring a dead body onto the Temple Mount
    [that is, the areas around the Temple but not the Temple itself], and one who
    had contracted ritual impurity from a corpse may definitely enter
    there.

  5. Laser says:

    Susan, while your indignation is understandable, there are two aspects that you may not have considered.

    According to the Rambam (and other posqim), Islam is not avoda zara.

    Israel has only nominal control over the Temple Mount. The Muslims call the punches.

  6. Laser says:

    Are you quite sure that you are quoting from The Rambam (Laws of the Temple, 1:1)? My edition has something quite different:

    הלכות בית הבחירה פרק א

    א מצות עשה לעשות בית לה’, מוכן להיות מקריבים בו הקרבנות, וחוגגין אליו שלוש פעמים בשנה–שנאמר “ועשו לי, מקדש” (שמות כה,ח); וכבר נתפרש בתורה משכן שעשה משה רבנו, והיה לפי שעה–שנאמר “כי לא באתם, עד עתה . . .” (דברים יב,ט).

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