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.”