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The religious Zionist rabbis who ascended the Temple Mount on Sunday knowingly and irresponsibly brought a burning torch nearer to the most flammable hill in the Middle East. No supposedly halakhic pretext will serve them when this stupid provocation sheds innocent blood, through riots of which only the beginning can be predicted, and whose continuation does not bear imagining.

It is hard to understand how people like Haim Druckman, Avraham Zuckerman and Zefania Drori joined the most extreme and hallucinatory wing of religious Zionism, whose activities center around the Temple Mount. But their weakness reflects a serious problem in the religious Zionist leadership, especially since the disengagement.

This problem is reflected primarily in the blurring of the already fine line between politics and halakha (Jewish law). The community's leadership has gone a long way since the first halakhic ruling by Rabbi Avraham Shapira declaring that soldiers should disobey orders if settlements were ever evacuated. Then, despite his unquestioned halakhic authority in the religious Zionist world, Rabbi Shapira was notably isolated in the face of religious army officers and leaders of hesder yeshivas, who knew how to distinguish between separatism and Haredi-Zionist interpretations of the halakha and national responsibility.

Fifteen years have passed since then, the dream of the entire land of Israel has gone sour in the eyes of most of the public, and the religious Zionist public's consciousness has been seared by the disgraceful failure of the settlements' rabbinical leadership prior to the disengagement. They threatened that religious soldiers would obey not their commanders and the state's orders, but the "halakhic" orders. But this threat dissolved on the very first day of the disengagement. The Israel Defense Forces encountered virtually no refusal to obey orders, and to the displeasure of those who foment rebellion, graduates of yeshiva high schools, hesder yeshivas and premilitary religious academies continue to serve in combat units. Only the small "hilltop youth" faction is motivated by a desire for sectoral rebellion at any cost.

It seems that now, due to the weakness of their leadership, the rabbis are seeking a new focus around which to rally the public. They are so desperate that they are inventing religious rulings that allow men and women to purify themselves and ascend the Temple Mount.

There are two principal reasons for refraining from ascending the mount. One is strictly halakhic, and was observed for 2,000 years by all Jews whose way of life was governed by halakha. Now, these rabbis are suddenly going through contortions to make halakha more flexible, while ignoring the dangers that this entails. And these are the same rabbis who, on other halakhic issues, are not willing to budge an inch to make halakha more flexible for the sake of any social or national goal.

The second principle in whose name Jews have refrained from praying on the Temple Mount since 1967 is political wisdom, which dictates extreme caution at the rim of a volcano. No rabbi is responsible for this arena; only the government is. Thus religious Zionist rabbis can try to run riot, but the government has an obligation to restrain them. The prime minister must forbid the rabbis from ascending the Temple Mount and prevent the political conflict from deteriorating into a devastating religious one.