Crowdfunding on Kickstarter, Indiegogo or the Israeli equivalent, Headstart, has become a common method for raising money for making indie albums, or movies with all kinds of bold plots. The Temple Institute, however, has turned to crowdfunding on Indiegogo for something a bit bigger: building the Third Temple in Jerusalem.
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To that end, the Temple Institute set a goal for raising $100,000 from the public within two months. As of Monday night – the eve of Tisha B’Av, when Jews traditionally mourn the destruction of the first two temples – the project has raised more than $15,000.
The Build the Third Temple page – “Don’t make history. Make the future. Build the Temple,” it urges – states that the Third Temple “will be equipped with every modern amenity: full computerization, underground parking, temperature control, elevators, docks for public transportation, wheelchair access, and much more.”
When bands try to fund their albums in this way, they often promise potential donors a signed copy, or lunch with the bassist. The Temple Institute’s offers are a bit different: Pictures of the high priest’s garb, access to the architectural plans for the structure or a private tour of the Temple Mount with the Temple Institute director, Rabbi Chaim Richman, who is responsible for endeavors such as finding a new red heifer and recreating the Sanhedrin court.
“This is a time during which all of Israel mourns the destruction of the Temple and the disasters that befell the people afterward,” says Richman. “So we wanted to turn to the public in the spirit of Judaism and the Torah.
“There are all kinds of ideas and initiatives, and crowdfunding is a good way to get through to the public.”
The Indiegogo appeal page, which had been shared 5,800 times by Monday evening, also features a video entitled “The Children are Ready,” in which religious children are seen playing guitar while secular children are playing soccer and being violent. Both groups unite to shake the hand of an elderly man as the Temple rises on the horizon.
Richman says all responses to the project have been positive so far, but he refuses to give his opinion on the initiative’s chance of success.
“Everything depends on heaven,” he says. “We are making an effort and trying to raise awareness. We’ve waited for 2,000 years, and we aren’t naïve.”
When I point out that the Temple is about stones and altars, not YouTube clips and Indiegogo, Richman corrects me, saying: “We’ve been through a great deal in 2,000 years since the Temple was destroyed. We’re no longer riding around on donkeys wearing sheets. There has been progress.”
The initiative seems to be riding the wave of renewed religious interest caused by Operation Protective Edge, which Rabbi Chaim Druckman, who heads the network of the men’s and women’s yeshivas that belong to the Bnei Akiva religious Zionist youth movement, described as “God’s war.”
“There’s no doubt that there is a connection to Protective Edge,” says Richman. “The operation’s objective was not just restoring calm and defending the people, but also to be a light unto the nations, to bring the divine presence. Israel’s national vision is not just to function properly, but also to bring light into the world. Some believe that the Temple will be built when there is unconditional love. We’ve made it there, to the vision of Israel’s prophets. Like John Lennon, of blessed memory, said: ‘Give peace a chance.’”
Richman said the Temple Institute is not gearing up for a violent confrontation with those who already have a holy site on the Temple Mount.
“It’s also important to note that we have no violent intentions,” he says. “There will be a Temple when we have the love of the world, when people from around the world support us and ask us to build the Temple. But in the meantime, money is necessary too. It’s the will that’s important. We’re a nonprofit organization.”
Another national initiative that also strayed from the artistic realm was recently launched in Ukraine. There, roughly $30,000 was raised to buy a UAV meant to defend the people from Russia.
The Temple Institute is seeking more than three times that amount, but even that isn’t enough to build a two-bedroom apartment in Jerusalem, let alone a Temple.
“So we should ask for $250 million?” asks Richman. “It needs to be modest. This is the first time, we’ll see how it goes.”