Right-wing organizations devoted to the Temple Mount are buoyed by a new poll they commissioned finding that 30 percent of Israeli Jews support rebuilding the Jewish Temple on the site.
When the poll, commissioned by the Joint Forum of Temple Mount Organizations, asked Israeli Jews, "Are you for or against erecting a Temple on the Temple Mount?" 30 per cent answered in the affirmative, while 45 percent were against and 25 percent said they were not sure.
Among the numerous Temple Mount organizations that initiated the survey, activists are pleased. he results, they believe, show a strengthening of public perception that the Temple Mount is Judaism's holiest and most important site.
The survey was released ahead of next week's Tisha B'Av Jewish day of mourning for the destruction of the First and Second Temples.
The last few years have seen changing attitudes to the Temple Mount among the national religious and ultra-Orthodox sectors.
There are currently dozens of movements working to change the status quo at the holy site. Some are reconstructing ceremonial objects used in the Temple in the past, while others are making practical preparations for its rebuilding, including a renewal of animal sacrifice. Others deal in political lobbying and in encouraging Jews to visit the Mount.
A growing demand gathering political support is for the status quo on the Mount to be changed so Jews will be able to pray there. The police currently prohibit Jews from praying on the Mount, fearing an outbreak of violence.
Among religious Jews questioned in the survey, 43 percent supported the construction of a Temple, compared to 20 percent among the ultra-Orthodox and the national ultra-Orthodox, and 31 percent among secular Jews.
The survey was financed by a fund called the Israel Independence Fund, and was conducted with 523 Israeli Jewish participants.
"Attempts to distance the People of Israel from its holiest site have failed," said Yehuda Glick, spokesman for the forum of Temple Mount organizations that commissioned the survey.
"State authorities should pay attention to what the nation has said, demanding the imposition of the state's sovereignty on the Temple Mount."
Putting the issue on the agenda
Yet Tomer Persico, a researcher of religions who is studying these movements, dismissed the survey's import.
"How does this commit you to anything when you answer that you are in favor of building the Temple? It doesn't imply that you mean for this to happen right away. [But] without doubt, the survey does indicate that these movements have succeeded in placing the issue on the public's agenda."
The survey further found that among the Israeli Jewish public there is a strong majority (59 percent ) that favors the demand to change the status quo on the Mount. The survey asked whether "the state should enforce an agreement on the Mount, similar to one that exists in the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, which is shared by Jews and Moslems." Only 23 percent of respondents answered "no" to this question.
Analysis of the survey's results shows a significant change in attitudes among the national-religious public.
While visiting the Mount used to be taboo, 68 percent of religious respondents in the current survey said they would like to come to the site "as part of a visit to Jerusalem." Sixty percent of secular Jews answered the same way, while only 20 percent of ultra-Orthodox respondents expressed such a wish.
In response to a question over whether the state should enforce the right of Jews to pray on the Mount, 70 percent of religious participants answered affirmatively, while 22 percent objected. In all, 48 percent of respondents agreed with such a move.
However, despite the changing attitude to the Mount, the Jewish public still considers the Western Wall to be the faith's holiest site - 66 percent singled out the Kotel for this distinction, compared to 29 percent who chose the Temple Mount.