Jews Forbidden From Going to Temple Mount, Says Chief Sephardi Rabbi

Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef harshly rebukes rabbis who permit Jews to go to the holy site for incitement; Economy Minister Bennett: Jewish blood was spilled because Arabs murdered them.

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Jewish men near the Dome of the Rock, on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, November 2, 2014.
Jewish men near the Dome of the Rock, on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, November 2, 2014.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Yair Ettinger

Israel's Sephardi chief rabbi said on Friday that it is forbidden for Jews to go to the Temple Mount.

“This is the place to call on the esteemed public to stop this incitement, from here a call is heard, forbidding any Jews from going up to the Temple Mount – From here a call is heard to stop this so that the blood of the People of Israel may stop being spilled,” Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef said.

Speaking at the funeral of Shalom Aharon Badani, the second casualty of Wednesday's terror attack in Jerusalem on Friday, Yosef blamed rabbis that allow Jews to go to the holy site for "adding fuel to the fire."

He used harsh terms to rebuke rabbis who call on Jews to go to the holy site, which contradicts the overwhelming majority of halakhic authorities that forbid entry to the Temple Mount compound to Jews because of its holiness. This is also the position of the Chief Rabbinate.

Israeli authorities limit Jewish worship on the mount, the holiest site in Judaism. Also called Haram al-Sharif, the site is considered the third holiest in Islam. In recent weeks, Jerusalem has seen an increase in violence by Palestinians, prompting police to double its presence in the Old City of Jerusalem to 3,000 officers. Last Wednesday, Temple Mount activist Yehuda Glick was shot by a Palestinian assailant in an attempted assassination. 

Israel's two chief rabbis: Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau, left, and Sephardi Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi and Uriel Koby / Wikicommons

Hundreds attended the funeral of Badani, the grandson of Rabbi Shimon Badani, a member of the Shas Council of Torah Sages, the ultra-Orthodox party's governing body. The funeral was attended by the Shas' political and rabbinic leadership. Along with Yosef, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and the city's two new chief rabbis also attended.

In recent years, a number of right-wing rabbis have issued halakhic rulings that permit Jews to pray on the Temple Mount, and even encourage them to go there. Ultra-Orthodox rabbis have criticized these rabbis, but Yosef's comments on Friday are among the strongest public statements made against them. With his remarks, Yosef implied that these rabbis are responsible for incitement. 

On Friday, Yosef slammed those who incite "the descendants of Esau," a term that refers to enemies, saying that they create hatred "among the Arabs who hate us, and add fuel to the fire." He emphasized the halakhic position against going to the Temple Mount, and said that it was a serious offense, punishable by death through the hands of heaven. He lashed out at rabbis that permit it, describing them as them as "D grade." He mentioned a number of religious Zionist rabbis, including Rabbi Nachum Rabinowitz, Rabbi Dov Lior, and Rabbi Haim Druckman.

Deputy Religious Services Minister Eli Ben Dhan criticized Yosef for what he called "blaming the victim." "The Arabs," said Ben Dahan, "are killing innocent Jews - and blaming the victims plays into the hands of our enemies."

The Chief Rabbi's offices stated that President Reuven Rivlin expressed his backing for the Rabbi's statements. The president's office, for its part, issued a statement in which it said "the president's conversation with the Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, dealt only with condolences to the Badani family."

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett responded to Yosef's statements on Facebook. "That is incorrect," he wrote. "Honorable Chief Rabbi, Jewish blood was spilled because Arabs murdered them," he wrote.

MK Orit Struck, from Bennet's pro-settlement Habayit Hayehudi, said she was saddened by Yosef's comments. "I protest the blaming of Jews for acts of incitement and murder of the Arab terrorists, and the insult to the great rabbis of religious Zionism."  

Meanwhile, Rabbi David Stav, chairman of the religious-Zionist Tzohar rabbinical association, said that "the Torah sages of religious Zionism" do not need anyone's approval. "Instead of blaming the murderers, the finger is pointed at the victims," he said.

He also said that even someone "convinced that it is forbidden to enter the Temple Mount will certainly agree that the sovereignty over the holiest place to the Jewish people should be in the hands of the Jewish state." Stav has refrained in the past from saying Jews should go to the holy site. 

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