Safed’s state-appointed Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu is a very influential rabbi. He almost became Chief Rabbi and his impact is greater than a chief rabbi’s, certainly in the political arena. Two weeks ago, prior to participating in a Temple ceremony held under the auspices of the Jerusalem municipality, he ruled that “it is feasible and necessary to erect an altar on the Temple Mount today” – in other words, to effectively inaugurate a new Temple.
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“The government should tell Muslims occupying the site that they have been keeping it for us up to now and that they can now leave for Syria,” the rabbi said. “Now the people of Israel are here.”
The terror attacks aren’t just about concerns for the Al-Aqsa Mosque, but Palestinian concerns for their mosque aren’t groundless. Rabbis who send their disciples to the mountain – in contravention of common religious rulings – aren’t interested in prayer, certainly not while showing respect for Al-Aqsa. They are interested in building the Temple, while removing the Muslims and their mosques. They are convinced that the violent Muslim reaction to their provocations will unite Jews in a struggle against Muslims. The violent Muslim reaction to the provocation will show everyone how dangerous and vicious they are, thus advancing their removal.
There is planning and logic at work here, and the plan is working. Just as the massacre committed by Baruch Goldstein in the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, the second-holiest Muslim site in Palestine, was designed to achieve the goals of bringing about the take-over of Hebron’s center by Jews, its “cleansing” of Arabs and the derailing of the Oslo peace accords. And, with the Muslim reaction it evoked – which included bus bombings – he succeeded in achieving his goals.
Let’s try to imagine a messianic-racist-apocalyptic Muslim group that wants to blow up the Western Wall, expel Jews from the area and erect a Muslim wall there, since the place abuts the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Despite a Muslim religious ruling against approaching the wall, the messianic group with its explosive objective fights for its right to enter the plaza in front of the wall, claiming that all it wants to do is to innocently worship there. Would they be let in? Of course not.
It is the same story with regards to the Jews fighting for their right to enter the Temple Mount compound. The rabbis who permit them to enter are of a mind with Rabbis Dov Lior and Shmuel Eliyahu. Their aim is a messianic and ultra-nationalistic one: rebuilding the temple and removing Al-Aqsa and the Muslims.
The issue of the Temple Mount is critical. In effect, and contrary to conventional wisdom, it is the easiest one to resolve. There are only two possibilities: If Israel has become a messianic-racist entity that aims to erect the Temple and expel Muslims, as advocated by Lior and Eliyahu, there is logic in Israeli government policies that allow these people to approach the compound. It’s not for naught that Rabbi Lior chose Minister Uri Ariel, a determined visitor to the Temple Mount, and placed him at the political summit. Their hope is that this time, in the apocalyptic war with more than a billion Muslims that will occur after the mosques are blown up, God will be with the Jews, in contrast to what transpired in the Holocaust or when the first and second temples were destroyed.
But if there is any of the original Zionism left here, with its revolt against messianic views and extremist rabbis and its striving for down-to-earth pragmatism, the converse must hold. In reality, the place where sacrifices were once made in the Temple is now occupied by the Al-Aqsa compound where Muslims pray. According to non-messianic Jewish religious precepts, Jews are forbidden from going to the compound, making do with praying at the wall. There is no other alternative. Not even for the non-messianic extreme right-wing.
Therefore, and not as a concession to violence, Israel must announce that Jews are forbidden from entering the compound and that Israel opposes the construction of a Third Temple. Since in practice this is a Muslim site, there should be joint sovereignty with Jordan and the Palestinians, and no joint policing for now. Reconciliation should start at the Temple Mount. There is no other choice. It’s either choosing life or the Messiah.