Kids on the Temple Mount!? What are they doing there? Do they even belong there?
Yes, those are kids up on the Temple Mount. What are they doing there? Fulfilling the mitzvah (commandment) of morat haMikdash - showing reverence for the Holy Temple. The Holy Temple was destroyed 1,936 years ago, but the spot upon which it stood remains sacred.
"And they shall make for Me a sanctuary, and I will dwell amongst them." (Exodus 25:8)
The place of the Holy Temple was where G-d chose to rest His Divine presence. He chose that very location even before He created the world. His house - the Holy Temple - has been destroyed, but the place - known as the Temple Mount - will always be holy to G-d. And therefore, it will always be Holy to G-d's people.
Isn't it forbidden to walk where the Holy Temple and its Courtyards once stood?
Yes, it is forbidden, and must be avoided. The Temple Mount is a large plateau, about the size of five football fields. The Holy Temple and its Courtyards covered a much smaller area upon the Mount. Since we know from our sages where the Holy Temple once stood, we can walk a circle around the Temple Mount, all the while being certain to carefully avoid the forbidden areas.
Since when did Jews start going up to the Mount?
The Holy Temple, of course, was a center for the entire nation of Israel, and three times a year, on Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot, Jews from all over the land of Israel, and the diaspora, would come to the Temple Mount. Even after the destruction of the Holy Temple by the Romans in the year 70 CE, Jews continued to visit the site of the Holy Temple. The Talmud relates the well known story of Rabbi Akiva, who along with other sages, visited the Temple Mount. The great sage known as Maimonides, or Rambam, also paid a visit to the Temple Mount. In the year 1166 CE the Rambam made a trip to Israel from his home in Egypt. He arrived in the port of Acco, and immediately made his way to Jerusalem. There he went up to the Temple Mount, and prayed facing the site where the Holy Temple once stood. He was so moved by his experience, that he vowed to mark that day with a festive meal, for the rest of his life!
To visit the Temple Mount in accordance with halachah - Jewish law, all Jews must first visit the mikvah. People of all ages can visit the Mount. But be certain to go with with an expert who knows just where you are allowed to visit!
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