Oct. 8, 2009
by Greer Fay Cashman
Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, considered one of the greatest living experts on Jewish law, has reiterated that it is halachicly forbidden for Jews to ascend the Temple Mount.
Elyashiv told this to President Shimon Peres on Thursday when the latter visited him in his succa in the capital's Mea She'arim neighborhood.
Peres, 86, who makes it a practice to pay Succot visits to the chief rabbis of Israel as well as to Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, 89, had not previously called on Elyashiv, 99.
Peres raised the Temple Mount issue in light of renewed hostilities between Muslim religious authorities and small groups of Jews who choose to ignore the halachic prohibitions, thereby provoking Muslim antagonism, such as the call by Muslim leaders to safeguard the Temple Mount area.
Such calls were issued recently after the pre-Yom Kippur visit by a group of non-Muslims to the compound sparked disturbances on the mount and elsewhere in the Old City. The security concerns prompted by those calls, as well as by the discovery of wheelbarrows filled with rocks in the Aksa Mosque, led police to restrict access to the compound, which in turn, led to more Arab riots in the capital. Access to the mount was still restricted Thursday to Muslim men over 50 with Israeli ID cards and to women.
Arab rumors have since been circulating regarding Israel excavating under the Temple Mount and Jews' plans to ascend the mount, and there was even a claim of Jewish plans to build a synagogue there.
Aside from halachic prohibitions, said Elyashiv, it was important to consider that any provocations on the part of Jews who are determined to reach the Temple Mount could lead to needless bloodshed and further condemnation of Israel by the nations of the world.
Nonetheless, there are those in the religious camp who disagree with Eliashiv. Yehuda Glick, director of the Temple Institute has been arrested several times this year for encouraging Jews to ascend the Temple Mount. The Temple Institute is dedicated to the construction of a Third Temple on the Temple Mount "to serve as a royal house of prayer."
Aspirations of this kind have aroused the fears and ire of the Islamic Waqf which has managed the Temple Mount continuously since 1187, and prompted riots in the old city earlier this week.
In light of the recent clashes between Arab rioters and security forces in Jerusalem, Palestinian leaders, among them Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, have accused Israel of trying to 'Judaize' the capital.
Peres noted that the voice of such a renowned and revered authority as Elyashiv should be heard and heeded.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Elyashiv gave Peres a special blessing, saying to him: "As President you need a special blessing to steer the nation on the right course in these difficult times."