March 10, 2010
WND Exclusive FROM WND'S JERUSALEM BUREAU
International awareness day calls for activism to ensure universal rights on holy site
by Aaron Klein
JERUSALEM - A Temple Mount activist organization here has declared next Tuesday "International Temple Mount Awareness Day" and is calling on the world community to express solidarity with the rights of non-Muslims to pray on the site.
"The Temple Mount is the holiest spot in the world, yet the majority of the world's population is barred from any outward peaceful expression of prayer while atop the site," Rabbi Chaim Richman, director of the international department of the Temple Institute, told WND.
"We call on Jews and Gentiles around the world to mark March 16th as a day of solidarity with the Temple Mount and the prophetic vision of 'a house of prayer for all nations,'" he said.
The Temple Institute is a group that works to restore a Jewish presence to the mount, where the Israeli police bar Jews from ascending during most hours of the day while Muslims are granted nearly 24-hour access.
In coordination with the Waqf, the Mount's Islamic custodians, police here ban all non-Muslims from praying on the Mount despite an Israeli Supreme Court decision requiring police to offer an arrangement that will enable public Jewish prayer on the site.
The Israeli police cite security concerns for their Jewish prayer restrictions, explaining they fear the outbreak of Muslim violence if non-Muslim prayer is allowed.
Next Tuesday, the Temple Institute is calling for an international day of awareness regarding the situation on the mount.
The group is asking Israelis to arrive at the Temple Mount Mugrabi Gate, the entrance to the mount, at 7:15 in the morning local time in accordance with directions posted on the institute's site. Institute leaders stressed they are seeking a peaceful public demonstration of solidarity with the Mount.
Those outside Israel are being asked to "make known their dissatisfaction with the ongoing injustice to the Prime Minister of Israel, by telephone, by fax, and by e-mail."
The Temple Institute lists a suggested protest letter text and contact information for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on its site.
The group also is calling for those living abroad to "assemble in prayer and discussion, spreading the word and raising awareness about the injustices being committed on the Temple Mount."
"We suggest holding prayer vigils outside Israeli consulates and the embassies," stated the Temple Institute.
The Institute points out that according to the Hebrew calendar, next Tuesday marks the anniversary of the dedication of the Tabernacle and the first day of the divine service.
No prayer zone
The Temple Mount was opened to the general public until September 2000, when the Palestinians started their intifada by throwing stones at Jewish worshipers after then-candidate for prime minister Ariel Sharon visited the area.
Following the onset of violence, the new Sharon government closed the Mount to non-Muslims, using checkpoints to control all pedestrian traffic for fear of further clashes with the Palestinians.
The Temple Mount was reopened to non-Muslims in August 2003. It still is open but only Sundays through Thursdays, 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., and not on any Christian, Jewish or Muslim holidays or other days considered "sensitive" by the Waqf.
During "open" days, Jews and Christian are allowed to ascend the Mount, usually through organized tours and only if they conform first to a strict set of guidelines, which includes demands that they not pray or bring any "holy objects" to the site. Visitors are banned from entering any of the mosques without direct Waqf permission. Rules are enforced by Waqf agents, who watch tours closely and alert nearby Israeli police to any breaking of their guidelines.
Rebuilding Third Temple
Besides advocating for non-Muslim rights on the mount, the Temple Institute also focuses on preparation for the rebuilding of the Third Temple. The group has been preparing ritual objects suitable for Temple use. Many of the more than 90 ritual items to be used in the Temple have been re-made to the highest standards the Temple Institute.
The First Temple was built by King Solomon in the 10th century B.C. It was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. The Second Temple was rebuilt in 515 B.C. after Jerusalem was freed from Babylonian captivity. That temple was destroyed by the Roman Empire in A.D. 70. Each temple stood for a period of about four centuries.
The Temple was the center of religious worship for ancient Israelites. It housed the Holy of Holies, which contained the Ark of the Covenant and was said to be the area upon which God's presence dwelt. All biblical holidays centered on worship at the Temple. The Temples served as the primary location for the offering of sacrifices and were the main gathering place for Israelites.
According to the Talmud, the world was created from the foundation stone of the Temple Mount. It's believed to be the biblical Mount Moriah, the location where Abraham fulfilled God's test to see if he would be willing to sacrifice his son Isaac.
The Temple Mount has remained a focal point for Jewish services for thousands of years. Prayers for a return to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the Temple have been uttered by Jews since the Second Temple was destroyed, according to Jewish tradition.
The Al Aqsa Mosque was constructed in about A.D. 709 to serve as a shrine near another shrine, the Dome of the Rock, which was built by an Islamic caliph. Al Aqsa was meant to mark what Muslims came to believe was the place at which Muhammad, the founder of Islam, ascended to heaven to receive revelations from Allah.
Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Quran. It is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible 656 times.
Islamic tradition states Muhammad took a journey in a single night on a horse from "a sacred mosque" - believed to be in Mecca in southern Saudi Arabia - to "the farthest mosque" and from a rock there ascended to heaven. The farthest mosque became associated with Jerusalem about 120 years ago.
According to research by Israeli Author Shmuel Berkovits, Islam historically disregarded Jerusalem as being holy. Berkovits points out in his new book, "How Dreadful Is this Place!" that Muhammad was said to loathe Jerusalem and what it stood for. He wrote Muhammad made a point of eliminating pagan sites of worship and sanctifying only one place - the Kaaba in Mecca - to signify the unity of God.
As late as the 14th century, Islamic scholar Taqi al-Din Ibn Taymiyya, whose writings influenced the Wahhabi movement in Arabia, ruled that sacred Islamic sites are to be found only in the Arabian Peninsula and that "in Jerusalem, there is not a place one calls sacred, and the same holds true for the tombs of Hebron."
A guide to the Temple Mount by the Supreme Muslim Council in Jerusalem published in 1925 listed the Mount as Jewish and as the site of Solomon's Temple. The Temple Institute acquired a copy of the official 1925 "Guide Book to Al-Haram Al-Sharif," which states on page 4, "Its identity with the site of Solomon's Temple is beyond dispute. This, too, is the spot, according to universal belief, on which 'David built there an altar unto the Lord.'"