June 11, 2013
by Atara Beck
B'nai Brith Canada spent the last morning of its recent annual mission to Israel at the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site. The group was accompanied by Rabbi Chaim Richman, international director of the Temple Institute (templeinstitute.org), an educational, not-for-profit organization in the Old City.
Established 25 years ago, the institute, dedicated to the biblical commandment of building the third Holy Temple, has become the primary authority on all Temple-related matters.
The mission encountered intense hostility during its visit (see B'nai Brith Canada encounters antisemitism in Jerusalem, Jewish Tribune, May 28, 2013).
Although Israel liberated Jerusalem in 1967, the government has allowed the Jordanian Waqf (Islamic Trust) to retain control of the site. Since then, the Waqf has been destroying Jewish antiquities, in violation of a ruling by the Supreme Court; in fact, the Canadians, who were being closely followed by a Muslim-Israeli policeman and a Jordanian Wakf official, saw a tractor removing stones and artifacts.
Non-Muslims may not pray there. Christians may not wear a cross for fear of insulting the Muslims. On Ramadan, sipping water is prohibited.
According to Rabbi Richman, the Israeli authorities are "interested only in maintaining quiet," and the “result is subjugation. The discrimination is illegal. Police interpret the law as meaning that they have to prevent incitement and disturbance. So what happens if the Israeli officer following us is a Muslim? If he’s a good Muslim, he’ll prevent us from praying there...
"The irony is: According to the Hebrew prophets, the Temple is meant to be a house of prayer for all nations. Every single prophet of Israel had one major message, that the Temple will be rebuilt and will be the focal point of the spiritual energy of all mankind and a vehicle to bring about world peace."
As for a common misconception that Jews are forbidden by halacha (Jewish law) to go there, Rabbi Richman, an expert in this area, said: “What about the learned rabbis who do go? It’s not true at all...
"The issue is also politicized. I believe it’s a result of the 2,000-year-old galut [exile] mentality waiting for G-d to step in and do something – which I believe he did. That’s why I have a flag [of Israel] here. Now G-d is waiting for the Jewish people to do something," and to participate in building the Temple.
"Generations of Jews have been taught that the Kotel [Western Wall] is the [holiest] place. This is a terrible travesty of Jewish history…. We have become reduced to this idea of praying down at the basement level. In the time of the Holy Temple, the Kotel had zero significance. I cannot find any reference to the Kotel before the early 1700s, until the Crusaders banned Jews from Jerusalem. Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount was commonplace, and there are extensive rabbinical writings documenting this... Maimonides walked on the same path that we took."
According to Rabbi Richman, encouraging Jews to go to the Temple Mount "isn’t anything new. This is what the Jewish people have always done."