Cheshvan 9, 5770, 27 October 09
by Hillel Fendel
A top official in the Education Ministry on a tour of the City of David in Jerusalem said his office would approve and even pay for school trips to the Temple Mount if there is a demand for such.
Yechezkel Azrieli, head of the Youth and Society Department in the Education Ministry, added that the Defense Ministry must approve such trips from a security standpoint.
Azrieli was participating, with Education Minister Gideon Saar, in an official tour of the City of David in eastern Jerusalem, below and to the south of the Temple Mount and Western Wall. The event, featuring hundreds of 5th, 7th, and 10th graders, was actually the kickoff for a new Education Ministry project entitled "Let’s Ascend to Jerusalem."
In the framework of the project, designed to bring more pupils to the country’s political and historic capital, some 450,000 students are expected to arrive in Jerusalem each year, as opposed to 290,000 until now. The Education Minister has allocated NIS 15 million for the project, with priority given to schools in peripheral areas, and each child will visit the holy historic city at least thrice during his 12 years in school.
MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union) congratulated Saar on the project and specifically on the decision to approve Temple Mount trips: "I call upon all school principals around the country to initiate such trips. The fact that 50 percent of our pupils have never been to Jerusalem is horrifying, and the fact that [barely any of them] have ever visited the Jewish People’s holiest site must be amended."
The participating students were from Sderot and Ofakim in the Negev, as well as Bnei Brak, Ben Shemen and Haifa. From Ir David, they went to Ammunition Hill, site of a critical 1967 Six Day War battle for Jerusalem.
Education Ministry officials explained that Minister Saar declared upon taking office that one of his objectives is to strengthen Zionist, Jewish and democratic values in the school system, and that fortifying ties with Jerusalem helps to serve this purpose.
Rabbi Yehuda Glick, Chairman of the Organization for Civil Rights on the Temple Mount, welcomed the decision to support school trips to Jerusalem in general – "the City of the Holy Temple," he called it - and to the Temple Mount in particular. "We are happy to invite all Jerusalem visitors to the site of the Holy Temple," he said. "We will provide guides and ensure that the visit is carried out with honor and glory and in accordance with all applicable rules. There is no doubt that those who visit the Mount with appropriate guidance will have an unforgettable experience that will engrave upon their hearts the living, eternal connection between the Jewish Nation and its heritage."
Ritual Immersion First
Rabbis are divided on the question of whether one may visit the Temple Mount nowadays, given its ultra-sacred status and related Biblical prohibitions. Some rabbis forbid it, while others say that we are sufficiently aware of the exact locations of the Holy of Holies and other sacred sites as to enable those who have taken the proper precautions, such as immersion in a ritual pool, to visit large, though defined, areas of the Temple Mount. Rabbi Glick told Israel National News, "I have led class trips in the past, and will be happy to do it again, that involve immersion in one of several natural mikvehs in the area before we arrive at the Temple Mount."