What is the vision of the Jews who want to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem?
Last Thursday night in Jerusalem I went to a rally of about 200 of these messianic Jews and spoke to four of them at some length. I’ve posted three video interviews below, which express some of the ideas I heard.
These Jews explained that when the temple is rebuilt, no Muslim holy places would remain on the Temple Mount– or Haram al Sharif, as Muslims describe the site. How the Muslim sites would be removed these Jews could not say. “We don’t know the exact detail,” said a psychotherapist who gave his name as Yechiel Israel. There are hints, he said: earthquake or war. He pointed out that a Lubavitcher rabbi advised in 1967 that the Israeli army blow up the Al Aqsa mosque and Dome of the Rock—and the Six Day War had been a “window of opportunity” that wasn’t taken (video below).
Ynet reported that the demonstrators chanted in Hebrew, “The mosque will burn, the temple rebuilt.” And one demonstrator said to me that the Western Wall was merely the “wrapping” on the Haram-al-Sharif/Temple Mount, as if the plateau was a gift from God to the Jews.
Many of the demonstrators wore masks to impersonate Rabbi Yehuda Glick, the third temple activist who was shot a week before, allegedly by a Palestinian, after such a demonstration. Glick is still in the hospital in serious condition; his alleged assailant was killed by Israeli police. Here are three boys wearing those masks.
These Jews claimed to me that “all Jews” of all persuasions want the temple rebuilt. Their insistence reminded me of Islamists who claim that all Muslims support thus-and-such extremist policies. All Jews pray for rebuilding the temple at the end of the Passover seder and the end of Yom Kippur, when they say, “Next year in Jerusalem”, the activists said to me. “They are begging and requesting to God to bring about the restoration of the temple,” Michael Wolfowitz said.
These believers all complained bitterly that they have limited access to the temple mount, less than 1/6th of the Muslim access to the site. Not that Muslims will have access when the temple is rebuilt. “We cannot share any kind of sovereignty,” one said.
And when I asked a young American named Jeremy, What do you think this country will look like in 100 years? he responded with a religious vision: I see millions of people streaming through these streets to get to the temple to make animal sacrifices. People of all former religions from all over the world, he said– because then the messiah would be here and the other religions would disappear.
These Jews also asserted that almost all Israeli Jews agree with them. But foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman has said that the calls for Jews to pray on the temple mount are a provocation, and some rabbis have said that it goes against Jewish law to pray on the temple mount before the messiah has arrived or all the Jews have in-gathered in Jerusalem. (It’s hard to keep all the theology here straight.)
Much of the rhetoric I heard was aggressive. The Jews I spoke to said that Israeli authorities had been far too soft in responding to Palestinian violent acts in Jerusalem. Jeremy said that Palestinians should be paid to leave Israel and the West Bank and go to Jordan. “What’s Palestine?” Yaacov Hayman, a tall bearded American-Israeli, said to me when I used the word “Palestinian.”
Hayman said that Muslims carried out violent acts and played football on the Haram al-Sharif, and that Israeli authorities have to stop that behavior. “The Muslims don’t see it as a holy place, they just see it a political place.”
But it is political to the demonstrators too. Many spoke about government policy toward Palestinians. “We think the response is soft,” Michael Wolfowitz said to me. “Any other normal country” would act to restore calm and quiet far more quickly. “We support harsher responses…the majority of people in Israel now are in favor of ending the violence,” he said.
The rally was highlighted by a speech from the former member of Knesset Michael Ben-Ari, who is a Kahanist, or militant Jewish chauvinist. His speech is in Hebrew, and I am hoping for a translation, but the spirit comes through.