Several dozen prominent national-religious rabbis issued a statement on Thursday encouraging Jews to visit the Temple Mount, a call which comes against the background of severe tensions that have surrounded the site since two Israeli policemen were murdered there by three Arab-Israeli men two weeks ago.
The rabbis declared that it is of religious merit to visit the Temple Mount and that such visits bolster the Jewish people’s claim to it.
“It is a great merit to go up, and to be raised up, to the holy mountain in order to seek guidance for Zion and to strengthen our hold on this holy place,” wrote the rabbis.
Among the most prominent rabbinical leaders on the list of signatories are far-right leader and halachist Rabbi Dov Lior, Rabbi Nachum Rabinowitz, a highly respected arbiter of Jewish law, Rabbi Yisrael Rozen, together with another 37 yeshiva deans, and communal heads.
The rabbis insisted however that anyone who goes up to the Temple Mount comply with religious strictures at the site, including immersing in a ritual bath before ascending, not wearing leather shoes, and refraining from entering areas forbidden by Jewish law, specifically close proximity to the Dome of the Rock Islamic shrine, where it is believed the Temple’s Holy of Holies was located.
The Temple Mount is the holiest place in Judaism, and is believed to be the site of the Biblical accounts of the Binding of Isaac; Jacob’s dream of a ladder reaching to the heaven with angels ascending and descending; and was the location of the First and Second Temples.
In recent years, leaders from the national-religious community, including Lior and others, have supported visiting the Temple Mount due to its holy nature and to advance Jewish prayer rights there.
The Islamic Wakf which administers the site refuses to allow non-Muslims to pray in any way at the holy place, bow, dance, or any other expression of attachment and devotion to the site, and anyone caught doing so is arrested and removed.
Visiting hours for non-Muslims are also extremely restricted, while Jewish visitors are frequently subjected to intense harassment from Muslims at the site.
Muslims revere the Temple Mount as Haram al-Sharif, or the noble Sanctuary, and believe it to be the place where Muhammad ascended to heaven. The al-Aksa mosque located at the site is one of holiest places in Islam.