Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, along with several other senior rabbis, issued
a public statement on Tuesday warning the public that visiting the Temple Mount
is forbidden by Jewish law.
According to the statement, the warning is
being issued at this time because of increased organized attempts to go up to
the holy site.
“It is a sacred duty to awaken your hearts [to the fact
that] it is completely forbidden according to Jewish law to go up to the Temple
Mount,” the statement reads. “This prohibition has been simple and clear for a
long time, and has been forbidden by all of the great Torah scholars.” Because
many different organizations have been calling on the public to visit the Temple
Mount in recent months, the declaration continues, it is incumbent upon the
signatories to reiterate that the prohibition remains.
The Temple Mount
is Judaism’s holiest site, but Jewish law requires those going up to certain
sections of the mount to be ritually pure – a status only obtainable through a
ceremony that cannot be performed today.
National Union MK Arye Eldad
denounced the declaration, saying that such statements damage Jewish claims to
Jerusalem and the Land of Israel: “The unholy alliance that has been formed –
between some rabbis in Israel, and the extreme Left and the Wakf [the Wakf
Muslim religious trust] – is likely, God forbid, to cost us the fate of Israel
in its entirety.” He continued: “Someone who gives up on a permanent Jewish
presence at the Temple Mount and... on sacrificing the Passover offering for
reasons of communal peace – and accepts as a heavenly decree the situation in
which Arabs control the Temple Mount and destroy the remnants of the Holy Temple
– convinces the entire world that Jews are not serious about their claims to
Israel and Jerusalem.” Some rabbinical authorities say that since it is now
known which areas may be visited without the purification ceremony, it is
permissible according to Jewish law to visit the site.
Gilad, a former Meimad MK and co-dean of Yeshivat Ma’aleh Gilboa, said that in
his opinion and that of many adjudicators of Jewish law, it is permissible to go
up to the mount – but added that he has reservations about doing so.
course I am drawn to our holiest site – not the Western Wall, the Temple Mount –
but perhaps something should be left for the times of the Messiah,” he
“The Jewish people still have much work to do on ourselves,” he
added, quoting a line from Psalms: “Who may go up to the mountain of God, and
who may stand at His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart.” Rabbi
Chaim Richman, director of the International Department of the Jerusalem-based
Temple Institute, was extremely critical of the statement. “It is preposterous
and absurd for official rabbinic representatives of Jewry to say that it is
“It is false, misleading and criminal to say that we don’t
know where the Holy of Holies is,” he continued, in reference to the holiest of
the areas that are forbidden to enter according to Jewish law. Richman also
pointed to the Temple Mount visit of revered medieval sage Rambam [Moses
Maimonides] in the twelfth century.
Richman also referred to a responsum
written by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, a greatly respected adjudicator of Jewish law
who died in 1986.
Feinstein had ruled it was permissible to visit certain
areas of the Temple Mount and cited a strong tradition of continued ascent to
the site following the destruction of the Second Temple.
signed Amar’s statement forbidding ascent included Avigdor Neventzal, the
much-respected rabbi of the Old City of Jerusalem, former Sephardi chief rabbi
Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron and Rabbi Shalom Cohen, dean of the Porat Yosef Yeshiva in
the Old City.
Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger added his name to the
declaration and said that anyone giving permission to Jews to visit the site was
leading them astray.
Rabbi of the Western Wall Shmuel Rabinovitch, who
also signed the declaration, stressed that only prayer – not going up to the
Temple Mount – would bring about the rebuilding of the Temple.
while the law permits Jews to go up to the site, according to his opinion and
that of leading rabbis, Jewish law forbids it.
Rabinovitch also pointed
out that Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, a leading figure of the national-religious
community and settler movement before his death in 1982, forbade Jews from
visiting the Temple Mount.