Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef (L) and former Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar (R)..
(photo credit: OFFICE OF RABBI SHLOMO AMAR)
Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef issued a clarification on Monday of comments he made last week in which he fiercely criticized rabbis who rule that it is permitted to visit the Temple Mount.
Yosef said on Friday at the funeral of terrorism victim Shalom Aharon Ba’adani that such rabbis are “fourth rate” and claimed that Jewish visitation to the site had caused terror attacks in Jerusalem.
His comments generated consternation from the national-religious community, since many rabbis from the sector permit Jews to visit the Temple Mount, and his remarks were taken as a slight on the community’s rabbinic leaders.
“In our generation we are all third or fourth rate and we are not able to contend the rulings of rabbis from earlier generations,” he wrote on Monday to the municipal chief rabbi of Petah Tikva, Rabbi Micha Halevy, who had written to Yosef following his comments.
The chief rabbi provided a long list of rabbis from the last century who had banned Jews from going to the Temple Mount, and he asked: “Who are we to argue with such great Torah scholars.... All of us, all of this generation, great and small alike, are on the third or fourth level, and so we cannot argue with previous opinions at all.”
Several rabbis and Bayit Yehudi politicians reacted angrily to Yosef’s earlier remarks, including party leader and Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett.
On Sunday, MK Avraham Wortzman called on the chief rabbi to retract his comments and said that he objects to the disparaging way senior and respected national-religious rabbis are being treated.
Although mainstream rabbinic opinion for many years was not to allow Jews to go to the Temple Mount for fear of entering areas that require ritual purification not available today, several senior national-religious figures have said that the precise locations of such areas are well known and other parts of the Temple Mount can be visited without contravening Jewish law.
In recent years, Temple Mount rights activists have campaigned vigorously to increase Jewish access to the site and to remove police restrictions, imposed at the behest of the Wakf Islamic religious trust which administers the site, banning Jewish prayer.