Rabbi Yitzhak Yossef.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef spoke out fiercely on Friday against Jewish visitation to the Temple Mount, saying it was leading to bloodshed and inciting Arab violence.
Yosef was speaking at the funeral of Shalom Aharon Ba’adani, who died of injuries sustained in the terror attack in Jerusalem on Wednesday.
“This must be stopped, ” he said of Jews who go up to the site, which many rabbis consider forbidden, although there are numerous rabbinic authorities, especially in the national-religious community, who say it is permitted. “Only then will the bloodshed stop,” he continued, saying Jews visiting the Temple Mount were pouring “oil on the flames” of the unrest in the capital.
“It’s unthinkable that fourth-rate rabbis would argue with the great Torah scholars of Israel,” he said of those who permit Jews to visit the Temple Mount.
Mainstream haredi rabbinic opinion is that, according to Jewish law, Jews may not visit the Temple Mount because the holiness of the site requires a ritual purification process that is not available in present times.
There are, however, significant numbers of rabbis, especially from the national-religious community, who argue that it is possible to visit areas of the Temple Mount that do not require this level of ritual purity.
Included among them are Rabbis Haim Druckman, Dov Lior, Nahum Rabinovitch and Yaakov Medan, all of whom are highly respected in the national-religious community.
The chief rabbi’s comments angered Temple Mount activist groups, which are almost entirely from the national-religious community, as well as Bayit Yehudi MKs, including party chairman, Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett, who struck out at Yosef for implying that Jewish visitation to the site was responsible for the recent terror attacks in Jerusalem.
“No, honorable chief rabbi,” wrote Bennett on his Facebook page. “Jewish blood is being spilled because Arabs murdered them [the terror victims].”
MK Orit Struck said she protested “the blaming of Jews for the incitement and murder [conducted] by Arab terrorists,” and the offense given to national-religious rabbis who permit visiting the Temple Mount.
Bayit Yehudi MK Avraham Wortzman also took to Facebook and said Yosef’s comments “express the essence of the exile mentality which the Jewish people suffered from throughout history, in which the victim is always at fault.”
The Tzohar national-religious rabbinical association said the leading rabbis from the Zionist sector did not need a “hechsher” (kashrut stamp) from anyone else, although the organization said it was explicitly not offering its own opinion on Jewish law on visiting the site.
“Instead of blaming the murderers, fingers are being pointed at the victims,” Tzohar said in a press release, adding that regardless of the issues in Jewish law “even those who believe it is forbidden to visit the Temple Mount would certainly agree that sovereignty over the site needs to be in the hands of the State of Israel.”