Rabbis split on Temple Mount synagogue plan

Any attempt to build a synagogue on Jerusalem's Temple Mount would immediate plunge Israel into horrible bloodbath, warned Tuesday MK Ibrahim Sarsur, head of the southern wing of the Islamic Movement. "Muslims and Arabs will not stand idly by while representatives of Satan on earth such as MK Uri Ariel and his lunatic friends from the Yesha Rabbinic Council try to launch their insane plots," said Sarsur. "We will resort to violence if need be, which I believe is legitimate under such circumstances." Sarsur was reacting to an announcement by Ariel (National Union-National Religious Party) Tuesday that he intended to revive an old idea to build a synagogue on the Temple Mount and reverse a cabinet decision that prohibits Jewish prayer on the mount. Ariel stressed in his announcement that his proposal would maintain the status quo and would not infringe Muslims' right to full access to the Al Aqsa Mosque, which is situated on the ruins of the destroyed Second Temple. "Muslims now have the opportunity to prove they are tolerant enough to accommodate faiths that different from their own," said Ariel. "[Building this synagogue] will rectify an historic injustice, much more than the re-interment of [Theodore] Herzl's children in Israel. Since the Temple's destruction and the consequent loss of independence, exile and oppression, Jews' presence on the Temple Mount has clear symbolism." But Sarsur said that the very building of the synagogue was a gross violation of the status quo and tantamount to a call to war. "I want to believe that the government and the sane Israeli voice will not allow fundamentalists and self-haters to plunge the entire area into a horrible bloodbath," added Sarsur, who heads the more moderate southern branch of the Islamic Movement, which decided in 1996 to run for parliamentary representation. Ariel, chairman of the National Union faction, said it was abnormal that the most holy Jewish site in the world was off limits to Jews as a place of religious worship. In his press announcement on the synagogue initiative Ariel said that the planned house of worship would be built in an area on the Temple Mount that did not require prior immersion in a ritual bath [mikveh] like other places on the mount. However, since the exact measurements of the Temple are unknown all Orthodox Jews immerse as an added precaution before entering all parts of the mount. Entering prohibited sections of the mount when impure carry severe religious sanctions. According to Jewish law, some parts of the Temple, such as the holy of holies, are completely forbidden at all times since today all Jews are impure from coming into contact either directly or indirectly (by entering a hospital for instance) with the dead. Rabbis are split over the issue of building a synagogue on the Temple Mount. Former Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu proposed building one after the Six Days' War when all of Jerusalem came under Israeli control. Eliyahu hoped that by building a synagogue, clear borders would be set between permitted and prohibited parts of the mount. However, the Chief Rabbinate ruled in the 70's that it was forbidden to enter any part of the mount. Followers of Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Kook, such as Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, oppose the idea. They a ruling by Kook from the 1920's when he was Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Palestine that rejected Rabbi Haim Hirshenson's suggestion to build a synagogue on the mount. Hirshenson, author of a collection of halachic ruling called Malki B'kodesh, hoped that such a synagogue would unite the diverse groups within the Jewish people. But, according to Aviner, Kook made a clear distinction between the Land of Israel and the Temple Mount. "Rabbi Kook taught that Israel must be physically built by the Jewish people, while the Temple Mount would be rebuilt by God - whatever that means - when the Jewish people were ready." Aviner said that improving ourselves and our society must precede the building of the Temple. "By building a just society we bring nearer the building of the Temple," said Aviner.