Around 100 Christian Zionists ascended the Temple Mount on Thursday morning alongside thousands of Jewish people to express solidarity and repent for atrocities their ancestors committed in honor of Tisha Be'av.
Some Christians also joined in the Jewish fast day, commemorating the destruction of the First and Second Temples and several other tragedies that occurred throughout history on our near this ninth of the Hebrew month of Av.
The "aliyah" was organized by the Nations' Ninth of Av initiative, a group of Christians who says they recognize the painful history between Christians and Jews and want to "repent and take responsibility," explained its co-founder Steve Wearp.
Temple Mount activist Rabbi Yehudah Glick led the ascent. In addition to the ascent, the group hosted 27 hours of prayer with www.AltarofPrayer.com.
Not mimic, but rather support
Wearp, who is also the founder of Blessed Buy Israel, emphasized that the Christians were not there to mimic the Jews but rather to support them. He told The Jerusalem Post that the Nation's Ninth of Av initiative is based on Zachariah 8:23, which describes how, in the time of the redemption, non-Jews "will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, 'Let us go with you because we have heard that God is with you.'"
"It's a proclamation," Wearp said. "'Let us go up with you!' And so that is why we are here today. We are making aliyah."
On the way to the mount, he told a busload of Christian followers that "this is not just about the Jewish people. This is not just about Israel. This is about all of us. The whole world can come to meet the Lord and pray. The Temple is supposed to be a house of prayer for all nations and all people."
Wearp asked the travelers, some who had never ascended the Temple Mount before, to ask themselves why not.
Over the past several years, the Nations' Ninth of Av initiative has run several educational programs in person and online, including its annual tour of Israel that coincides with Tisha Be'av. Thousands of Christians have participated in its efforts, including hundreds who attend an annual banquet and awards ceremony to mark "new beginnings in Jewish-Christian relationships and to recognize those who have labored selflessly in this work," the invitation said.
This year, the awards ceremony will occur on August 2 at the Israel Museum. The award recipients will be HaYovel's Tommy Waller and Israel365's Rabbi Tuly Weisz.
Hayovel brings Christian volunteers to the West Bank to help harvest the vineyards there. Weisz's organization serves as a bridge between Jews in Israel and Christians abroad, including offering daily inspirational emails.
Glick, who founded the Shalom Jerusalem Foundation, regularly leads groups of Jews and Christians to pray on the Temple Mount. But on Thursday, he said Christians ascending the mount on Tisha Be'av was "part of the redemption." He said when he started going up on the Temple Mount 30 years ago, there were only hundreds of others like him. Today, tens of thousands of people visit the Temple Mount each year.
Nearly 2,000 people had ascended by mid-day, according to Beyadenu – Returning to the Temple Mount organization. A spokesperson said the country would likely see a peak of visitors this year.
In 2022, 2,200 people visited the Temple Mount.
The Temple Mount was the site of the Jewish temples. Israel reclaimed the area as part of its victory in the 1967 Six-Day War. However, the site has remained highly contested and is monitored by the Jordanian Waqf. The Temple Mount has been a repeated place of Muslim violence.
In May, Christian worshipers who came to pray at an archaeological park near the Western Wall were shouted at and spit at by hundreds of Jewish protesters who called on them to leave. Wearp said that while some Christians complained that the Jews were "oppressing their religious rights," he believes the Christian community should look at itself and try to understand why Jews would be skeptical about Christians.
"Our movement is about more than just saying, 'I'm sorry," Wearp told the Post. "The Nations' Ninth of Av initiative is calling on Christians to change directions, to turn away from some of the doctrines, philosophies and false teachings we've held."