Political piety

The practice of ascending the Temple Mount has gained more mainstream backing.

MK Moshe Feiglin near the Western Wall after ascending the Temple Mount. (photo credit: REUTERS)
MK Moshe Feiglin near the Western Wall after ascending the Temple Mount.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Almost two weeks after waiter Moataz Hejazi shot him four times at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, Yehudah Glick is out of danger. But the impact of the attack on one of the most prominent activists for Jewish presence on the Temple Mount can still be felt.
Besides the growing number of Jews visiting the holy site every day, a major change among the site’s faithful is their affiliation with political parties – particularly with the country’s ruling Likud Party.
Attending the gathering that Glick was moderating before he was shot was a top member of the party, MK Miri Regev, who is also chairwoman of the Knesset Interior Committee.
Glick himself is a member of the Likud, placing at No. 53 on the list for the Knesset. And another prominent activist for Jewish access to the Temple Mount who was present at the gathering was Likud MK and Deputy Knesset Speaker Moshe Feiglin.
Interestingly enough, while most of these activists are part of the national-religious movement, no representative of the Bayit Yehudi Party attended the event.
In fact, according to Dr. Tomer Persico, a scholar in comparative religion and New Age trends, there has been a deep change over the last few years in the Likud’s attitude toward the Temple Mount and its mystical significance – a change that has transformed the party from a secular, nationalistic one into one that intertwines religion and messianic messages with its nationalist positions. Not long ago, another member of that party, MK Ze’ev Elkin, declared in the Knesset that it was time the Likud took the yearning for a Jewish presence on the Temple Mount out of the hands of daydreamers and gave it to the entire nation.
Glick, who has devoted his life to bringing Jews back to the holy site, seems to be a natural echo of these trends.
Persico adds that at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center event, which was titled “Israel Returns to the Temple Mount,” both Regev and Feiglin called for Israelis to return to the site. Regev even linked Israelis’ right to pray there with the nation’s rights to the Land of Israel. And following Glick’s shooting, recently elected Jerusalem Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Aryeh Stern stated that while Jewish visits to the Temple Mount were forbidden from a halachic perspective – and as chief rabbi, he would not allow it – it was unacceptable to deny Jews access to the site for political reasons.
TO OUTSIDERS, the activists for Jewish presence on the Temple Mount might look like a uniform bloc promoting the same aim, but in fact, there are some significant differences among them in terms of their goals and actions.
Last year, Ir Amim, a nongovernmental organization devoted to “an equitable and stable Jerusalem with an agreed political future,” conducted a study on the issues surrounding the holy site. According to the study, there are about 30 different groups linked to the Temple Mount, and their goals can be divided roughly into three main categories: preparation for the era of the Third Temple (the Kohanim’s garments, vessels for Temple activities and so on); the construction of the Third Temple itself (which may also include demolishing the Dome of the Rock, as many say it sits on the same spot as the Temple did); and enabling Jewish visitors to pray on the Temple Mount.
Glick belongs to some of these groups, but for the last few years, most of his activities have been aimed at bringing Jews to the Temple Mount as much as possible – he has served as a guide for visiting groups – and changing the status quo at the site so Jews could pray there.
Some organizations seek to restore Temple rituals, and engage in activities such as laying a cornerstone for the Third Temple or displaying a sacrificial altar. Others organize tours of the Old City walls on the first of each Jewish month, while still others place an emphasis on bowing and prostrating themselves on the path just outside the Temple Mount – an area that Torah scholars have declared to be beyond the bounds of the Holy of Holies, and therefore permitted for visits.
Another distinction relates to the groups’ plans for al-Aksa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. Some groups openly admit that in order to reconstruct the Temple, or at least resume the sacrifices there, the mosques must be removed. Others, like Glick and most of his followers, take the opposite approach, stating that the site is a place of worship for all nations – hence Glick’s declarations that no mosque should be removed and no Muslim worried, since everyone should be able to pray there to the same God.
For Ir Amim, the study’s most worrisome findings were the links between many of the Temple Mount activities and various government offices. In the report, there is a detailed list of these activities, as well as the ways the organizations that encourage visiting the Temple Mount obtain tacit or overt support from the state, financial or otherwise. The report describes the difference between people and organizations acting to change the status quo regarding Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, and those that may be driven by a messianic frame of mind.
But it concludes that when it comes to the Muslim world’s anticipated reaction, both motives are dangerous.
That was the situation about a year-and-a-half ago. Today, not only is there an established link between government offices and the Temple Mount groups, but members of the governing party have gotten involved.
ON SUNDAY morning this week, access to the Temple Mount resumed for Jews, after the attempt on Glick’s life led police to restrict access for several days. The first person to arrive there was Feiglin, accompanied by personal guards whom the police had sent him right after Glick’s shooting. Throughout his visit, a number of Arab women followed him around, shouting, “Allahu Akbar!” Feiglin said the fact that he, a Jew, required bodyguards while Arabs could move freely anywhere was the strongest proof that “Jews in the State of Israel continue to think like they did in the Diaspora – namely that they are to blame for anything bad that happens to them.”
He added that this was exactly what he and all the Jews who came to the Temple Mount had to fight against to reestablish a proud Jewish sovereignty.
Meanwhile, police briefly detained five members of Jewish Students for the Temple Mount, a newly established group promoting visits to the site, and ultimately prevented them from entering the Esplanade. The rest of their group continued to the holy site – amid the shouting of the Arab women – for a silent visit. Leading the tour was Arnon Segal, a close friend of Glick’s and a writer at the Makor Rishon newspaper, who declared at the end that he and his friends were praying for Glick’s prompt recovery and his return to the place he belonged.
Asked if Glick’s shooting and tension surrounding the Temple Mount had lowered his readiness to visit the site, Segal smiled and replied that “on the contrary – not only we are not going to stop our activity, but we’re going to come more [often] and in greater numbers, first of all [to make up for] Glick until he recovers and comes back here.”