A fox was spotted along the southern wall of the Temple Mount on Wednesday night, as Tisha Be'Av, the day when the two Temples of Jerusalem were destroyed, was marked.
The sighting of the fox went viral, with social media users saying the sighting was a sign of a prophecy coming true.
The social media users were referencing a story related in Tractate Makkot (24b) in which Rabbi Akiva, Rabban Gamliel, Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya, and Rabbi Yehoshua visited the site of the destroyed Second Temple.
When the rabbis arrived at the site, they saw a fox emerge from the site of the Holy of Holies and began weeping, although Rabbi Akiva began laughing. The rabbis asked Rabbi Akiva why he was laughing as a fox walked in a site about which the Torah wrote "And the non-priest who approaches shall die."
Rabbi Akiva responded that the appearance of the fox coincided with a prophecy given by the prophet Uriah in which he stated “Therefore, for your sake Zion shall be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become rubble, and the Temple Mount as the high places of a forest (where foxes are found).” (Although the prophecy appears in Micah 3:12, there is a rabbinic tradition that it was prophesied by Uriah and not Micah.)
Rabbi Akiva noted that the prophet Isaiah linked the prophecy to Uriah to the prophecy of Zecharia (a prophet during the Second Temple period) which reads "There shall yet be elderly men and elderly women sitting in the streets of Jerusalem.” (Zechariah 8:4)
"Until the prophecy of Uriah was fulfilled I was afraid that the prophecy of Zechariah would not be fulfilled. Now that the prophecy of Uriah was fulfilled, it is evident that the prophecy of Zechariah remains valid," said Rabbi Akiva.
"[The Sages] said to him, employing this formulation: Akiva, you have comforted us; Akiva, you have comforted us," concludes the story in the Gemara.
Former spotting of foxes near the Temple Mount
This isn't the first time in recent years that foxes have been spotted near the walls of the Temple Mount.
In 2019, foxes were spotted near the Western Wall.
At the time, the rabbi of the Western Wall and the Holy Places Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz stated that "It was impossible not to cry at the sight of the fulfillment of the prophecy of 'Foxes walked in it' on the evening of Tisha Be'Av."
"We, who were Rabbi Akiva's students, remember how he consoled his friends when they saw the same image, immediately after the destruction of the Temple. May it be that just as we were privileged to see with our own eyes what Rabbi Akiva and his friends saw, so we will be privileged to witness what Rabbi Akiva promised his friends, soon in our time, Amen."