MK Gafni tells Netanyahu not to let ministers, MKs go to the Temple Mount

Rabbis who approve visiting the Temple Mount have ruled that the site of the Holy of Holies is known and can be avoided.

A view of Temple Mount (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
A view of Temple Mount
Senior United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni wrote to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asking him to prohibit Jewish MKs and government ministers from visiting the Temple Mount for fear of “provoking the nations of the world.”
Several haredi politicians and media commentators have blamed the increase in the numbers of Jews visiting the Temple Mount in recent years for the wave of terrorism witnessed over the last year, and haredi rabbinic authorities, as well as some religious-Zionist ones, prohibit Jews from visiting the site due to concerns over ritual-purity requirements.
Gafni’s request evinced heavy condemnation from Bayit Yehudi MKs and the Likud’s haredi caucus, which called Gafni’s comments “capitulation to terrorism.”
The UTJ MK’s request follows a police recommendation to the prime minister on Tuesday that the current ban on MKs visiting the site instituted by the prime minister a year ago due to diplomatic and security tensions could be revoked, in accordance with certain conditions.
Following the police recommendation, the Prime Minister’s Office said the ban would be discussed at a meeting of security officials to be held in the near future and would remain in place until then.
Writing on Wednesday to Netanyahu, Gafni said that, for diplomatic and security reasons “and the incitement that exists because of this [Jewish visitation], principally, but not only, in the Muslim world,” he was asking Netanyahu to “continue to prevent ascent to the Temple Mount.”
He also noted that Jewish law imposes a sanction of “spiritual excommunication” on a Jew who steps in the area where the Holy of Holies of the ancient Temples was situated.
“Mr. Prime Minister, you know that unnecessary tensions should be prevented [and] not to provoke the nations of the world on an issue for which there is no need, and I request from you in the name of many of your partners, please do not allow a change in the situation of going up to the Temple Mount, our holy place,” Gafni wrote.
The haredi Likud caucus was highly critical over Gafni’s request, especially in light of the recent UNESCO resolutions on Jerusalem, saying matters of Jewish law should be addressed by the rabbis and individual consultations, not lawmakers.
Rabbis who approve visiting the Temple Mount have ruled that the site of the Holy of Holies is known and can be avoided, as can other areas of the site requiring a higher level of ritual purity than is currently available.
“Gafni’s letter represents a capitulation to the murderous Islamic terrorism and puts wind in the sails of the enemies of the Jewish people who seek in these very days to rewrite history and to falsify the connection between the Jewish people and its eternal covenant with Jerusalem,” the caucus wrote in response to Gani’s letter.
“Every person should act in accordance with his rabbis in the halachic debate about where it is permitted to go on the Temple Mount and it would be better that MKs deal with matters of the Knesset and leave those who sit in the study halls to rule on halachic matters and Jewish tradition,” it continued.
Bayit Yehudi MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli, who herself does visit the Temple Mount, strongly objected to Gafni’s request, calling it “speech of the exile,” in an interview with Army Radio.
“Who needs UNESCO when we have MK Moshe Gafni who can tell us that we are harming Islamic holy sites by going up to the Temple Mount. There is a real halachic debate, some are of one opinion and others are of another,” said Moalem-Refaeli.
Bayit Yehudi MK Nissan Slomiansky said on the Kol Barama haredi radio station that, although he personally does not visit the Temple Mount, “according to Gafni’s words, the State of Israel shouldn’t exist because of provoking the nations.”