In the Bible, the Temple Mount is considered a place of prayer for all nations and is commonly understood to be a holy place for Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. In Isaiah 56, it is written that, “foreigners Who attach themselves to Hashem” will be brought to his sacred mount to rejoice in his house of prayer:
“I will bring them to My sacred mount And let them rejoice in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices Shall be welcome on My mizbayach; For My House shall be called A house of prayer for all peoples” (Isaiah 56:7).
However, warn Jewish activists, politicians and rabbis, this Biblical aspiration is not being fulfilled today as prayer on the Temple Mount is restricted for those who are not Muslim.
“The status quo presently and officially is that Jews and Christians are not allowed to pray on the Temple Mount,” Member of Knesset Rabbi Yehuda Glick told Breaking Israel News.
Jews and Christians may visit the Mount at certain times, but are forbidden from praying, singing or making any religious displays or protests.
According to Glick, because Jerusalem is currently experiencing a time of relative calm, rarely do police interfere with quiet prayer “unless the Waqf claims it’s offending them,” whereas previously the Jordanian Waqf (an Islamic religious endowment) was very strict. The Waqf would follow each visitor’s every move and Jewish groups would be accompanied by policemen who watched the visitors’ lips to ensure they were not praying, Glick explained.
In 1967, despite thousands of years of yearning for Jewish sovereignty over Judaism’s holiest sites, Moshe Dayan, then Israeli defense minister, relinquished control of the Temple Mount to the Waqf.
According to Rabbi Pinchas Winston, specialist on the End of Days and geula (redemption), God controls history based on “where the Jewish people are holding,” and said that “1967 could have been a time of geula” if not for Dayan’s actions.
“When we got back Jerusalem and the Kotel, that was a geula event in a time when even secular Jews were talking about moshiach (messiah),” said Winston. “It was divine providence just like Israel’s independence in 1948: a step in the direction of redemption that would have likely triggered a series of events that triggered the geula and building of third Temple.”
However, Winston maintained, we didn’t take it seriously enough, and God put the Temple Mount “on hold.”
Glick called the 1967 Temple Mount relinquishment a naïve move, in which Israel incorrectly believed that relinquishing control of a site holy to Muslims as well as Jews and Christians would create a lasting peace between Israel and her Arab neighbors.
Joshua Wander, an independent public relations consultant in and around the Old City of Jerusalem, similarly called this event “one of the greatest tragedies in Jewish history,” equal to the sin of the golden calf.
Still, many Jews today do not recognize the centrality of the land of Israel to the Jewish people in the same way that people do not recognize centrality of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount as the holiest place on earth.
“Wherever the most holiness is, you also have the most impurity,” Wander explained – an impurity which has caused many errors and misconceptions also promulgated by some Israeli legal, religious and governmental authorities.
While the Temple Mount is managed by the Waqf, the Israeli government sets entry limits because of political constraints and security. When entering the Temple Mount, there is also a warning sign by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel that announces, “According to Torah Law, entering the Temple Mount area is strictly forbidden due to the holiness of the site.”
But according to Wander, this sign is out of date. After 1967 when Israel reunited Jerusalem and received access to the Temple Mount, Jews began flocking there, unaware of the conditions upon which one is allowed to go up according to Jewish law.
Today, because of vast archaeological and historical research, there is more understanding about where one may go or must avoid according Jewish purity laws.
Now, it is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s obligation to open the site for Jewish prayer, as per Israeli law, maintained Wander.
“Israeli basic law provides for freedom of worship and anybody has the right to pray freely in this country,” he said, calling Jewish restriction from prayer at their holiest site in their own country “absurd, clear discrimination and completely unacceptable.”
Similarly, said Glick, prayer should be allowed for all, as the Temple Mount is a house of prayer for all nations and prayer there should never be considered offensive.
He suggested a system of sharing holy sites, similar to the system of sharing at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron.
“The dream is that it should be a center for peace and tolerance and not hate,” he said.
Wander said that aspirations should go even farther: The Jews should start building the Third Temple on the Temple Mount.
“It is the goal of the Jewish nation to come back to the land and resurrect what we once had as a nation, including rebuilding the temple,” he said.
Historically, the Temple has acted as a lightning rod to God and a physical home in this world for Jews and non-Jews to spread blessings throughout the world, such as during Sukkot, when it was common for non-Jews to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem and bring sacrifices from the four corners of the earth.
“Although there are different laws about service and sacrifice, the Temple is equally important for Jews and non-Jews,” Wander said.
Ahead of the Jewish high holidays this year, “we are on the way to building the Temple by praying for it three times a day for the last 2,000 years, reclaiming Jerusalem in 1967 and learning all the appropriate laws regarding the Temple Mount since then,” he added, also citing reenactments of Temple services and sacrifices to bring awareness to the centrality of the Temple.
While years in exile has decreased awareness of the centrality of the land of Israel, Jerusalem and the Temple for many Jews, “it is a divine movement and anyone who tries to stand in its way will not be successful,” said Wander.
According to Wander, the political environment is ripe for it as well, as “Trump has given us a window of opportunity” of which he hopes the government will take advantage.
Winston expressed similar sentiments and said that over Israel’s 70-year history, “the odds have been against us numbers wise” and “the fact that we can thrive while surrounded by enemies, even economically, is a miracle.”
Winston urged “righteous gentiles” to continue investing in the State of Israel both spiritually and financially. Without a Temple, he explained, non-Jews cannot send sacrifices as they did in the past, but by taking part in bringing geula, they have an opportunity to bring back Temple times.
Toward this end, Winston explained, “Jews need to show God that we want it by going up to the Temple Mount, maintaining an anticipatory attitude and developing the will for redemption, as we did in Egypt.”
“We are living miracles as prophecies unfolding before our eyes,” Wander said. “It won’t be much longer before we achieve our goals.”