Islamizing the Temple Mount
It’s the House of God. For centuries, Jews have remembered the destruction of the holy Temple in Jerusalem by crushing a glass at weddings or leaving unpainted a patch of wall in their homes. The Temple Mount is the magnificent edifice that has served the faithful as a symbol of God’s glory for 4,000 years. It’s Mount Moriah mentioned in the Book of Genesis. It’s the site where humanity received the gift of monotheism. It’s where God’s “shechina,” or presence, dwelt. Even the secular imagination, Jewish or not, has been shaped by the “Holy of Holies,” the most sacred site of the Jewish people. It’s there that King David raised a sanctuary for the Ark of the Covenant and King Solomon and Herod built the Temples. The Roman emperor Hadrian covered those ruins with a pagan temple to Jupiter; the Crusaders used it as a garbage dump to defile its Jewish significance and turned the area into a stable for their horses; the Arabs later built their own Islamic holy sites on top of those of their defeated enemy.
Many devout Jews today don’t set foot on the Temple Mount, afraid that they may be stepping on the ground covering the ruins of the Holy of Holies, allowed only to the High Priest on Yom Kippur. That is enough to keep them away. But there are those who believe they have a right to pray on the grounds where the Temple stood, particularly on Tisha be’Av, the anniversary of its destruction (Maimonides too prayed there). Though many respected rabbis forbid praying on the Mount, other very important Jewish leaders permit it. And there is a growing and brave movement, led by Rabbi Yisrael Ariel and Professor Hillel Weiss, which is trying to build awareness among the Israeli public on the Temple Mount. They are leading a historic battle for the rights of the Jews in their most holy site.