As director of the Temple Institute’s International Department, I have been ascending the Temple Mount, and leading tours to that holy site, for over two decades. Contrary to popular misconception, it is absolutely halachically acceptable – and indeed, the fulfillment of a positive mitzvah – to be present on certain areas of the Temple Mount.
The areas which are forbidden (all the while that we are in a state of ritual impurity) are those areas where the Temple sanctuary and inner courtyards stood. These areas are well-known and easily avoided when directed by one who is familiar with Temple Mount topography. While it is true that some rabbis forbid treading anywhere on the Mount, this is due to an abundance of caution, that those lacking the proper familiarity may inadvertently enter into forbidden areas. But our knowledge of this subject has been preserved in unbroken tradition and has been recorded by such universally- acknowledged authorities as the Radbaz (Rabbi David ben Zimra, 1479-1573), one of the Torah giants of all generations, and the unparalleled, famed Rambam (Maimonides), who ascended the Temple Mount while on a visit to the Land of Israel and wrote about his experience in a letter which exists to this day.
Although I have been on the Temple Mount hundreds of times, yesterday I experienced one of the most moving and memorable visits ever. I was honored to serve as guide for a visiting delegation of B’nai B’rith Canada. B’nai B’rith is one of the most widely-known international Jewish human rights, humanitarian and advocacy organizations. B’nai B’rith works for Jewish unity, security, and continuity and fights Anti-Semitism and intolerance around the world.
Participants in the visit included Mr. Eric Bissell, President of B’nai B’rith Canada, and Dr. Frank Dimant, CEO of B’nai B’rith Canada, as well as other officers and directors of the organization. The group members were able to learn firsthand, the severity of the lack of Jewish rights at our holiest place. As a group that fights against anti-Semitism all over the world and champions human rights, the participants in our tour were outraged and shocked by what they saw. They witnessed the desecration of the site and were greeted by Muslim women aggressively screaming at them in shrill voices, ‘Allah Akbar.’ The group was also briefly pelted with stones by young Arab boys.
The B’nai B’rith delegation expressed indignation that at Israel’s heart, the Temple Mount, the location of the Holy Temple, Jewish people could be subjected to such utter degradation, all on account of the fact that they are Jews. They expressed their solidarity and identification with the plight of the beleaguered Temple Mount and vowed to join the fight.
I would like to publicly express my deepest appreciation to the members of this group for taking this bold and brave initiative and for their dedication in bringing the message of the Temple Mount’s plight to the world. It is my hope that more and more Jewish groups and individuals will make the ascent to the Temple Mount to reconnect with this sacred spot which forms the confluence of Israel’s past, present and future.
Those wishing halachic guidance for visiting the Temple Mount, or to request a tour according to Jewish law, may go to http://www.templeinstitute.org/temple_mount.htm or contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org