For years and years, though it may seem of the distant past, Jews have sacrificed their lives for a structure on a Jerusalem hill. When I visited the Western Wall, a remnant of the outer courts, it did not feel exceedingly holy. But when I managed to ascend the plank that leads to the hill, there above I sensed a presence.
When you stand there, you feel above and not below. You stand in a clearing on top of a hill, surrounded by adjacent hills, like the Psalmist who wrote famously, “Jerusalem, surrounded by hills, and the LORD surrounds His people…”
Twice the House of the LORD was built upon that hill, for His namesake. Twice this place of exaltation was destroyed, despite the lives of many Jews who fought for it. Josephus was right when he warned the Jewish rebellion to surrender to the Romans who had the upper hand. Lamentations is clear that we lost the war before the battle began.
Some intellectuals have claimed it is good that the Temple was annihilated because it released our people from the past, forcing us to adapt to the future, unattached and disenchanted. Thus we became a modern religion, no longer an ancient one. Why build it again?
If the third house was erected, it should not take us back but rather forward. It should be a sanctuary, not a machine for blood ritual. I wonder, what would be left to hope for? If the house be restored, perhaps we shall instigate other aspects of ultimate redemption, namely salvation of the world.
A man was nearly killed recently, in Jerusalem, because he believed in the dream of the third house. The murderer was then killed by our forces. The believer might be willing to give his life for the Temple. But we are not. Is it worth dying for? Must we be willing, like Isaac?
Society has embraced liberal values, which put the life of a man above hills and structure. Once we were not afraid of death; pioneers of this nation and state valued destiny more than life itself and sacrificed their blood for it. Nowadays it is our enemies that do not fear death and we are too weak to overcome them.
The house is not available, for others have assembled a different house there. Maybe we can at least there pray to the God who loves peace above pride? To be saved from another scenario of when push comes to shove, forcing us to fight and die again for all that we value, including the hill in Jerusalem.