A Temple In Our Time
The following is adapted from a speech delivered by the author at the 2023 Temple Mount Jerusalem Conference, hosted at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center.
On January 6, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered what many historians and scholars consider to be the most important, defining, and critical speeches in American – if not human – history. His remarks, listened to on the radio waves across the world, laid out a clear and concise vision for the future, a simple but sound framework applicable to all mankind, a set of universal beliefs upon which civilization could not only survive… but thrive.
“In the future days, which we seek to make secure,” FDR began, “we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.
“The first is freedom of speech and expression – everywhere in the world…
“The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way – everywhere in the world…
“The third is freedom from want…”
“The fourth is freedom from fear…”
“That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation.”
Indeed, FDR not only saw clearly what the future could be, but also what we must demand it should be. In essence, FDR reminded us that freedom was inviolable, indispensable, and imperative. That men and women must be free; free to speak his or her mind, free to honor his or her faith, and to be free from wanting to do so, or worse, fearing to do so.
It was this vision, and his unfailing belief in freedom, that led the allies to victory, built the modern international system, toppled the Soviet Union and ensured democracy – the only form of government in which freedom can be secured – would spread across the world. Freedom is the foundation upon which the legitimacy of our national and international laws rely; it is the fundamental prerequisite for any civilized society. And there is no doubt that the world, by any measure or metric, is far more free today than at any other time in human history.
But in reality, the fight for freedom has not yet been won.
Because to celebrate freedom, when the Temple Mount is held captive by rioters, criminals, and terrorists – aided and abetted by the Israeli government, which refuses to demand from them what they demand from the Jewish people – feels foolish, futile, and feckless.
I am not a victim of oppression, but a survivor of it. One of the countless foot soldiers fighting against the authoritarian policies which deny me of my fundamental human right to freely express myself on the Temple Mount, and to freely worship God on the Temple Mount. I am one of the countless faithful, who are not afforded the freedom from want – the want to access the Temple Mount at any time, on any day, from any entrance, for any reason, and with any objects of religious meaning. I am one of the many Jews who is not afforded the freedom from fear – the fear of being detained or banned from the Temple Mount for simply acting Jewish, or the fear for my life every time I ascend to the Temple Mount for simply being Jewish.
And why? To appease the American administration, a country which is neither Israel’s colonial overload nor to whom we are bound as a client state? To appease the United Nations, an international body who has rendered itself irrelevant as a result of its blatant policy of bias against Israel or through the appointment of such freedom-loving luminaries as Saudi Arabia and Libya to positions of power on its Human Rights Council? To appease an irrelevant monarch in Jordan, descendent from a long line of terror-toting tyrants? To appease Hamas? Hezbollah? Or the millions of Muslims around the world, for whom the Temple Mount is not the first, nor the second, but the third holiest site in Islam?
Although I am not old enough to remember, as a Jew, I will never forget where appeasement leads us. And I will never again permit our enemies to be appeased.
And that is why one year ago I launched High On The Har, a tax exempt US and Israeli non-profit organization, which I am proud to serve as the Founder and Executive Director. Each and every day Jews are permitted on the Temple Mount, High On The Har celebrates the mitzvah of ascension by leading inspirational tours and providing a meaningful spiritual experience for people of all ages, faiths, and backgrounds. Our mission is simple, our focus is three-fold: 1) to increase ascension to the Temple Mount, 2) to advocate for equal rights on and access to the Temple Mount, and 3) to expand awareness of the Temple Mount through impactful and approachable educational content.
By reframing the issue of the Temple Mount in the context of human rights, and reimagining the Temple Mount movement as a fight for human freedom, we are fundamentally altering the perception of, and prejudices held against, the movement for equal rights on the Temple Mount, as well as the need for Israel to assert sovereignty over the Temple Mount. This is the most critical part of our strategy. For far too long the Temple Mount movement has been defined (and perhaps rightfully so) as belonging to the religious fringe, ultra-nationalists, or Zionists zealots. For far too long, our movement has been portrayed as one of domination and despotism, bent on the disenfranchisement of others, the destruction of Islamic holy sites, and the destabilization of the Middle East.
But this is not now, nor has it ever been, the reality of the Temple Mount movement. Because the Temple has, and will always be, a house of prayer for all people – including our Muslim brothers and sisters. By re-defining the movement as a human movement, a universal movement, a movement which seeks to secure freedom for all, by establishing a home for us all, it therefore becomes incumbent upon us all – all people of faith, and all civilized nations – to fight for equal rights on, and access to, the Temple Mount. By building upon the achievements of the great men and women who came before us – like Talia and Yitzhak Ames, Gershon Salomon, and Rabbi Yehudah Glick – and by recognizing where, why, and how the movement has failed to achieve its goals in the past, we firmly and fearlessly believe that we can, and will, see the establishment of a Third Temple in our time.
And so I would like to present a plan of action based on four fundamental principles – not unlike FDR’s Four Freedoms – which is accessible to anyone, and which everyone can commit to undertaking.
First, we must pursue our goals on a practical level.
Before anything else can be achieved, we must secure the rights we have already won. Wherein many in the movement – who I hold in high regard and much respect for – demand the government immediately institute full and total freedom of worship, all days and all hour access, entry or exit through every Temple Mount gate, the erection of a menorah during Hanukkah, and even the resumption of sacrifice, it is unreasonable to believe, at this time, that this is possible. Even with the current government, whose coalition members include a far greater number of Temple Mount supporters then at any time before.
I propose a more straightforward, and far more justifiable agenda, one which I believe our leaders would be hard-pressed to ignore. Simply stated: the Israeli government must recognize that the facts on the ground at the Temple Mount have radically changed and therefore, the government policy pertaining to the Temple Mount should reflect this changed reality. Because the truth is, prayer is happening on the Temple Mount. Every day Jews are permitted to ascend, Yeshivat Har HaBayit leads three daily minyans, two in the morning and one in the afternoon, attended by no less than 10 worshippers and at times as many as 30, 40 or even more. These prayer services occur year round, regardless of whether it rains, or snows, or if the temperature is as blazing hot as the Muslim riots which frequently occur there, none of which deter us. Generally, our services include audible prayers, Torah lessons, and every morning the Birchat Kohanim, sometimes featuring as many as six or more Kohens. These prayers services proceed uninterrupted by the Israel Police, many who have come to the realization that the Jewish people are not the problem on the Temple Mount, and some who even empathize with our cause, and have admitted to being troubled by the orders they are given to restrict our prayers or remove Jewish worshippers from the Temple Mount for praying.
By not securing the rights we have won – rights we take full advantage of every day – the discrepancy between the policy of the Israeli government to restrict Jewish prayer and empower the Israel Police to prevent us from praying (when in reality they no longer enforce this prohibition), ensures that at any time, and for any reason, the right to worship on the Temple Mount can be taken from us, without reason or warning, as a result of a national election, a shift in political strategy, or simply a change in Police command. We have worked too hard, and have come too far to allow that to happen.
Second, we must pursue our goals on a political level.
We must support politicians, and political parties, who commit to securing equal rights and access to the Temple Mount, while persuading those who do not yet stand with us, that in so doing, they are securing Israeli democracy for generations to come, and upholding the fundamental freedoms for which our democracy, and the history of the Jewish people, has and will always stand. We must also increase pressure on allied governments to support Israel’s indigenous rights over the Temple Mount, while demanding they reject the detrimental declarations of the United Nations – and other irrelevant international bodies – who have no jurisdiction over Israel, and who seek to undermine Jewish rights in the Jewish state by legitimizing the actions of terrorist entities who employ violence and destruction as a means to achieve heinous and hateful ends.
Third, we must pursue our goals on a personal level.
Each and every one us must undertake the task of being our own light unto the nations by educating others about the Temple Mount, by sharing the truth about the atrocities occurring on the Temple Mount, and by pushing back against those who claim we are the problem, that we have no right to this place, or that ascension is prohibited by Jewish law.
Because the fight is not brought to us only by our enemies. Sadly, it is also waged by those within our own community, including the very many religious Jews who fail to understand the halacha, and deny the simple fact that ascension is not only permitted, but fulfills five essential mitzvot, and has been a constant part of Jewish life since Adam and Eve offered the first sacrifice to God, on the very first altar, constructed upon the very same stone which today lies under the Dome of the Rock.
We must fight back against the Rabbinate of Israel who, for purely political reasons, allows a sign to be hung at the entrance of Temple Mount warning Jews that ascension is prohibited by Torah Law, yet fails to cite upon which law this ruling rests, thus providing our our enemies with the greatest weapon they wield against us.
And we must fight back against those Jews who say we are the problem, that we are fanning the flames and inciting violence by visiting the site of our God’s holy house, and praying to Him there, because it upsets the delicate sensibilities of our Muslim brothers and sisters, many of whom are completely unaware that Al-Aqsa does not have a golden dome, but are entirely convinced that I am storming their mosque to perform Talmudic rituals every day.
Let me be clear. I have not now, nor will I ever, storm Al Aqsa or any other mosque for that reason. Storm is what clouds do, and Jews do not enter houses of worship belonging to other faiths. Furthermore, there is no such thing as a Talmudic ritual. But if there was, and it was proscribed by God to perform it on the Temple Mount, I would do so without remorse or reservation, as often as possible.
But most importantly, we must fight back against the Israeli government, our elected officials, who not only trample on our fundamental human rights, but have institutionalized a policy of targeted discrimination based on our religious beliefs.
This is more commonly known as apartheid.
Because if there is one thing we can agree upon with our enemies, it is that Israel is an apartheid state… but it is only for Jews and Christians, on the Temple Mount, that this apartheid exists.
This seemingly monumental task of fighting back is easier than you think. And it requires that you do just one thing: ascend.
Ascend to the Temple Mount as often as possible, and bring with you as many people as you can. Because if there is one thing the government cannot ignore, it is the growing number of visitors to the Temple Mount, and their increasingly loud complaints about the limited access to the Temple Mount, the lack of equal rights on the Temple Mount, and the arbitrary enforcement of government policy regarding the Temple Mount.
If the lines were as long and the demand as great as it is on the holidays, the festivals, Rosh Chodesh or our national holidays, the government would have no choice but to expand the hours and increase the days which we are permitted to ascend. I don’t say this casually. I have been told this directly, by those in a position to know, in a position to affect policy, and in a position to enforce any changes made to it.
It is critical we normalize our presence on the Temple Mount, otherwise it will not be normal for us to be there and it will, once again, be taken from us. And it is critical we express how much we care for the Temple Mount. Because if we do not take care of our holy sites how can we expect our enemies to? If we do not bear witness to the atrocities occurring on the Temple Mount – the destruction of antiquities, the erasure of Jewish history, and the ongoing acts of violence incited by the Islamic Waqf, the Kingdom of Jordan, and the terrorist elements infiltrating peace loving Muslims – then we will never know what has been lost, and thus cannot reclaim it in the future.
Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, we must pursue our goal by wielding the greatest weapon in our arsenal: prayer.
We may no longer live in a time of prophecy – and B’ezrat HaShem may we merit to see those days again – but we do live in a time of prayer. The pundits tell us that global faith is waning, organized religion has lost its influence, and some have even pronounced that God is dead.
But we know better.
The Zohar states that before the sun of redemption shines upon us, trouble after trouble and darkness after darkness will befall us. We, those of us with great faith, know that in the days before our redemption, the challenges will be harder because the reward thereafter will be far greater than we can imagine. And if ever there was a time in human history in which trouble after trouble, and darkness after darkness has befallen us, I posit that this time feels like it might just be right now.
And that is why prayer – all our prayers – is more important than ever. And that is why three times a day, five days a week, Jewish prayer services occur directly in front of where the Gates of Nikanor once stood. The very place where for centuries Jews have prayed to God, and where King Solomon himself, upon consecrating the First Temple called out to God – not only for the Temple Mount to be where the prayers of the Jewish people were heard – but where the prayers of all people were heard. And most importantly, answered.
But we cannot bring about a house of prayer for all nations if we are not committed to practicing what we preach. If you are among those who understand the power of prayer and who understand that when we call out to God we are heard, even if we are not always answered, I ask you this:
Is now not the time for us all to pray a bit harder, pray a bit louder, and pray with a bit more commitment and conviction than ever before?
People ask me all the time why do I get up every day at 4 AM every day, leaving my beach front home in Tel Aviv in order to arrive in Jerusalem by 7 AM to participate in a prayer service at a place as dangerous as the Temple Mount?
Because I believe – wholeheartedly and without reservation – in the power of prayer.
And because the April 7 terror attack in Tel Aviv – which occurred directly in front of my home at precisely the spot in Charles Clore Park where I walk my three dogs each night – is a stark reminder that as a Jew, I am as much a target in Tel Aviv as I am on the Temple Mount. The only difference is on the Temple Mount I am blessed to travel with an entourage of Israel Police Officers, who I know will protect and defend me at all costs, if and when that time comes.
But more importantly I know that my prayers are nothing compared to what my ancestors did so that I could be here today. My actions on behalf of the Temple Mount do not even register in comparison to those of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob or Joseph – to whom God first spoke, and to whom the task was given to teach the world about the existence of the one true God. My work fighting for the Temple Mount is insignificant in light of Moshe’s bravery in going before Pharaoh, the most powerful man in the world, and demanding that Jewish people be let go. My two hour, sometimes three hour drive (depending on traffic), to the Temple Mount each morning and every afternoon, is hardly an excuse to forgo my responsibility to ascend, especially when my forefathers and mothers walked around the Sinai for 40 years before conquering Cannan on the promise of victory from a voice in the sky. My early mornings on the Temple Mount, and resulting late nights at the office (often with little or no sleep) are hardly a sacrifice compared to those Jews who altered the course of history and lay the foundation for modern civilization by committing to 10 simple rules, handed down to them on two stone tablets, and whom twice built a house for God in order to serve him unconditionally, and as as result, faced centuries of exile, enslavement, extermination, endemic persecution, and were nearly erased entirely from the earth.
Prayer is thus the very least I can do – it is the very least that any of us can do.
Growing up in a reform Jewish community I was told not to worry about a third of the mitzvot because without the Temple, they don’t really matter. But I wonder if perhaps the problem is precisely the fact that we have cast aside these commandments by refusing to fulfill the one commandment which would allow us to fulfill them all. And now, as a member of a more religious community, I am warned that my desire to build the Third Temple will destabilize the region and cause a global war. But I wonder if perhaps building the Temple is what will stabilize the region and what will ensure global peace. Because as I look around me, the region is already unstable and the war – as the last few months here in Israel have illustrated – is already here.
Because we must stop to consider why the world is the way it is today, and if it is the result of our refusal to acknowledge our responsibility, accept our duty, and heed God’s commandment.
For as the Lord said through the Prophet Haggai:
Is it a time for you to dwell in your paneled houses, while this House is lying in ruins Consider how you have been faring! You have sowed much and brought in little; you eat without being satisfied; you drink without getting your fill; you clothe yourselves, but no one gets warm; and he who earns anything earns it for a leaky purse. You have been expecting much and getting little. Because of My House which lies in ruins, while you all hurry to your own houses! Go up to the hills and get timber, and rebuild the House; then I will look on it with favor and I will be glorified.
I refuse to be a part of the generation that turns our back on God. Because we are as close as we have been then at any other time in the past 2,000 years!
And so we must ask ourselves, what are we willing to do, right now, to build the Third Temple? Because I promise you, it is not going to build itself.
It is time we transform the concept of the Temple Mount from being just a part of our ancient past or a promise of a far off future. We must make the Temple Mount as much a part of our present day, our current reality, as the prayers we pray when praying for it.
As people of faith, we believe in miracles far more fantastic than this! A plague stricken Egypt. A parted sea. Manna from heaven. That I saw you at Sinai. Commandments from on high forged in stone. That the Resurrection will happen. That we will once again be reunited with our loved ones. And that we will be rewarded for our good deeds in the world to come.
So what is so hard to believe that a temple can be built in the center of Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the state of Israel and the biblical homeland of the Jewish people, in a place where it stood twice before? And why is it so hard to believe that we are the generation we’ve been waiting for? That now is the time for which we’ve been waiting?
Rambam’s 12th Principle of Faith binds us to the belief in the coming of the Moshiach and the understanding that although he may delay, nonetheless he may appear at any moment.
And although I would never dare revise the words of the greatest scholar of the Jewish people, to whom we turn to for an understanding of our entire halacha, I would humbly suggest an amendment, or perhaps, at the very least a footnote be inserted.
Because I believe with great faith in the reestablishment of the Third Temple, and even though we have delayed in building it…
…nonetheless I believe at any moment it is possible for us to do so.
So let that moment be right now.
For as FDR reminds us, this is no vision of a distant millennium.
It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation.
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