In a noteworthy move, dozens of hareidim were granted access on Tuesday to the holiest site in Judaism, the Temple Mount, where the two Holy Temples of Jerusalem once stood.
Rabbi Yitchak Brand of the yeshiva [Torah institute] in Emmanuel, a hareidi community in Samaria, together with the head of the Temple Institute Rabbi Israel Ariel, led the organized trip to the Mount, which was carried out in full accordance with halakha [Jewish law].
Under Rabbi Brand's guidance, the dozens hareidim, who cleansed in a mikva [ritual bath] before ascending, bowed at the site of the Holy of Holies and proceeded to recite the kaddish [prayer of mourning] as a sign of mourning over the destruction of the two Temples. Many of them also prayed for the speedy recovery of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, a leading scholar in the Jewish community.
The group also held a ceremony for a three-year-old boy who received his first haircut called an upsherin [Jewish hair-cutting custom]. The group erupted in joyful dancing, amid a usually tense atmosphere.
Today, Jews are barred from any form of Jewish worship on the Temple Mount. Israeli police have frequently arrested Jews for various violations, such as singing or reciting a prayer even in a whisper.
Temple Mount Controversy
Both Rabbis gave words of encouragement and praised the group, on an occasion which marks a continued shift in the hareidi approach regarding the Temple Mount.
In contrast, other rabbis, including prominent leaders in the hareidi world, have spoken out against increasing organized attempts to visit the holy site.
A call was made last year by Sephardic Cheif Rabbi Shlomo Amar, along with other senior rabbis, forbidding the Jewish public from visiting the Temple Mount, due to concerns over the violation of rules of ritual purity. They issued a public statement with many signatories, including former Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger and rabbi of the Western Wall, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch.
The Temple Mount is Judaism’s holiest site, but Jewish law requires those going up to certain sections of the mount to be ritually pure – a status only obtainable through a ceremony that cannot be performed today.
However, Rabbi Brand who is the author of many religious works, is one of many other rabbis who rule that that it is not only permitted to visit the Temple Mount, but a Torah commandment for every Jew to strive to ascend to the Mount in purity and with the proper respect. Rabbi Brand says there is a special connection to devote oneself to renewing that commandment on a constant basis.
Rabbi Israel Ariel of the Temple Institute reiterated Rabbi Brand's sentiments by praising the fulfillment of the commandment of visiting the mount. In his opinion, in additional to showing respect for the holy site (a Torah command known as "moreh mikdash"), by maintaining a constant Jewish presence on the Mount Jews are protecting the land of Israel and keeping the Temple Mount in Jewish hands - part of the Torah commandment to "build and inherit" the land of Israel.