Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Temple Mount

             Spent yesterday in the Old City. A friend and I went to the Temple Mount. Weren't sure we'd be able to enter the site, as it is the beginning of Ramadan.  While we weren't able to enter any of the Mosques on the site, we did get to walk around the grounds, enjoy the spectacular views, people watch, and appreciate the amazing craftsmanship that went into the mosaics of the Dome of the Rock.             
           There are signs up as one approaches the ramp up to the Temple Mount that say it is a violation of Torah Law for a Jew to enter the Temple Mount. It also says that the Conservative Movement finds that it is allowable. If you are interested, here is a link to an English summary of the Conservative Movement’s Responsum on Entering the Temple Mount In Our Time:
            The following is an excerpt from one of the responsum, this one written by Rabbi Reuven Hammer:  "How do we fulfill this commandment of revering the Sanctuary? A visit to the Temple Mount should not be just a sightseeing experience, but a pilgrimage to the place where the Temple stood. One has to behave there in a very respectful way, be dressed properly, and a Jew should not enter the area of the Holy of Holies (i.e. inside the Dome of the Rock), where only the High Priest was allowed. Moreover, one has to remember that in the days of the Temple, not only ritual purity was required to enter the Temple Mount but also moral purity. Therefore, one should read a Psalm, such as Psalm 15, upon entering the Temple Mount."
            As I did not read this before entering the Temple Mount, I did not read a Psalm when I was there. In truth, I don’t know if I would have read a Psalm even if I had read it before I went as I am not that into Psalms as links to occasions. In any event, I was dressed respectfully and did behave in a respectful manner. I was also awed by standing on this piece of ground that means so many different things to so many different people.
            On one hand you could say “oh, this is just another Israel experience,” but on the other hand you really can’t say that because for some reason the Temple Mount is different.  Suppose the Akeda (the Binding of Isaac for the Jews and of Ishmael for the Muslims) really did happen and really did happen there? Was this actually the place of the Holy of Holies? And if it is the location of the this most holy of places – what does that mean to me as a 21st century Jewish woman who vacillates between being liberal and traditional and who is going to become a Reconstructionist Rabbi? All good questions to which I am not prepared to offer answers to at this time.
            What I can say is that there is something special about the atmosphere of the Temple Mount; this despite all the political play that is carried on about it. It is almost as if it stands outside the known and accepted space-time continuum and exists in a reality all its own. The air is still, the views are spectacular, colors seem more vibrant, one can sit and think and pray and of course, people watch.  I feel this way about some other locations in Israel as well. But this one seems different. Wish I knew why.


  1. Ah, Arlene.... as you know well.... sometimes asking the questions is as important (if not more important) than the answers that result.

    Shabbat shalom.

  2. what gorgeous photos!!

    what i always come to in grappling with these questions is, does it matter whether something happened or didn't happen - whether the stories are history or fiction, doesn't the human (or Godly) Truth matter, in the end?

    i find it particularly fascinating to try and hold the multitude of meanings for different peoples, Jews and Muslims and Christians, that the "holy" sites hold.