The Charedi invasion of Temple Mount


For centuries, religious Jews have taken the view that climbing Temple Mount is prohibited. But this is changing, and fast.

Since it was reopened to non-Muslims just over eight years ago, a massive sea-change has taken place among religious Zionists. Many prominent rabbis has declared that it is permitted to go, and encouraged people to do so. Now, this rethink seems to be spreading to the Charedi community.

Many religious Zionist rabbis have effectively decided that the chief rabbinate made a mistake in 1967. After Israel captured the site in the Six Day War it banned religious Jews from ascending, reasoning that one could accidentally step on the Holy of Holies - where one must not tread - as its location is unknown.

While many, including the current chief rabbis, hold to the traditional position, those who visit claim archaeological evidence means they know where not to tread. Supporters of the pro-visiting position range from the firebrand settler Rabbi Dov Lior, to Yuval Cherlow, leader of the moderate and liberal Tzohar rabbinical alliance.

Earlier this month, 200 people took to the streets of the Strictly Orthodox neighbourhood of Geulah for a demonstration in favour of ascending. And a new organisation, the Charedi Association for Ascending Temple Mount, intends to start running group visits.

This is not just change, but a rare case of Charedim following religious Zionists on a halachic matter. Perhaps more remarkable is the way that this rethink is filtering down to the Charedi community. This is a grass-roots movement organised by the public and one of its aims was to start pressuring rabbis to reconsider their position.

Charedi rabbis care passionately about Jewish control of Jerusalem. The leaders of this campaign say that visits are key to asserting Jewish rights over Temple Mount, which is run day-to-day by a Muslim trust. If they are patient, they may well have some success with the Charedi rabbis.

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