For many national Jews, the rebuilding of the Temple symbolizes “salvation,” and they believe that rebuilding it in occupied East Jerusalem will hasten the coming of the Messiah. But to their critics, many of whom are Jews, the issue is playing with fire in a location at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The voices of about twenty people rise in the hall: they are preparing to launch the “Temple Choir”, which they want to rebuild in the courtyard of Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, two thousand years after its destruction, according to their belief.
Shmuel Kam, 52, a member of the choir made up of the descendants of the Levites, which historically performed hymns and music at the holy site, says: The Jewish people have been waiting for the revival of this temple for two thousand years… I think I will see the rebuilding of the temple in my lifetime. This is inevitable.”
Today, novice choir members from all over the country come to a suburb of Tel Aviv to immerse themselves in collections of old songs, and to rehearse them.
Menachem Rosenthal, director of the choir that the Temple Institute founded a few months ago, explains, “When the temple is built, we will ask the Levites to come and sing and they will not know, they have to learn.”
The Temple Institute has been working since 1987 on rebuilding the Temple, by training worshipers and clerics and making things for worship, such as priests’ clothes, bread molds, censers, musical instruments… everything necessary for Jewish rituals.
The Romans destroyed the Second Temple of the Jews in the year 70 AD, and the Al-Buraq Wall or the “Wailing Wall” is one of its remains according to the Jewish belief, which states that it was the place of the first Temple that was destroyed by the Babylonians in the sixth century BC, and by that they mean Al-Aqsa Mosque, including the courtyard and the Dome of the Rock. .
“A matter of time”
The Temple Mount, as the Jews call it, is considered the holiest place in Judaism, and is located in the heart of the Old City in East Jerusalem, occupied by Israel since 1967.
“Everyone can say what they want, but here was a place for the Jews,” said Haim Berkowitz, 50, a French-Israeli member of Bonneh Israel (Building Israel). He considers the reconstruction of the structure “only a matter of time.” Bonneh Israel seeks to speed up what they see as “salvation”.
In 2022, the organization brings five red calves from Texas to Israel for sacrifice. According to Talmudic teachings, Jews are required to purify themselves by anointing their bodies with a mixture of water and ashes from these rare calves, before entering the holy site of the Temple.
Until this condition is met, the Israeli rabbinic prohibits Jews from visiting the Temple Mount, so the ritual of the red calf is extremely important. Even if Jews make visits to the Al-Aqsa courtyard, they say that they know the location of the remains of the Temple, and that their feet do not tread on it and thus they do not defile it.
On a farm in northern Israel, veterinarians and rabbis carefully check the hair of these calves regularly, to make sure their skin stays all red as they grow.
“We pamper them and keep them for the appropriate time,” says Berkowitz, explaining that his organization has already acquired a plot of land in the Mount of Olives, a Palestinian neighborhood in Jerusalem, with the aim of burning calves for sacrifice in exchange for the “Temple”.
From dream to reality
For Yitzhar Peer, director of the Keshev Center for the Protection of Democracy in Israel, “Third Temple lovers” are by no means marginal. He followed the development of this segment of Israeli society, which twenty years ago consisted of “a few dozen individuals,” whose “number is increasing,” and whose faith extended to “the depth of the political circle.”
Since one of the most extremist governments in Israel’s history, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, came to power in December, far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir has visited Al-Aqsa twice to assert Israeli sovereignty over it, and said during his visit on May 22: “We The owners of Jerusalem and all of Israel.
In defiance of the rabbinic ban, some 50,000 Jews will visit the Temple Mount in 2022, according to the Israeli national organization Har Habit.
The United Nations has repeated its calls in recent months to “respect the status quo” on the campus, whose entrances are guarded by Israeli police and administered by Jordan’s Islamic Endowments Department. The Endowment Department constantly affirms that the mosque and its courtyards are a Muslim site only, and denounces the Israeli attempts to “Judaize” it. Also, the Palestinians consider him a “threat”.
Bear says that every accident that occurs in the place could turn into “an atomic bomb… It is a mixture of religion and politics (…) Any explosion there could blow everything up.”
The Communications Officer at the Temple Institute, Yitzhak Reuven, accuses the Palestinians of fueling the “dispute over the Temple Mount” and of being responsible for the repeated violence with Israeli forces, but does not specify what will be the fate of the Islamic holy places if the Third Temple is built.
No trace of these places appears on the maps of the organizations active in rebuilding the Temple, and they all confirm that it can only be built in the courtyard, and Reuven says: “It was standing here, it is the place chosen by God,” adding, “It is a dream, but the return of the Jews to Israel was Also a dream turned into reality.