English عربي עברית
God's Holy Mountain
A vision for the Temple Mount (Al Haram Al Sharif)
A study project of the Interfaith Encounter Association

The world holds dark assumptions that fervent dreams by different faiths for the Temple Mount (الحرم الشريف) must lead to conflict.

We pretend that these dreams no longer matter, but past regional peace initiatives have fallen apart in disputes about the Temple Mount.

Join us in unveiling the prophetic calling of God’s Holy Mountain through close religious study, and in seeing:

The Temple Mount is not a problem but the place for Jew, Muslim, and Christian to fulfill Zechariah’s prophecy: “On that day, God will be one and His name one.”

News and Forums Expand this section
"Whose Mountain is this?", a street activity for the 9th of Av took place on July 20, 2010 -- click links for Ynet coverage [English] and interview on Channel Two, Israeli TV [Hebrew, scroll down for link].
Documentary film screening, presentation and discussion of God's Holy Mountain took place in Jerusalem on June 9, 2010 -- see details and picture album here.
The Project's launching event took place on June 18, 2009. See Reuters' coverage as well as video available here.
"A New Vision for God's Holy Mountain" was published in the Washington Post on June 10, 2009, available here.

Support and share the vision Expand this section
To purchase prints or note cards, please email us at ohr@interfaith-encounter.org.
An image of the note card is shown here.
The Jewish Temple and God's Holy Mountain Back to Home

In the year 70, after an abortive Jewish Revolt, the Roman Empire destroyed the second Jewish Temple, ending the second Jewish Commonwealth. For two millennia since, Jews have fervently longed for the rebuilding of the Temple . Just as rabbinic Judaism carried on Jewish teachings and practices from generation to generation, so the dream of a rebuilt Temple carried on the ultimate hope that the One God would once again rule omnipotent over all the earth.

With the reestablishment of the state of Israel, and the dream of rebuilt temple closer at hand than at any time since the second Temple’s destruction, Jews today hold a curious combination of three contradictory views concerning the Temple:

1) We pray three times daily in the Amidah that “the Temple be rebuilt speedily in our days,” as Jews have done for two millennia since the Second Temple was destroyed.

2) Observant and liberal Jews alike take the position that the matter of rebuilding the Temple is no longer important after all.

3) In the undercurrents of our collective thought is the dark fear that deeply probing this subject can only yield a conflict between the Temple and the Dome of the Rock for position.[1] Although destruction and violence in the rebuilding of the Temple is unthinkable for a Jew and contrary to halachah[2] (Jewish law),[3] this doesn’t erase the fear of perceived anguish for all should the Temple issue be directly addressed.

It is in fact not at all uncommon in human thought for contradictory positions to be held, including subterranean fears that seem too dangerous to explore. In the case of the Temple , however, dodging the underlying issues is not really working. Central to a seemingly intractable conflict in the Middle Ease is a history of Jewish longing for the Temple too deep to completely ignore, and Arab fears, however unfounded, that somehow these could someday jeopardize the status of the Islamic shrines on the Temple Mount (in Arabic: Al Haram al sharif—"the sanctified and exalted"). But we’ve also learned through centuries of human experience that sometimes when suppressed fears are brought to the surface for close examination, wonderful surprises can occur.

The vision presented in the image shown and in the associated papers is the result of five years of study into Jewish law, the halachah, about the Temple in the hope that new insights could perhaps suggest a way out of these contradictions and this impasse. According to the Talmud, the authoritative Jewish code of law, it is commendable to study the subject of the rebuilding of the Temple ; we therefore believe that the image and papers presented, which facilitate such study, are constructive, whether or not one accepts their conclusions.

The image depicting this vision is of a rebuilt Temple in peaceful proximity to the Islamic shrines on the Temple Mount and to nearby Christian shrines in Jerusalem . As reviewed below, this vision is based upon surprising but compelling insights from the halachic study process described.

Before proceeding, however, it is important to be clear about one key point. This vision, while deeply respectful of the people and shrines of Islam and Christianity, is not about watering down Jewish dreams or choosing a second best location for the Temple . This radically peaceful vision is not one of compromise, but rather of the radical fulfillment of the mission of the Jewish people and of the core purpose of the Temple . Through this study process, a series of surprising insights shows that the Temple Mount, far from presenting an intractable problem, provides the exciting opportunity for Jews, Muslims and Christians to return to our common core calling to fulfill the prophecy, “On that Day God will Be one and His name one” (Zachariah 14:9).

The vision presented rests upon upon the following papers, summarized below:

The Role of Prophet. Strong Jewish tradition holds that the Temple must be rebuilt at the site of the first and second Temples , which history indicates was probably, but by no means indisputably, at the site of the Dome of the Rock. Yet there are compelling halachic arguments indicating that the prophet has a special role in determining the exact spot of a rebuilt Temple on Mount Moriah , and absolutely would have the latitude to rule that a location other than that traditionally believed is the one at which God wishes the Temple to be rebuilt. A short version of this paper was published in Tehumin,[4] the leading halachic periodical in Israel .

The Universal Temple . From the words of King Solomon at the consecration of the First Temple (“the stranger that is not of Thy people Israel . . . shall come and pray towards this house”[5]), to statements from prophets (e.g., “for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples"[6]), to many Talmudic verses, and from historical references, it is repeatedly demonstrated that the Jewish Temple was always meant to manifest the One God for the whole world, not just for the Jews. The role of the Temple for the gentile is explicitly stated in the many sources reviewed, to the extent that non-Jews were allowed a special place on the Temple Mount grounds, and, in fact, were even allowed to offer sacrifices on the altar.

The Jewish Approach Towards Islam. We summarize here the clear conclusion of mainstream Judaism, of rabbis throughout the ages, that Islam is a monotheistic religion, that its adherents are not idol worshippers, and that its places of worship are in fact acceptable for Jews to pray in.

We also present a fourth paper, The Jewish Approach Towards Christianity, which indicates why, per the words of Maimonides below, this third major religion with roots in Jerusalem is important to include as well when considering the role of the Temple in manifesting the One God to the world. Although a history of persecutions of Jews by Christians may make this concept difficult at first consideration for some Jews, a closer examination reveals that the same extortionate Roman Empire that slaughtered thousands of Jews and Christians and destroyed the Temple also in some ways subsequently distorted the history and teachings of a monotheistic rabbi of the First Century, causing enmity and confusion for both Christians and Jews in subsequent times.

Another paper presented is Bayt Al Maqdis: An Islamic Perspective, by a Muslim scholar. This paper, among other issues, deals with the Islamic view according to which Muhammad's prophecy completes the Jewish and Christian prophecies and thus considers Islam as an all-inclusive, overarching message. In fact, according to commentators, Muhammad's miraculous night journey to Jerusalem (Al Isra’) and his ascension to the heaven from the Temple Mount (Me’raj) symbolize this unity of prophecies and beliefs.

Even if one accepts our key conclusion concerning the authority of the prophet to choose the location for a rebuilt Temple on Mount Moriah, the question would then remain as to what factors might cause a prophet to select a location any different than the traditional one. Although no human can grasp the ways of God, traditionally, Judaism is open to thoughts and ideas being raised. In this respect, such a ruling on Temple location by the prophet could be the result of compelling new constraints and opportunities posed by the spawning of two religions derived from Judaism subsequent to the destruction of the Second Temple . According to the Maimonides, one of the key Jewish sages or all time, these developments were integral to God’s plan:

And all these things of Jesus, and [Mohammed] that came after him, are not but to carve the way for the king messiah and to direct the entire world to worship god together, as said, "For then will I turn to the peoples a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one consent" (Zephaniah 3:9).[7]

One consequence of these developments for modern times is a halachic restriction on Temple location, which although inconvenient given the traditionally held Temple site, is absolute and incontrovertible. Per the Jewish view of Islam as a monotheistic religion, it is forbidden to damage an Islamic shrine, and it is absolutely forbidden to engage in any act with even a semblance of violence in the construction of the Temple . That King David was barred from building the Temple because he was involved in wars,[8] and that it is forbidden to use iron, a material used to manufacture weapons, to build the altar,[9] illustrate how strong this prohibition is in Jewish law.

On the other hand, the opportunity for the Temple to manifest the One God to gentiles was viewed as so important that even idol worshipping gentiles were allowed to offer sacrifices in the first and second Temples , in the belief that even such a person could be swayed by the power the belief in the One God.[10] The opportunity to construct a Temple in peaceful proximity to shrines of Islam and Christianity that draw millions of non-Jews annually, and not just any non-Jews, but those in which the seeds of Judaism have been deeply implanted according to God’s plan, is of such monumental consequence as to possibly even overshadow strong traditions in a prophet’s designation of the God given site for a rebuilt Temple.[11]

Should a prophet rule according to the image proposed, it is far from an idle hope to consider that, per the divine plan noted by Maimonides, rebuilding the Temple would cause a profound transformation in Islam and Christianity leading to the fulfillment of the prophecy, “On that day God will be one and His name one.” The transformation in Judaism toward focus on the fulfillment of this prophecy and on the Jewish calling to transform the world through the message of the One God would be equally profound. And if a modern Jew might find the idea of renewed Temple sacrifice difficult to understand—commentators are divided as to whether such practices would resume in a rebuilt Temple[12]—the central role of the Temple in transforming the world toward this prophecy, in manifesting the One God triumphant for all peoples, is certainly applicable more than ever in modern times.

There is a saying in Talmud that "In each generation, in which the Temple hasn’t been rebuilt in that generation's time, it is as though the Temple was destroyed in their days.”[13] In the absence of the Temple now, we can only hope that through its study, whether one agrees or not with the ideas proposed here, we can connect with some spark of its redemptive power. And given the universal role of the Temple , we invite both Jews and non-Jews to share in this dialogue, and to in some small way by such study help to rectify the loss shared by all in the Temple ’s absence.

Perhaps as a starting point in this joint study process, Jews, Muslims and Christians may come to realize that the old way of looking at the Temple Mount as a place of inevitable competition for every inch of space is merely perpetuating the ways of the Roman Empire and its successors in history who destroyed the Temple, who left a legacy of division and violence, and who slaughtered thousands of Jews, Christians and Muslims. Perhaps we can begin the process of redemption leading to the return of Jews, Muslims and Christians to our common core belief in the same One God by overthrowing the legacy of an extortionate empire that brutalized and divided us and by studying possibilities for making recognition of the One God manifest in a place central to us all, God’s Holy Mountain.

There is a poignant story in the Song of Songs about the woman who longs for her absent lover, but trembles in fear when he actually appears at her door.[14] What we propose here is that perhaps a limited vision of possibilities for a rebuilt Temple , constrained by our fears, may be the source of perceived problems and conflicts. Perhaps it’s time to open the door and embrace the fullest opportunity for the radical fulfillment of God’s mission for the Jews and for the world through a peaceful vision of a rebuilt Temple that can transform us all, Jews, Muslims, Christians, and all the world, to common worship of the One God at our core. Let us together open the door toward the fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah: “On that day God will be one and His name one.”[15]

[1] The Dome of the Rock, built 691 C.E, surrounds the rock that from there, according to Islam, Muhammad ascended to heaven. According to the common view in Judaism, this is the same rock that Jewish traditions link to the creation of the world (Shethiyah stone) and to the place of the Temple’s holiest section - the holy of holies (in it, and on the Shethiyah Stone, the Ark of Covenant was situated).

[2] The termhalachah can refer to a Jewish religious law, or else it can refer to the great corpus of Jewish religious literature, as used here, beginning from the Talmud to writings of rabbis throughout history.

[3] From halachic point of view, an act of violence that causes a direct risk for Jews and others is strictly forbidden. Moreover, according to some Rishonim (Jewish medieval sages), the Temple Mount's holiness is violated in acts of desecration, and violence could be conceived as such an act as will be reviewed hereinafter in the light of the ban against use of iron, a material used in weapons, in the Temple construction, and also by the designation of King Solomon rather than King David as the person to build the Temple, as King David was involved in acts of wars (see details cited below).

[4] Frankel, Y (2007). The Authority of the Prophet to Determine the Location of the Temple . Tehumin (27), Alon Shevut: Machon Zomet.

[5] Kings 8, 41-43.

[6] Isaiah 56:7.

[7] Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Melachim 11:4 (Rabbi Kappah's edition). This paragraph was omitted by large in the past because of censorship dictates.

[8] Chronicles 22, 6-10.

[9] Deut. 27:5. Otsar Ha’midrashim pg. 95.

[10] See Rabbi Samson Rephael Hirsch's commentary on Lev. 1:2.

[11] There is in fact no absolute certainty as to the original Temple location or the current location of the foundation stone (see references cited in The Role of the Prophet).

[12] See e.g. "The vision of vegetarianism and peace" of Rabbi kook.

[13] Talmud Yerushalmi, 1, 1.

[14] Song of Songs, 5:2-6.

[15] Zechariah 14:9.

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