Zionism has always displayed a complicated relationship with the Temple Mount. While secular socialist Zionism wanted little to do with the site for pragmatic reasons, right-wing and guerilla Zionist groups considered it, before the founding of the state, as the embodiment of Jewish sovereignty over the Holy Land. And although Religious Zionism, until very recently, shied away from the site, over the past decade tremendous changes in this public’s attitude have taken place, leading to intense interest and activity concerning it. This article surveys past and present attitudes toward the Temple Mount, studying its recent rise as a focal point for ethnonational yearnings, and analyzing these developments vis-à-vis the secularization process.
Ethnocentrism and the Temple Mount
Rabbi Shlomo Goren was regarded as a prominent halachic authority in his time, with a Zionist perspective. He took an active part in the Six-Day War and accompanied the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) paratroopers to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall. The picture of him blowing a shofar by the Western Wall during the war was published worldwide and is considered one of the central symbols of the time. After the war, Rabbi Goren was a strong advocate of changing the traditional halachic practice of forbidding Jews to ascend to the Temple Mount. He was active in various political and rabbinic activities to that end for the rest of his life.
From Redemptive Revolution to Human Rights on the Temple Mount
This article traces the evolution of Yehuda Glick’s strand of Jewish Temple Mount activism, which justifies the demand that Jews be allowed to worship on the Temple Mount based on freedom of worship and human rights. Glick accepts that these values should be applied universally, including to groups whose religious and political positions are at odds with his. Glick’s views evolved from a seemingly opposite source—namely, Yehuda Etzion, a leader of the Jewish underground of the 1980s, which plotted to blow up the Dome of the Rock and eradicate Muslim worship from the Temple Mount. The revolutionary stream of Temple Mount activism associated with Etzion developed the ideal of a conscientious, autonomous activist who employs the discourse of civil liberties in opposition to the state. Yehuda Glick and his initiative combined this ideal with the recognition of the Palestinian Other developed by Rabbis ShaGaR and Froman.
A Comparative View
While the Temple Mount/al-Aqsa Mosque constitutes a national and religious focal point for both Israelis and Palestinians, there have been profound differences in the attitudes of the competing national movements to this site. The Zionist movement attempted to create alternative, secular holy places (such as the Jezreel Valley and the Hebrew University) in order to detach itself from blunt messianism, while the Palestinians, from the Mandate period onward, have emphasized their attachment to the holy site in Jerusalem. The revival of suppressed messianic sentiments in Israeli society, however, exposes the religious dimension of the conflict and accentuates the role of the holy sites in Israeli-Palestinian relations.
Robert O. Freedman
The issue of control over the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif is perhaps the most difficult of all the issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to solve. After presenting an analysis of the history of the conflict over the site—holy to both Jews and Moslems—this article argues that only the internationalization of the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif, an idea first suggested by David Ben-Gurion in 1937, will remove the issue as an element in the Israel-Palestinian and Arab-Israeli conflicts. Otherwise, "holier than thou" politics, particularly in the Arab world, will keep the conflict alive.
Noa Hazan and Avital Barak
This article explores the role of the Temple Mount in the Israeli visual sphere before and after the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, whose fiftieth anniversary will be commemorated this June. Each of the four sections examines the dominant patterns of representation at key moments of Zionism, from the emergence of photography in the Middle East in the nineteenth century, to current representations of the Temple Mount. Analysis of the four periods demonstrates that the visual characteristics used to depict the Temple Mount were neither natural nor neutral, but rather charged with political agendas. The photographs expose the deep-seated conflict inherent in Israel’s self-definition as a modern secular state that is based on a religious, biblical, and messianic ethos.
The Looming Absence of the Temple
This article examines the gradual conversion of the areas surrounding the Old City of Jerusalem and spaces overlooking the Temple Mount into national symbolic landscape. Within this space, ancient Jewish sites function as national monuments, tied together through landscaping. A continuum of space and time is gradually being created in the shadow of Muslim and Christian monuments, in stark contrast to the Palestinian neighborhoods. The visual and textual symbolism and imagery that accompany the space emphasize the memory of the absent Jewish Temple. Thus, the creation of national symbolic landscape is simultaneously the creation of a new ‘Holy Geography’ and the replacement of traditional forms of Jewish memory by tangible and visual memory. The absent Temple serves as a meta-image of this symbolic national landscape and as the missing national monument, thus reflecting and promoting the rise of a symbiosis between religious and national aspirations.
The Status of the Temple in Jewish Culture Following Its Destruction
Almost 2,000 years after its destruction, the Jerusalem Temple remains present in the Jews' imagination and imagery. The Temple is remembered in Jewish tradition as a place of unity, utmost purity and holiness, an intersection between the divine and the human, between Jew and Jew, between the vertical and the horizontal. Generations of Jews have prayed to be able to behold the restoration of the Temple but have not been privileged to witness it. Nevertheless, it shaped their language and encapsulated their hopes for redemption. The Temple was the essence to which all other practices were compared; after its destruction, the Temple itself became the measure of many contemporary rabbinic practices. This article surveys the different ways the Jews kept the symbolism of the Temple and embedded it in their lives. It also examines the contemporary state of affairs – what was viewed in the past as an almost imaginary messianic hope, is now on the agenda of some right-wing groups who wish to hasten rebuilding of a Temple on the Temple Mount.