Leading Israeli rabbis warn against Temple Mount visits

Jewish visitors risk unwittingly entering site of Holy of Holies and condemning themselves to eternal excommunication, chief rabbi and colleagues say

Religious Jews visit Temple Mount, August 25, 2015. (Elhanan Miller/Times of Israel)
Religious Jews visit Temple Mount, August 25, 2015. (Elhanan Miller/Times of Israel)

Dozens of prominent Israeli rabbis issued a statement ruling that ascending to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount is a violation of Jewish law.

The ruling, distributed via fliers, points out that the precise location of the ancient Temple’s Holy of Holies was forgotten over the millennia, and visiting the holy site may result in Jews unwittingly entering the sacred area.

“For this reason and others, over the course of days we’ve lost the exact location of the sanctuary and anyone who enters the area of the Temple Mount may unwittingly enter the place of the sanctuary and the Holy of Holies, and thus fail in the severe punishment of eternal excommunication,” Channel 2 reported on Thursday.

The notices were published amid a surge in Palestinian terror attacks on Israelis and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces in the West Bank prompted by tensions over access to the Temple Mount. There has been a rise in Jewish visits in recent years to the site, deemed holy to both Jews and Muslims, but Jews are barred from praying there. The status quo on the Temple Mount — also the site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam — bars Jewish worship. Palestinian leaders claim Israel intends to change this arrangement, something Israel firmly denies.

Flier barring Jews from the Temple Mount (Channel 2 screenshot)
Flier barring Jews from the Temple Mount (Channel 2 screenshot)

In antiquity, access to the Holy of Holies was restricted to just the high priest on the Day of Atonement. Jews who visited the Temple courtyard had to be ritually purified beforehand, but couldn’t enter the innermost section of the shrine. Entering the Holy of Holies was punishable by excommunication.

The announcements were distributed and proposed by Israel’s Chief Sephardic Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, and the chief rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinovitch. National Religious figures such as Rabbi David Stav, head of the Tzohar movement which pushes for Jewish marriages not conducted by the rabbinate, also signed the document.

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