Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Ancient Problem of Building a Jewish Temple in the Old City of Jerusalem

By: David Lee
Produced & edited by: Michelle Michael 

A three-million-dollar golden menorah and harps of ancient Israelite King David costing thousands of dollars among other sacred vessels are commissioned and safeguarded by the Temple Institute in Jerusalem. As an organization that educates and collects vessels once included in the holy services of Israel’s first and second temples, the Temple Institute is the most established Jewish organization with prophetic objectives in the Temple Mount.

“We make many harps for [the Temple Institute] and many of these harps are donated by people around the world,” said Micah Harrari, who is regarded as the “official” harp maker for the temple restoration.

“When we went into exile 2,000 years ago, it is said that we hung our harps along the willows because we would not play our music in a strange land,” said Harrari. “And since we returned to the land, we restored the harp.”

Micah and his wife Shoshanna made their Aliyah, or return to the Land of Israel, from the United States in 1982. They are one of the many artists and engineers working with the Temple Institute to fulfill an ancient promise found in the Tanakh—the Hebrew Scriptures. Like the other vessels preserved by the Temple Institute, Harrari’s harps are designed on information from the Tanakh, the Talmud, and archeological findings.

A model of the Second Jewish Temple.
Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
As Harrari’s harps are sold to the Jewish diaspora around the world, countries outside of Israel have been major contributors to the efforts—especially financially. The United States hosts the second largest Jewish population—according to the Berman Jewish Data Bank, there were 5.7 million American Jews in 2015.

Mystery of the Red Heifer 

Rabbi Chaim Richman, Director of the International Department at the Temple Institute, traveled to Canton, Mississippi in 1994 to meet with Minister Clyde Lott of the Canaan Land Restoration of Israel, Inc. Lott was willing to send red heifers—young, virgin female cows—to Jerusalem to fulfill the prophetic belief that the next red heifer to appear in Israel would also entail the arrival of their messiah or the end times.

Lott and Richman were unavailable to provide comments. However, the office of Reverend Alfred Bishop, the treasurer of the Canaan Land Restoration of Israel, Inc., was available to comment.
“[The farm in Mississippi] never did have a cow that passed the test, because the cow has to be perfect—everything has to be red and no white hair,” said the anonymous source at Bishop’s office.    

There is another group that also believes in the mystery of the red heifer and even started the temple restoration efforts 20 years before the Temple Institute. Since the end of the 1967 Six-Day war—when Israel was victorious but decided to give administrative control of the Temple Mount to Jordon—Gershon Salomon has been leading the Temple Mount Faithful Movement.  The movement’s foremost goal on its website reads, “Liberating the Temple Mount from Arabic (Islamic) occupation.”
“So, our goal is to move this enemy from the Temple Mount and repair it, purify it, and rebuild the temple,” said Salomon.

He thinks a reestablished temple in Jerusalem will soon open a stage of peace and morality for the world.

The Muslim community certainly does not agree with Salomon’s statements. Jordanian security forces restrict the number of Jews and types of Jewish activities at the holy site. Amid rising tensions in the area, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised a stop to Israeli politicians visiting the Temple Mount.

Shuli Mualem, one of the first Israeli politician
to ascend the Temple Mount. Photo courtesy: Wikipedie

"A House of Prayer for All Peoples"

After a two-year ban, Yehuda Glick—a friend of the Temple Institute and a survivor of an assassination attack in 2014—and Shuli Mualem became the first Israeli politicians to ascend the site in recent memory.

“Our aspiration is for this place to fulfill its purpose as it is written in the Bible—a house of prayer for all peoples,” said Mualem.

Mualem is part of the growing support from government officials and other non-profit organizations towards the religious activism efforts. According to a 2015 study by PewResearch, the biggest proportion of the Jewish population in Israel and the United States—the largest homes for Jewish people—are identified as Hiloni (secular) or non-orthodox Jews respectively.

“In the second temple period, things really did center around the temple and today they don’t,” said Professor Daniel Schwartz, a history professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
He thinks the Jewish people have gotten more used to liberal lifestyles of equality and living in peace with neighbors.

“Today, the temple exists most in memories or hopes for the future,” continued Schwartz. “[The Jewish people] are much affected by the fact that there has been some 1,900 years of Jewish history between the destruction of the second temple and today, and Jews got used to dealing with God without having to move to a particular place.”

As the past international spokesperson for various movements, Yosef Rabin has been organizing efforts to popularize Jewish activism in the Temple Mount since his work with the Temple Institute in 2010.  

“This year, we passed the mark of 20,000 Jews coming to the Temple Mount in one year—when I started, it was 200 a year,” said Rabin.  

“You have a mass cross-section of society; you have groups that are extremely conservative, you have groups that are coming from not so much a religious, Jewish perspective but more of liberal values of religious rights for all,” continued Rabin.

He also agrees with Schwartz on the changing conceptions of temple worship in modern day Israel.
“In Jewish law, you can do most of the temple services without the physical building as long as the alter is in its proper place within what was the area of the temple,” said Rabin.

Even after thousands of years, the religious battle in Jerusalem has not stopped or lost much of its significance. But with changing times, many Jewish, Arabic, and Christian people today might agree with Rabin’s opinion that “[people] are not looking for any mass upheavals or war; we want to simply go up and pray to our God.”

Global Spotlight is a nonprofit educational production, constituting a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided under Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law.  

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