‘The Temple Mount is ours,’ says Western Wall rabbi

“Someone who is confident that a place belongs to him doesn’t need to make it off-limits to others,” Rabinovitch said regarding Muslim opposition to Jewish visitors.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Rabbi of the Western Wall Shmuel Rabinovitch spoke out recently about Jewish visits to the Temple Mount and his role as the chief Jewish leader responsible for the holy site, telling journalists that he has “the most interesting job there is.”

Rabinovitch has been the leading Jewish authority at the Western Wall since 1995 and has overseen the site from when “there were 2 million visitors, until 12 million visitors today,” he said.

Speaking with a group of journalists in the Old City, he discussed the growing number of Jews who visit the Temple Mount compound — Judaism’s holiest site and Islam’s third-holiest — each year. The uptick in visitors has sparked fury from the international Muslim community.

Since the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967, the Temple Mount has been administered by Jordan’s Islamic Waqf organization. The entity has maintained policies that see Jews banned from freely worshiping at the site and requiring Jewish visitors to be supervised by armed guards when walking through the compound.

That status quo has been called into question in recent years, with National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir pledging to allow Jewish prayer at the site.

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Muslims cannot forbid Jews from visiting holy site

Rabinovitch’s opinion on the topic differs from the typical ultra-Orthodox authorities’ statements regarding Jewish visits to the Temple Mount.

When asked about Jewish visits to the site, most ultra-Orthodox rabbis usually focus on the halachic (Jewish legal) prohibition on touring the site and avoid acknowledging the political implications of a de facto ban on Jewish prayer at the compound.

But Rabinovitch made a clear statement emphasizing Israeli sovereignty over the site, saying that while he discourages visits by Jews, he believes that potential visitors should not make a decision based on fear of Muslim retaliation.

“The Temple Mount is ours,” Rabinovitch said. “I tell my Jewish brothers not to ascend for halachic reasons. But the site belongs to us, and I don’t believe that Muslims should be able to forbid Jewish ascension to the Temple Mount.”

Rabinovitch explained that the reason he and other ultra-Orthodox rabbis are opposed to Jewish visits is due to the fact that all human beings living today are ritually impure, according to the strictest interpretation of Jewish law.

“I myself have never been” to the Temple Mount, he stressed. “Not because it doesn’t interest me, and not because I don’t want to…but because we cannot be ritually pure enough, we can’t ascend.”

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However, many leading Religious Zionist rabbis disagree with the ultra-Orthodox perspective on the permissibility of Jews visiting the site and in fact encourage Jews to enter the compound.

Jewish history and pluralism in the Old City

Rabinovitch added that while he supports excavation and other archaeological efforts around the Western Wall, Israel “will never dig under the Temple Mount.”

He clarified that is “due to halachic reasons,” and not “because of political issues.”

As for digging near the Western Wall, Rabinovitch said that “our roots are here in every corner, and we are working very hard to find them and show them to the next generation.”

Since 1967, Rabinovitch said, Israel has opened all Jewish holy sites, including the Western Wall, to visitors of all religions.

“We don’t check here if someone is Jewish, Christian or Muslim,” he said. “Everyone can come here, and everyone can pray here.

“We don’t have a monopoly on God. God is for everyone. When King Solomon built the First Temple, he asked of God to accept everyone’s prayers, regardless of whether they were Jewish or not Jewish. This is written in the Bible.

“On the contrary, Muslims are not allowing Jews to reach the Temple Mount. Someone who is confident that a place belongs to him doesn’t need to make it off-limits to others.”

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