By RAPHAEL POCH, BREAKING ISRAEL NEWS—
On Sunday, the International Temple Institute will be celebrating the fifth annual International Temple Mount Awareness Day in honor of the new Hebrew month of Nissan, which inaugurates spring. The month of Nissan is a time of renewal and rejuvenation and the institute hopes, of rebuilding.
The day seeks to celebrate the promise of the rebuilding of the Jewish Holy Temple in Jerusalem and to help fuel the revolution in Temple consciousness that is taking place in Israel. Recently, a discussion was held in the Knesset to discuss the status of the Temple Mount at the behest of Member of Knesset Moshe Feiglin from the Likud party.
Temple awareness is something that is difficult to come by in today’s society. Rabbi Chaim Richman, International Director of the Temple Institute, attributes this lack of awareness to the style of education being offered since the reunification of Jerusalem.
“A few generations have already grown up being educated to think that the construction of the temple is simply on hold, that it will fall from the sky,” explained Richman to Breaking Israel News. “Imagine that, a building weighing millions of tons will simply fall from heaven. We say over and over again that the Temple Mount is ours and it really isn’t. We need to change that perception, and that is what we are doing.”
Rabbi Richman believes that education is the key to changing these misconstrued perceptions. “We encourage everyone to familiarize themselves with what the Temple Mount means, not only for the Jews but for all of humanity,” he said.
With peace not near enough in site, Rabbi Richman believes that rebuilding the Temple will act as a catalyst to resolving problems that plague the Middle East. “The Temple is the crown jewel for world peace. It symbolizes peace and its existence will help bring about divine peace,” he said. “So if we all keep saying, ‘just give peace a chance’, then let’s build the temple and actually have peace.”
The Temple Mount has been a lightning rod for Arab animosity and violence against Israel ever since the reunification of Jerusalem. In the summer of 2000, the Palestinians used the ascension of at that time Defense Minister, and later Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, to the Temple Mount as an excuse to start the Second Intifada. More recently, in response to the Knesset discussion about the Temple Mount, the Jordanian Parliament formally requested that King Abdullah absolve the peace treaty between Jordan and Israel.
“Of course Jordan gets upset,” said Richman. “They currently are the sovereigns of the Temple mount via the Waqf. Israel doesn’t control the Temple Mount, and the Supreme Court has even recognized that what goes on there is quite illegal. But apologizing for wanting something that the Arabs hate us for, well the same thing can be said about living in all of Israel. Apologizing for wanting to build the Temple is the same thing as apologizing for being a Jew ”
According to the current agreement between the Israeli Police and the Muslim Waqf, the organization that supervises the Temple Mount, non-Muslims are not allowed to pray on the mount. There are Israeli police officers who work together with Waqf personnel to enforce these law by staring at the lips of the visitors and tourists while they are on the mount. The Waqf feels that any Jew praying on the Temple Mount is a threat to the sovereignty that they currently have over the site, let alone any politician or member of the government coming up to visit the site.
Richman pointed to the outrageousness of this situation. “According to the Torah the Jews only have one holy site. Not three, and not 65. One. And it is that one place that we are not allowed to pray. Not legally mind you, according to the Israeli-Law anyone from any religion can pray anywhere in Israel. Yet the Waqf has control over the Mount and hence we are not allowed to pray.”
When asked what the response of his organization is to such instances Richman responded by saying: “The Temple Institute does not engage in politics. What we do is we deal with commandments.”
Rabbi Richman does not consider himself to be a politician, but does acknowledge that the “obstacles today are political.” The goal of the Temple Institute is to, as Richman explained, “build the Temple and fulfill the commandments.” Richman seeks to educate and inspire through the Bible the importance and sanctity of the Temple.
“There is a positive commandment to build God’s Temple, and that commandment and all the others that are associated with the Temple are simply going unfulfilled. The Temple is a house of prayer for all nations, it is the place where the ongoing relationship between God and man can continue to develop in a close and engaging manner.”
Richman also addressed the pluralism which the Temple was a symbol for in that the Temple was not exclusively a Jewish place, but helped all the nations of the world.
“When the Temple stood all nations were welcome there,” he said. “Jewish texts tell us that if the nations of the world knew what the Temple did for them and for the rest of the world, then instead of destroying it, or keeping us from rebuilding it, they would help rebuild it and put legions upon legions around it in order to protect it.”
The International Temple Mount Awareness Day is geared towards educating, informing and inspiring people about the Temple. This includes awareness through art, culture, and education about the Temple Mount. Facts such as that the Temple Mount is the world’s largest man-made plateau can be gleaned from the awareness day events. Symbolically, the day is being held right before the anniversary of the day that the Tabernacle was inaugurated in the desert, when God’s spirit found its first home in the world.
The worry says Richman, is that we have become disenfranchised, and disconnected with the Temple. There has been an uninterrupted tradition and relationship between the Jews and the Temple Mount since the time of King David.Today, that relationship is what we are lacking.
“We need to kindle in the hearts of the Jewish people and all of humanity, the desire to build the temple via education, raising our consciousness that something is missing from our lives, and realizing the message of the prophets, so that we can elevate all of human existence,“ Richman urged.