A view of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem (Photo: Shutterstock.com)
“Even them will I bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer; their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices shall be acceptable upon Mine altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” Isaiah 56:7
Yaakov Hayman, the head of Yishai, an NGO dedicated to reinstating Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, is preparing to submit a survey map to the Israeli government to build four synagogues, one in each corner of the Temple Mount compound, a critical turning point steering Israel in the right direction towards prayer at Judaism’s holiest site.
Legally, the government is required to permit Jews to pray at the site. In a 2015 case brought by Rabbi Yehuda Glick, now a member of the Likud party, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ruled that in accordance with Israel’s basic law that ensures freedom of worship for all religions, Jews must be permitted to pray on the Temple Mount.
In practice, Jews who ascend to the Temple Mount are antagonized by Islamic Waqf guards who closely monitor their every move. Any action that appears worshipful results in immediate expulsion.
At present, Christians too are forbidden from praying on the Temple Mount. True to the Bible’s vision of a House of Prayer for all Nations, Hayman believes “Anyone who doesn’t object to anyone else being on the Temple Mount should be allowed up there to pray”, he told Breaking Israel News.
Hayman believes he has the solution. According to Jewish tradition, the Temple was destroyed due to hatred between Jews. Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount is being prevented by hatred; the political agenda determined by Muslim violence. Hayman believes the answer is an outpouring of love for the Temple Mount that brings people together in prayer.
“A synagogue is the first step towards building the Third Temple”, Hayman explained. Quoting the book of Kings, he noted that the Temple was inaugurated not just as a place for sacrifices but mainly as a house of prayer.
And hearken Thou to the supplication of Thy servant, and of Thy people Yisrael, when they shall pray toward this place; yea, hear Thou in heaven Thy dwelling-place; and when Thou hearest, forgive. I Kings 8:30
Hayman cited the Mishna (oral law), which stated explicitly that there was a synagogue standing alongside the Temple. Hayman’s plan is to build four synagogues angled in to face the Holy of Holies. “The wall facing the Temple will be glass, so the people who can see the Temple while they are praying,” he explained.
“We need to get more Jews to go up to the Temple Mount,” Hayman urged. Unfortunately, Jewish visitation is severely limited. Over the past 12 months, only 14,000 Jews were permitted to visit the Temple Mount. “Last year, over 7 million Jews visited the Kotel (Western Wall), just a few yards away. When we have thousands of Jews going up every day, Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount will just naturally begin to happen.”
Surprisingly, Hayman is not a rabbi. More appropriate to his function, Hayman’s profession is developing and managing building projects. He approaches the holy endeavor like any other building project but construction on the Temple Mount poses a unique challenge.
“The first stage in any building project is surveying the land and getting the map accepted by the government as accurate and valid,” Hayman explained to Breaking Israel News. “This is usually simple, almost automatic. We surveyed the Temple Mount and submitted the map three years ago. It was the first time the Temple Mount had been measured since 1967.”
Upon conducting the research necessary to determine whether construction on the Temple Mount would be legal, “We discovered that the Temple Mount is not registered to anyone,” Hayman divulged to Breaking Israel News.
“Nonetheless, the survey was rejected by order of the Prime Minister’s office. They didn’t want to deal with it.”
Despite initial rejections, Hayman is preparing to submit the survey once again.
“My hope is that due to current events and slightly different leadership in the upper levels of government that it may get through this time,” Hyman said.
He explained that the UNESCO vote that granted a religious monopoly on the Temple Mount to the Muslims opened the door to last Friday’s UN Security Council vote that granted Judea, Samaria, and East Jerusalem to the Palestinians.
“If you don’t have sovereignty in your own holiest place, how can you demand sovereignty anywhere else?” Hayman asked rhetorically. “Building a synagogue on the Temple Mount can help Israel politically…I hope the government will understand that.”
In a rare show of unity in a profession trained in dialectic, rabbis from all sectors have voiced support for the construction. The seeds of the project were planted when Rabbi Shlomo Goren, the IDF’s Chief Rabbi, stood at the Kotel moments after it had been liberated from Jordan. Rabbi Goren organized several prayer sessions on the Temple Mount complete with Torah scrolls, but the government put a stop to them before he could see it through.
Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, former Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel, called for the construction of a synagogue on the Temple Mount and now, his son, Safed’s Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, is working toward that goal as the president of Yishai.
Chief Rabbi David Lau, generally considered to be moderate, stunned many last June when, in an interview on the televised Knesset Channel, he called for the construction of the Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount.
“There’s room for Jews, there’s room for Christians, there’s room for everybody,” Rabbi Lau said to a shocked audience.