I have been reflecting on the notion that the Temple Mount is holy from a Jewish perspective, and thought I would offer some thoughts on the subject, as someone who visited the site yesterday in spite of the rabbinic warning I mentioned in my previous post.
Even from an insider’s Jewish theological perspective, it seems that it would be problematic to regard the Temple Mount as an inappropriate place to go.
First, for there to have been a first and second temple – and for there to be a third on that spot or anywhere else – would require builders and rebuilders being on the site of the temple’s construction to carry it out. (One of the artifacts in the Israel Museum includes not only the owner’s name but his self-identification as a “builder of the temple.” And so presumably temple-builders of the past believed that first they build a temple, then the deity came to dwell there, at which point restrictions of access came into effect.
Second, if one believes that God allowed the Romans (and before them the Babylonians) to destroy the temple, then that involved God allowing access to the place, precisely out of a divine wish to desecrate and destroy the temple. Surely having done that, the site’s status as temple was ended, whether permanently or temporarily.
And if anyone wishes or expects a third temple to be constructed on that site, then unless they expect it to be built miraculously, it will involve builders being present on the site.
Finally, it might also be argued that, if God were displeased with there being people visiting the site, we might expect earthquakes, lightning strikes and sudden spontaneous fatalities to be more common there. Does it make sense for human beings to defend the sanctity of a site when the deity associated with it shows no interest in doing so? I make this last point because the history of Jerusalem does not provide clear indication of divine favoritism towards any of the groups whose quarters are a historic part of the city. All have build great edifices, and all have seen them demolished or damaged by invasion.
Have you visited the Temple Mount? If so, what was your impression? If you refrained from doing so for religious reasons, what do you think of the line of argument I have tried to offer here?