Can Third Temple be built without destroying Dome of the Rock?*
By MATTHEW WAGNER
A new Jewish interfaith initiative launched last week argues building
the Third Jewish Temple in Jerusalem would not necessitate the
destruction of the Dome of the Rock.
"God's Holy Mountain Vision" project hopes to defuse religious strife by
showing that Jews' end-of-days vision could harmoniously accommodate
Islam's present architectural hegemony on the Temple Mount.
"This vision of religious shrines in peaceful proximity can transform
the Temple Mount from a place of contention to its original sacred role
as a place of worship shared by Jews, Muslims and Christians," said Yoav
Frankel, director of the initiative.
The Interfaith Encounter Association at the Mishkenot Sha'ananim's
Konrad Adenauer Conference Center in Jerusalem is sponsoring the
program, which includes interfaith study and other educational projects.
According to Islamic tradition, the Dome of the Rock, built in 691,
marks the spot where Muhammed ascended to Heaven.
But according to Jewish tradition, Mount Moriah, now under the Dome of
the Rock, is where the Temple's Holy of Holies was situated.
Until now Jewish tradition has assumed that destruction of the Dome of
the Rock was a precondition for the building of the third and last Temple.
However, in an article that appeared in 2007 in Tehumin, an influential
journal of Jewish law, Frankel, a young scholar, presented a different
His main argument is that Jewish doctrine regarding the rebuilding of
the Temple emphasizes the role of a prophet.
This prophet would have extraordinary authority, including the
discretion to specify the Temple's precise location, regardless of any
diverging Jewish traditions.
Frankel considers the scenario of a holy revelation given to an
authentic prophet that the Temple be rebuilt on the current or an
extended Temple Mount in peaceful proximity to the dome and other houses
of prayer such as the Aksa Mosque and nearby Christian shrines.
However, both Muslims and Jews have expressed opposition to the initiative.
Sheikh Abdulla Nimar Darwish, founder of the Islamic Movement in Israel,
said it was pointless to talk about what would happen when the mahdi,
the Muslim equivalent of the messiah, would reveal himself.
"Why are we taking upon ourselves the responsibility to decide such
things?" Darwish said in a telephone interview with The Jerusalem Post.
"Even Jews believe that it is prohibited to rebuild the Temple until the
messiah comes. So what is there to talk about.
"The mahdi will decide whether or not to rebuild the Temple. If he
decides that it should be rebuilt, I will go out to the Temple Mount and
help carry the rocks."
Darwish warned against any attempt to rebuild the Temple before the
coming of the mahdi.
"As long as there is a Muslim alive, no Jewish Temple will be built on
Al-Haram Al-Sharif [the Temple Mount]. The status quo must be
maintained, otherwise there will be bloodshed."
In contrast, Baruch Ben-Yosef, chairman of the Movement to Restore the
Temple, made it clear that the Temple had to be built where the Dome of
the Rock presently stands.
"Anybody who says anything else simply does not know what he is talking
about," he said. "A prophet does not have the power to change the law
which explicitly states the location of the Temple."
Ben-Yosef also rejected the idea that rebuilding of the Temple had to be
done by a prophet.
"All you need is a Sanhedrin," he said.
Mainstream Orthodox rabbis have opposed attempts to rebuild the Temple
since the Mount came under Israeli control in 1967.
The Chief Rabbinate of Israel even issued a decree prohibiting Jews from
entering the area due to ritual purity issues.
However, several grassroots organizations such as the Movement to
Restore the Temple, and maverick rabbis, including Rabbi Israel Ariel,
head of the capital's Temple Institute and a leading member of the
revived Sanhedrin led by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, have called to take
steps to renew the sacrifices on the Temple Mount and rebuild the Temple.