CCAR Resolution on the Temple Mount
October 27, 2015
Sha’alu Sh’lom Y’rushalayim – Seek the Peace of Jerusalem[i]
The Jerusalem Temple Mount has always been sacred to the Jewish people, as the site of our people’s ancient worship in the First and Second Temples, both of which stood there. Traditionally, our people prayed that messianic redemption would include building a third Temple and restoring sacrificial service there. Jews pray facing Jerusalem, in keeping with a Talmudic tradition that the Shechinah (Divine Presence) rests there.[ii] Throughout its history, Reform Judaism has maintained a vision of messianic redemption, one that seeks a world of perfect peace, not building a new physical Temple in Jerusalem or recommencing sacrificial worship.
Still, the Temple Mount has remained holy, for Reform Jews as for all the Jewish people. Israel is our holy land; Jerusalem is our sacred city; and the Temple Mount is at the center of the city’s holiness. Historically as today, Jews appropriately express that holiness by turning toward the Temple Mount wherever we pray, whether in close proximity to the Temple Mount at its Western Wall, which we know as the Kotel, or in any place where Jews gather to pray worldwide.
Observing long-standing tradition, Jews do not pray on the Temple Mount in our day. Moreover, Reform Judaism has always respectfully understood that place to be holy to Muslims as well as Jews, since the Koran teaches that Muhammad began his Night Journey there.[iii] Reform Jews respect the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, which stand on the Temple Mount, as we would for any other religious tradition’s holy places anywhere.
During the Six Day War of 1967, the State of Israel captured the Old City and its holy sites. Hours after Israel gained control of the Temple Mount, Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan removed the Israeli flag that had been raised there, recognizing the area as a Muslim holy site. Subsequently, he instituted a ban against Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount and gave religious sovereignty over that area to the Muslim Wakf. This created what has been referred to as the “Temple Mount status quo” which has been maintained from that time forward. In 2003, the Israeli Supreme Court[iv] affirmed the right of Jews to enter and pray in the area of the Temple Mount. However, the ruling went on to declare this not to be an absolute right, but one which the government had the authority to limit in order to safeguard the public good.
Through the years, Palestinian leaders have inflamed Muslim sensibilities and incited anti-Jewish violence with the claim that “Al-Aqsa is in danger!” Currently, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has incited Palestinian violence by falsely claiming that Israel is changing the status quo on the Temple Mount in an effort to “Judaize” Muslim holy sites. While some ultra-Orthodox leaders and members of the Knesset have indeed challenged the status quo, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly affirmed Israel’s unswerving commitment to the status quo. More recently, the Prime Minister has temporarily prohibited members of the Knesset from being on the Temple Mount, in order to avoid even the appearance of changing the status quo. Despite the Israeli government’s best effort, the libelous claims and the murderous violence which they have provoked continues.
In the meantime, Palestinians have in essence militarized their holy site through the introduction of weapons and explosives.
For years, Palestinian leaders have denied the existence of a Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount, despite the fact that modern archeology and earlier Muslim publications have cast no doubt that the First and Second Temples of the Jews were located on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, on or near the present sight of the Dome of the Rock. Palestinians and their allies have gone so far as to petition UNESCO to designate even the Kotel as an exclusively Muslim holy site. Fortunately, that effort proved unsuccessful.
Be it therefore resolved that the Central Conference of American Rabbis
[i] Psalms 122:6.
[ii] Talmud, Bava Batra 25a.
[iii] Sahih Bukhari: Volume 5, Book 58, Number 226.
[iv] Case 3641/03, ruling of April 28, 2003.