WARS AND RUMORS OF WARS
for 3rd Temple?
As tensions rise in Mideast, Jews
set to begin symbolic rebuilding
By Julie Foster
As violence in the Middle East escalates, an Israeli group plans a symbolic effort to begin building the Third Temple of Israel Monday in Jerusalem -- a move the Arab-American community calls a "very grave provocation."
In biblical times, the people of Israel worshipped at the temple in Jerusalem -- the hub of Jewish activity. After Israel's enemies destroyed the temple, it was rebuilt only to be destroyed again in 70 A.D. by the Roman Empire. The Temple Mount and Land of Israel Faithful Movement announced its plans yesterday to lay a cornerstone to the Third Temple in an anointing ceremony.
The event poses a threat to Muslims, as the site of the new temple, the Temple Mount, is also the location of the Dome of the Rock -- a Muslim mosque.
In its "Vision of Redemption," the Temple Mount Faithful Movement states its belief that the creation of the modern state of Israel is "the beginning of the redemption of the world," which is completed with the building of the Third Temple.
Led by Gershon Salomon, the movement explains its reasons for the timing of the plan to rebuild the historic Jewish Temple.
"Two and one-half millennia ago, the Hebrew prophets spoke that in the 'last days' G-d would regather His people from all the lands where He had scattered them," states the group's website. "For the last 100 years the Jewish people have been returning to and rebuilding Zion. Today Israel is again the dynamic center of Jewish life across the world. The regathering is not yet complete. Ezekiel prophesied that G-d would 'leave none of them there any longer.'"
In the Jewish faith, the name of God is so holy that it is never spelled out in its entirety. "It is the view of the Temple Mount and Land of Israel Faithful that the redemption will proceed in an orderly fashion according to G-d's plan," the statement continues.
The group plans to anoint a four-and-a-half ton marble cornerstone, which will be covered with Israeli flags and driven to the Temple Mount on a flatbed truck. Participants will also bring "reconstructed vessels for the Third Temple, a priest in the original garments, and Levites who will play music," recreating historical temple activities.
According to a statement by the Temple Mount Faithful, "The event has the approval of the Israeli authorities and will be protected by the Israel security forces."
Reaction by the Arab-American community to the scheduled event is strong. In a letter sent yesterday to U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright, the American Committee on Jerusalem warned against the "explosive consequence of such an act."
"We urge the United States government to ensure that the government of Israel takes all necessary actions to prevent such a blatant provocation, particularly in view of its failure to do so two weeks ago," when the current Middle East conflict erupted.
Written by ACJ President Rashid Khalidi, the letter conludes, "ACJ stresses with the utmost urgency the importance of the U.S. government taking this matter up immediately with the government of Israel."
The Temple Mount Faithful attempted to lay the cornerstone of the Third Temple more than a year ago but was prevented from doing so by the Israeli government due to the potential for further violence. Some Israelis believe that to begin full-scale construction of the temple, the Dome of the Rock must first be torn down. Others believe the Temple can be built adjacent to the Muslim shrine.
"This effort to go and actually attack the mosque is a very, very grave provocation," said Ali Abunimah, vice president of the Arab-American Action Network, who called the Temple Mount Faithful an "extremist group." "Israel will be solely responsible for any provocation and any consequences," he added.
But Salomon's movement is determined to go through with the ceremony. "G-d is ready for this and He expects Israel to re-liberate the Temple Mount from the pagan Arab worshippers and to rebuild His house to again be the heart, soul and focus of Israel and all the nations," Salomon wrote. "The Temple Mount and Land of Israel Faithful Movement has decided to wait no more and to bring the G-d of Israel back to His rebuilt house ..."