While militant Jews and End-Time Christians have been looking for an opportunity to seize the “Temple Mount,” a new theory cast doubt that Herod’s temple was ever located on the site of the Dome of the Rock. Discover how Jesus’ prophecy of Jerusalem’s fall led one scholar to make what some consider the greatest archaeological discovery of our times, the true site of Solomon’s Temple.
Defying all logic, a 35-acre landmass surrounded by ancient walls is ground zero to the end-time dreams and fears of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Known by Muslims as the Haram esh-Sharif or Noble Enclosure since A.D. 638, these fortress walls guard Islam’s third holiest site, the golden “Dome of the Rock” and Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Despite thirteen centuries of Islamic heritage, Jews today consider the Haram as their Temple Mount. Tradition calls it “the navel of the world … situated in the center of the world.”
The Temple Mount, thought to be the site of the First and Second Jewish temples, abuts the Haram’s “Western Wall”–considered by Jews to be the only stones left intact from the Roman sacking of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The outcropping under the Dome of the Rock is thought to be the crest of Mount Moriah where Abraham nearly sacrificed his son.
Increasingly, zealous Jews in Israel and End-Time Christians in America are calling for the rebuilding of a “Third Temple” where the Dome of the Rock stands.
In his book, Arabs and Jews: Wounded Spirits In A Promised Land, New York Times journalist David Shipler reports, “During my five years in Jerusalem, the idea of building a Third Temple in place of Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock evolved from a wild notion held by a very few fringe militants into a goal embraced and legitimized by parts of the established right wing.”
Shipler continues, “Some groups had a letterhead printed with a composite aerial photograph of the Old City as it is today and the Temple Mount as they wish it to be tomorrow: clear of mosques and dominated by a huge temple.”
In a recent book, The End of Days: Fundamentalism and the Struggle for the Temple Mount, Israeli journalist, Gershon Gorenberg writes, “The Temple Mount beckons seductively to believers eager to restart redemption.” Although journalists or theologians often mock them, Gorenberg claims governments need to take their apocalyptic schemes seriously.
According to messianic groups in Jerusalem such as the Temple Mount Faithful, three events must take place before the Jewish messiah comes: the reconstitution of Israel, the return of the Jews to their homeland; and the construction of a Third Temple.
As religious Jews tell it, the first two events came about through the founding of the Jewish State in 1948. They believe the third has become possible due to the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Israel found herself capturing the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
“The Temple Mount is in our hands,” proclaimed Motta Gur, the Israeli commander. But on the fourth day of occupation, then Defense-minister Moshe Dayan decided to return control of the Haram compound to clerics from the Islamic Trust or Waqf.
Despite the control of the Haram by the Waqf, the continued occupation of the Old City of Jerusalem by Israel has transformed the rebuilding of the Temple for extreme Jews from a divine prophecy into an attainable human endeavor.
Palestinians have always felt the goal of Jewish Zionism is, as its name implies, control of the Temple Mount and the construction of the Third Temple. In 1995, an Arab editorial declared, “The weeping of the Jews by the Wailing Wall and their kisses do not come of their love for the wall itself, but from their secret desire to win control of the Haram esh-Sharif, as everyone knows.”
Palestinian uneasiness about Jewish extremism is understandable. On more than one hundred occasions since 1967, members of the “Jewish underground” have initiated plots to siege or destroy the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque, acts that would have rendered peace with the Arab world unattainable.
Igniting World War III?
The rhetoric about the Temple Mount has inflamed passions on all sides. Indeed, it was a principal factor, if not the key factor, in derailing the U.S. brokered Camp David peace talks in 2000. Israelis insisted on dual ownership of the Haram, something Arafat said no Arab leader could accept.
Making matters worse, Israeli hard-liner Ariel Sharon entered the Haram several weeks later with an armed security force of 1,000 Israeli soldiers, provoking a new round of violence in which nearly 500 people have died, largely Palestinians.
Amidst these fears, a new film was released in Israel. By December, Hahesder, or “Time of Favor,” became a hit movie. The film revolves around a plot by ultra-religious Jews to blow up Islamic holy places on the Temple Mount. The Israeli Shin Bet followed up the movie’s release with warnings about the possible eruption of Jewish violence centered on the Temple Mount.
One Israeli security official told the BBC, “To harm the mosque, it means a global war between the Arab world and the Islamic world against Israel, and no doubt that it could be a war that may bring destruction to the state of Israel.”
Israeli academics have been equally alarmed by “Third Temple” ideas. In January, Keshev–the Center for the Protection of Democracy in Tel Aviv issued a 12-page report entitled, “Targeting the Temple Mount,” which examined current threats to the Temple Mount from extreme militant and messianic groups.
The report claimed, “Threats to the Temple Mount have reached a critical stage.” The danger, the report said, comes from some ten organizations who influence tens of thousands of people and who are acting to reinstitute Temple practices and rituals.
The secular research continued, “In the event of damage to the holy sites, all the blame will be placed on Israel and apocalyptically destructive forces may be unleashed.”
It urged the Israeli government “to stop all support and funding of Temple lovers’ organizations and institutions” and “publicly disassociate themselves from rabbinical calls to ‘destroy the mosques.’ Our lives depend on it.”
The Battle for Jerusalem
Historically, following Bar Kochba’s revolt in A.D. 135, the idea of rebuilding the Jewish Temple was disavowed by Judaism. Only the messiah, it was believed, was capable of rebuilding the Temple. This idea has been challenged in our time by more than a century of Jewish Zionism.
What is surprising about this extreme brand of messianic Judaism and its fixation on the Temple Mount is that its greatest sector of support now is coming from apocalyptic Christians in America.
Fifteen years ago the radical Jewish “Temple Mount Faithful” had practically disappeared in Jerusalem. Then it made connections with End-Time churches in the U.S. Since then, its founder, Gershon Salomon, has been promoted by Pat Robinson’s Christian Broadcasting Network and cash flow has been steady.
Gorenberg feels that the alliance between End-Time Jews and Christians is an ironic one, for evangelicals see the creation of Israel and the reestablishment of the Temple as prerequisites for the End of Days when, according to apocalyptic scenarios, two-thirds of all Jews will die in the battle of Armageddon.
Still, the rebuilding of a “Third Temple” is almost axiomatic among true believers, as witnessed in Bible prophecy books such as The Coming Last Days Temple by Randall Price.