Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Yosef Rabin is 32 years old, an immigrant to Israel originally from the United States. He served in the IDF, is married and living in Tel Aviv, and works in an online marketing company. He’s also heavily invested in raising awareness of the Temple Mount.

I first came upon Yosef when he tried and failed to get people to show up for a protest. I wrote to tell him why I hadn’t taken the invite as a serious one, and he private messaged me to discuss things. I was impressed with how much thinking he had invested in this protest and in Temple Mount awareness in general.

Since then, I’ve been trying to lend my hand to his efforts by spreading word of events, protests, and articles relating to the Temple Mount among my followers on Facebook. This is kind of an odd experience for me, since I have never ascended to the Temple Mount. My rabbis don’t permit this. But in the privacy of my inner feelings, I wish with all my heart that I could go up there. I support this effort from the periphery, as someone who wrestles internally with the desire to go up there and feels the necessity of making it possible for Jews to reclaim their holiest site and wrest it from the hands of the enemy.

And so, not being able to go up there myself, but hoping that Yosef’s efforts will bear fruit such that someday, I might yet be able to do so, I continue to lend my support to his project. As such, I made the offer to interview him for my weekly column here at Elder of Ziyon, and Yosef readily assented. Which is part of why I am eager to support him. He is the kind of guy who is ready to take advice and do any and every thing to make this happen: to make the Temple Mount a part of every Jew’s life and to reclaim the Mount for our people.

I just like his attitude.

A bit of background: Yosef has been involved with Jewish rights on the Temple Mount since 2004, and has served as director of foreign affairs for the Movement for Temple Restoration (a member of United Temple Mount Movements) since 2006. He is a founding member of United Temple Mount Movements, an organization established in 2009.  

Yosef has held correspondence on matters relating to the Temple Mount with UNESCO representatives and diplomats from a number of Tel Aviv-based embassies. He has also served as a guide to many guests touring the Temple Mount, including former Canadian Minister Stockwell Day.
By US Mission Canada (Stockwell Day) [CC BY 2.0
(], via Wikimedia Commons

Judean Rose: Everyone who stumps for an issue has a reason. So why the Temple Mount, as opposed to, say, cancer, or child abuse?

Yosef Rabin: Ever since I was very little the recordings from the Six-Day War, the liberation of the Western Wall and the Temple in particular, made a very deep impression on me. It was like hearing the reverberations of prophecy. I for the longest time could not understand why we were not building the Temple and as a child growing up in Chicago, IL I could not understand why Jews were living outside of Israel at all.

Judean Rose: Your surname is Rabin, which I know is a Cohanic surname. Are you a Cohen? Is that part of the fascination you have for the Mount?

Yosef Rabin: I did not know that. My last name was once Rabanovitch. Not a Cohen.

Judean Rose: When did you first go up to the Mount? How old were you? What did it feel like?

Yosef Rabin: The first time I ascended the Temple Mount, it was in 2004 and I was at the time 20 years-old learning in a Jerusalem yeshiva (seminary). I was horrified by the sight of Israeli police escorting Jews to ensure that they would not pray. The police were watching our every move and filming us the entire time. We received constant instructions: “Walk faster, don’t stand in once place, don’t sit down, and don’t move to the right or left.”

The police were not there to protect us, but rather to fulfill the instructions of the Muslim Waqf (religious authority) guards. I felt a mix of awe of God and fear of the police and the Muslim Waqf guards. During that ascent, I promised that I would not rest until Jewish rights were restored to our holiest place.

Judean Rose: I’ve noted that in your Facebook postings you are eager to show that Haredim are, in fact, permitted to ascend to the Temple Mount. Can you explain your reasoning, here?

Yosef Rabin: Ascent to the Temple Mount in the religious Zionist sector is quickly moving from the fringes and going mainstream, but still very fringe in the Haredi community. A picture of one Haredi on the Mount is worth more than 1,000 such photos of Religious Zionists, because with the former there is no political stigma attached. Every time a Religious Zionist goes to the Mount, people just see it sadly as a political statement or “Zionist activism.” When a Haredi goes to the Mount, on the other hand, it is seen in a more puritanical light.

Judean Rose: I have a confession to make: I’d love to ascend to the Temple Mount, but until Haredi rabbanim make it mainstream, I’m not comfortable with going ahead and actually doing this. Do some Haredi women go up there? How many would you say in an average month?

Yosef Rabin: This is exactly why I promote Haredi ascent to the Mount, people see them as “the real deal” more than other religious Jews. In 2009 I made a short video of Rabbi Yosef Elboim, head of Hatenua Lekinun HaMikdash (Movement for Temple Restoration) leading a small visit to the Mount. It made tremendous waves in the Haredi media, so much so, that Rabbi Elboim admitted to me that that one video equaled his decades of work in the field.

It really rocked the Haredi public and within a month, the first large visit of Haredim to the Mount (50 people) was organized. The police were stunned and the Haredim were denied entry, but now we see hundreds of Haredim ascending on a yearly basis. There may be individual Haredi women who ascend, but there are no known groups that I know of. There is a religious-Zionist group of women called “Women of the Mount,” who are very active.

Women of the Mount ascend the Temple Mount

Judean Rose: During Temple times, what sectors of the Jewish population would have been found on the Temple Mount on an average day and in what capacity?

Yosef Rabin: All of the Jewish people came to the Temple Mount. Those who were sprinkled with water-ash mix from the red heifer went into the Temple courtyard and those who were impure could ascend to the outer areas of the Temple Mount, the areas where we ascend today. Of course, on the three major biblical holidays, masses came from all over the country to a bring special sacrifice called the Chagiga.
Probably the biggest ascent of the year was on the eve of Passover, when everyone would come to sacrifice the Paschal Lamb in the Temple courtyard, one representative from every group that would be eating together on Passover evening.  

Judean Rose: Why don’t people want to ascend to the Temple Mount? Is it about being afraid to walk in the forbidden areas? Aren’t there some areas we’re sure about, as being safe? Can you outline the issue for us, please?

Yosef Rabin: There is a grave misconception that the entire Temple Mount is off limits, because we are impure from contact with the dead and do not have the ashes of the red heifer to purify ourselves. According to the Torah, one who has been in contact with a dead body is prohibited to enter into the Temple, but is permitted into the remainder of the Temple Mount. Jewish law is very clear, see Maimonides - Laws of the Chosen House chapters 6-7 and Laws of the Entering the Temple, Chapter 3.

As long as one knows the permitted and forbidden boundaries, entering the Temple Mount is the fulfillment of a holy commandment of “fearing the place of the Temple” and giving honor before God. Many Rabbis who forbid their adherents from ascending have no actual knowledge of the forbidden or permitted areas. Even the great Rabbi Ovadya Yosef [z”l, former Sephardi Chief Rabbi], who was very vocal in his opposition to ascending the Temple Mount, wrote in his book Yabia Omer the real reason for his opposition: there is no physical boundary currently present to prevent someone from accidentally crossing from the permitted to the forbidden zones, like there was in the time of the Temple.

It is for this reason that the first few times a Jew ascends to the Mount, he must be accompanied by one who knows the permitted and forbidden boundaries well, because the punishment for entering into the Temple itself is Karet or the cutting off of one’s soul from the Jewish Nation. There is much rabbinic discussion of what this means, but all understand it to be the worst spiritual punishment in the Torah.

Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, Rabbi of Safed blessing those ascending the Mount before they enter: "You represent the Jewish People."

Judean Rose: What is involved with ascending to the Temple Mount practically speaking? One needs to dip in the mikveh, right? And wear white, right? What else do we need to know from a halachic standpoint?

Yosef Rabin: Yes, a man who has had seminal emission must clean his entire body of all impurities and only then immerse in a mikveh (ritual waters). After the immersion he can enter the Temple Mount. One should check to find a male mikveh that is actually kosher for this immersion, because unlike the pre-Yom Kippur dunk this one is a biblical commandment. This is the only time when a man will make a bracha (blessing) before immersing in the mikveh.

A woman cannot ascend to the Temple Mount during her period or when she is a nidda (period of menstruation). After her nidda period, plus the clean day count, she must then clean her entire body and then immerse in a kosher mikveh. Additionally, a married woman who has been together with her husband (during her clean days), should wait a three-day period before ascending the Mount. She must immerse in the mikveh again and only then ascend to the Temple Mount. There is fierce debate if non-married women should immerse for the sake of ascending to the Temple Mount and a serious halachic authority should be consulted.

Non-leather shoes must be worn on the Mount by all, but there is no requirement to wear white.

Judean Rose: Many of us have seen the awful videos of Arabs rioting, throwing things, and yelling “Allahu Akbar” at Jews on the Mount. Is it dangerous to go up there?

Yosef Rabin: The police usually do a good job of securing the general area during the three hours a day Jews are even allowed on the Temple Mount. I have been there many dozens of times and was only hit by a rock one time, and thank God was not injured. Yes, almost every Jewish group has Arabs yelling at them Allahu Akbar and at times police have had to intervene. If the Arabs get rowdy enough the police will simply throw the Jews off the Mount in response to Muslim threats.

Judean Rose: There seems to be some kind of legal distinction between a Jew’s freedom of religion to pray on the Temple Mount and the ability of the police to maintain order. Can you explain the contradiction and how this works in practice? What happens if you get thirsty and need to take a drink? Can you make a bracha on your water or is that going to cause a riot?

Yosef Rabin: This is not a legal problem, but rather an issue of governmental policy. In 1967, after the Six-Day War, the Knesset (Legislative Branch) passed the “Safeguarding of the Holy Places Law,” which protected the rights of everyone to their holy places and even demanded 7 years jail time for preventing someone access to his holy site. The Israeli Government (Executive Branch), however, passed “Regulation 761” in contravention to the law passed by the Knesset: “A Jew wishing to pray at the Temple Mount should be re-directed to the Western Wall.” This sadly has become the law and the police cite it over and over again to defend themselves against lawsuits. The Israeli Supreme court has ruled that Jews have the right “in principle” to pray on the Mount, but defer the matter to Israeli police for “security measures”.

In terms of the water fountains, sometimes the police allow [Jews to drink] and sometimes they don’t, just do not make a bracha or you will be arrested. People have been arrested for simply citing a biblical verse in the context of a tour on the Mount.

Some 4 years of ago on Jerusalem Day. Yosef Rabin, together with a large group, actually prayed for about 20 minutes on the Temple Mount. All of them were banned from the site for a year, but World War III did not break out!

Judean Rose: Is it an awful thing that Arabs pray on the Temple Mount? They aren’t idolaters according to the Torah, right? So is it a profanation to allow them to have a mosque there?

Yosef Rabin: Technically, they are not idolaters, although the Muslims who control the Mount support the murder of Jews, so they cannot be Noachides either. Al Aqsa mosque is actually not even on the halachic Temple Mount and is in the Herodian additions, which do not have any special halachic status. The Dome of the Rock is sitting on the Holies of Holies, but what can we do about it? Nothing. However, because the building is not used for idolatry there would not be a problem to put up curtains on the entrances and for the Kohein Gadol (high priest) to enter on Yom Kippur and perform the service on the spot of the holies of holies.

Judean Rose: But we are ritually impure from contact with the dead, how can the High Priest or any Jew go into the area of the Temple? You mentioned before, we do not have the red heifer.

Yosef Rabin: This is true, but the Halacha is also clear that when the entire Jewish People are impure, we preform the Temple Service in its entirety in a state of impurity. However, personal sacrifices like a sin offering could not be brought today, only the service that relates to the entire Nation. An example of this is the Passover Sacrifice, which still must be offered in our time, even without the Temple standing. Of course, anyone who is not necessary for the service may not come into the Temple area in our times.

Theoretically, we could fulfill many parts of the Temple Service, while leaving the Muslim structures undisturbed. We would need permission from the Israeli Government to build an altar within the confines of the ancient Temple Courtyard, somewhere on the plaza east in front of the Dome of the Rock.

Judean Rose: What about the general comportment of Arabs on the Mount? We’ve seen boys playing soccer there. Is this a problem?

Arabs regularly desecrate the Temple Mount with soccer games, picnics and mass rallies calling for Jewish blood. It is truly horrible that our government has no respect for us or our religion and allow these hoodlums to control our holiest site. However, the People of Israel are truly at fault for not standing up.

Judean Rose: If the Temple Mount is the holiest place for Jews, why don’t Women of the Wall want to fight for the right to pray there, in your opinion?

Yosef Rabin: Of course the Temple Mount is the holiest place for the Jewish People. I can only guess that WOW is using the Western Wall as a monthly prop to try to import Reform Judaism into Israel, (WOW Chairwoman) Anat Hoffman was quoted on the BBC stating as such.

Judean Rose: Has anyone mapped out all the known places of relics from the Temple Mount? We know about the ancient beams that were found when they were renovating the mosque. What else is up there that we know about? Are we able to protect these items from further destruction/deterioration?

Ancient beams made from the wood of cypress and cedars of Lebanon trees, discarded as refuse in the Shaar Rachamim compound on the Temple Mount.

Ancient wooden beams set afire on the Temple Mount.

Yosef Rabin: Rabbi Shlomo Goren, Former Chief Rabbi of the IDF and the State of Israel, wrote a very comprehensive book called “The Temple Mount” replete with maps. We have a very good idea of where the Temple stood, there are still slight disagreements as to the angle, but the general area is known. Much of the remains of the Temple have been destroyed or illegally dumped into Kidron valley, but a half million artifacts have been recovered and cataloged with the help of nearly 200,000 volunteers since 2004. BTW those ancient beams have been left to rot under a tarmac.

Yosef Rabin in the place he loves most.
Judean Rose: Why is it so difficult to get Jews to care about the Temple Mount? What can we do to help?

Yosef Rabin: This is a question I ask myself over and over. The Temple was removed from our national reality, nearly 1948 years ago this coming Tisha B’av. Our Rabbis teach us that redemption comes “slowly, slowly, like the coming of dawn” and that baby steps are necessary.

The Prophet Isaiah: “And I will bring them to My Holy Mountain, and will make them happy in My house of prayer, their burnt offering and sacrifices will be welcome on My altar, for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations “(56:7) I heard from Rabbi Yosef Elboim a beautiful explanation of this verse. Found within this verse are four stages of the redemption of the Temple Mount.

And I will bring them to My Holy Mountain” – The first stage is for the Jewish People to simply gather on the Temple Mount. Maimonides, Laws of the Chosen House chapter 7:7 “Even though the Temple is today destroyed…we should only enter into the areas (of the Temple Mount) that are permitted”

And will make them happy in My house of prayer” – The second stage is for the Jewish People to renew Jewish Prayer on the Temple Mount. Maimonides, Book of Commandments Command 5“The 5th Commandment is to serve God…this is the commandment to pray …Serve Him through His Torah and Serve Him in His Temple, One should pray within the Temple or towards it”

“Their burnt offering and sacrifices will be welcome on My altar” – The Third Stage is the reconstruction of the altar without the standing Temple and the re-institution of national sacrifices. Maimonides, Laws of the Chosen House chapter 6:15: “Therefore we sacrifice all sacrifices, even though the Temple is not standing.”

My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations” – The process culminates with the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, thus allowing all humanity to unite in worshiping the one true God. Maimonides, Laws of the Chosen House Chapter 1:1: “It is a positive commandment to build a House for God, for the sake of offering sacrifices and rejoicing in it three times a year – as it says “Build for Me a Temple" (exodus: 25:8).

This was the same way that Ezra and Nehemiah rebuilt the second Temple. They first ascended, then they built an altar and then years later actually rebuilt the Temple. Just like the State of Israel was built with the help of the Almighty via active and political Zionism and did not fall down from the sky; The [Third] Temple will also not fall from the sky, and we must be as active as possible, until we or our children, grandchildren or great grandchildren can complete the great task. It is not incumbent upon you to finish the task, but neither are you free to absolve yourself from it” (Ethics of Our Father 2:16). Everyone is encouraged to donate whatever sum they can, to help our movement continue on the slow and sure path of restoring our days as old. 

We have lots of ideas, but we need more resources to be even more effective. Please donate today to help get the message out and to help defend Israel.


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