An Israeli official made a visit to the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem on Tuesday, sparking anger among Muslims. Yet, while the Dome of the Rock is the third most holy site in Islam, it is the holiest spot on earth in Judaism as the site of the once and future Temple. Most recently, a Jewish scholar has argued that the Third Temple could be built on the Temple Mount without tearing down the Dome of the Rock. Of course, that idea has faced opposition from both Jews and Muslims.
"God's Holy Mountain Vision" project was launched last week, a new Jewish initiative to build the Third Temple on the Temple Mount beside the Dome of the Rock without tearing it down. Director of the initiative Yoav Frankel argues that a prophet could, by divine revelation, determine the precise site of the Temple and could have it rebuilt without the need to destroy the Muslim shrine.
"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 Frankel.
Of course, both Jews and Muslims oppose the proposal. Many Jews do not believe that the Temple should be built until the Messiah comes. Muslims agree that no Jewish temple should be built near their shrine.
Sheikh Abdulla Nimar Darwish, founder of the Islamic Movement in Israel, argues that it's pointless to discuss rebuilding the Temple until the "mahdi" – the Muslim messiah comes. "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."
Darwish warned that attempts to rebuild the Temple before the Messiah would only result in mayhem. "As long as there is a Muslim alive, no Jewish Temple will be built on Al-Haram Al-Sharif. The status quo must be maintained, otherwise there will be bloodshed."
The Dome of the Rock, which dominates the skyline of Jerusalem, was erected on the Temple Mount in the late 7th century. Muslims believe that the dome is built over the spot where Mohammad allegedly ascended into heaven to receive his Islamic commission, making it a very holy site in Islam. In 1967 Israel regained control of the Temple Mount, but shortly after gave the Muslim Waqf (religious trust) the authority to manage the mount in order to keep peace. Since 2006, visitors have been allowed to enter the compound at restricted times. Non-Muslim worshipers are still not permitted to enter the area.
Jewish authorities do not approve of entering the compound anyway, primarily because the site of the ancient Temple is still holy and there is no purification system in place to make worshipers ritually clean. There is also concern that people might accidentally tread across the site of the Holy of Holies. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel has placed signs outside the Temple Mount that state in Hebrew and English:
"ANNOUNCEMENT AND WARNING: According to the Torah it is forbidden for any person to enter the area of the Temple Mount due to its sacredness."
On Tuesday June 23, Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch visited the Temple Mount to review how police would deploy in case of an emergency. Aharonovitch's spokesman said that the visit was coordinated with the Waqf, who accompanied the minister around the site. However, a visit by Ariel Sharon in 2000 sparked the bloody Al-Aqsa Intifada, and the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Mohammed Hussein, called Aharonovitch's recent visit, "an assault on an Islamic place."
When a simple visit by an Israeli official causes violent anger among Muslims, the possibility of another Jewish Temple seems impossible. Still, the Bible speaks of a future Temple, one that stands in Jerusalem when the Man of Sin arrives to sit in the Temple and pretend to be God (2 Thess 2:3-4). For nearly 2000 years, the Jews have been without a Temple, and they long for its presence once again in Jerusalem. Despite the current existence of the Dome of the Rock, members of the Temple Mount Faithful movement have been preparing the necessary articles and priests necessary to resume ritual worship.
According to the Bible, both in the Old Testament and the New, the Temple will be rebuilt. The question is just when.