PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with leading Temple Mount extremist Yehuda Glick, who presents him with a copy of his book, "Arise and Ascend: A Guide to the Temple Mount."
Over the past decade, the messianic Temple Mount movement has grown rapidly, gravitating from the margins of Israeli society to the mainstream. Often couching their agenda in terms of civil rights and religious freedom, these Jewish extremists have been pressuring the Israeli government to force open for Jewish worship the historic Noble Sanctuary mosque complex in occupied East Jerusalem (known as the Temple Mount to Jews), the third holiest site in Islam and one of the most sensitive religious sites in the world, with the ultimate objective of building a Jewish temple where two ancient temples once stood.
In recent weeks, their provocations have been a major factor behind protests in the occupied Palestinian territories, with many Palestinians fearing that Israel is planning to take over part or all of the Noble Sanctuary for Jewish use, as it did with the historic Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron following the massacre of 29 Palestinian worshippers by an Israeli-American settler in 1994.
While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claims he has no intention of changing the status quo in the Noble Sanctuary that has been in effect since Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem began during the 1967 War, which allows non-Muslims to visit but not pray there, his cabinet and Likud party are filled with Temple Mount extremists, his government funds organizations whose openly declared goal is to build a Jewish temple in the Noble Sanctuary, and Israeli public schools teach Jewish children to yearn to do the same.
Notable Temple Mount Extremists in the Israeli Government
The current Israeli government includes a number of Temple Mount extremists in senior ministerial posts who have been agitating for the imposition of Jewish-Israeli sovereignty over the Noble Sanctuary and the construction of a Jewish temple there, including:
- Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely: In October 2015, Hotovely, a rising member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, declared during a TV interview: “My dream is to see the Israeli flag flying over the Temple Mount.” She previously stated: “The construction of the temple in its place on Temple Mount should symbolize the renewal of the sovereignty of the People of Israel in its Land.”
- Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Uri Ariel: A settler and member of the extreme right-wing Jewish Home party, Ariel has also publicly called for the construction of a Jewish temple in the Noble Sanctuary. In July 2013, then-Housing and Construction Minister Ariel declared to settlers in the occupied West Bank: “We’ve built many little, little temples… but we need to build a real Temple on the Temple Mount.”
- Deputy Defense Minister Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan: The notoriously racist Ben Dahan is also a settler, member of the Jewish Home party and a staunch advocate of changing the status quo in the Noble Sanctuary. In May 2014, then-Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs Ben Dahan announced that his ministry was drafting new rules that would change the regimen of the site, stating: “I expect the prime minister and the government of Israel to adopt and validate these regulations and allow all Jews who desire so to go up to the Temple Mount and pray there.”
- Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev: Another hardline rising star in Netanyahu’s Likud party, Regev has been aggressively campaigning to change the status quo in the Noble Sanctuary, including introducing a bill to the Israeli Knesset (parliament) in May 2014 calling for Jews to be able to pray there.
- Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked: Jewish Home party member Shaked also supports changing the status quo in the Noble Sanctuary. In October 2014, she declared: "The Prime Minister should just apply [Israeli] sovereignty over Jerusalem which today, unfortunately, is being abandoned, and should, together with the Minister of Justice, sign these regulations.”
- Minister of Public Security Yariv Levin: In February 2014, then-chairman of Israel’s governing coalition Levin, also a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, declared: “It seems to me that when Jews for so many years sat in exile and prayed for a return to Zion, they did not mean Tel Aviv, but Jerusalem. They did not dream of returning to the Knesset building and the Prime Minister’s office, but to someplace else – to the Temple Mount.”
- Jerusalem Affairs Minister Zeev Elkin: Another settler and member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, Elkin once declared: “It is important to remove it [the Temple Mount] from the purview of the wild-eyed religious. We must explain to broad swaths of the people that without this place, our national liberty is incomplete.”
- Speaker of the Israeli Knesset Yuli Edelstein: In 2012, then-Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Edelstein, who is also a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, declared: “My job is to deal with the daily process, connecting and building the People of Israel, which leads to the Temple.”
- Yehuda Glick: While not a member of the government or Knesset, Glick, a leading Temple Mount activist, regularly attends meetings of Netanyahu’s Likud parliamentary faction, and ran for a seat in the Knesset on the Likud party ticket during the last election. Glick is also the next Likud member in line to enter the Knesset if a new party rotation system is implemented.
Israeli Government Support for the Temple Institute & Other Messianic Extremists
The Israeli government and municipalities like the city of Jerusalem directly fund groups such as the Temple Institute, which are actively working towards building a Jewish temple in the Noble Sanctuary, and sponsor their public events. The Temple Institute is also promoted on the municipality of Jerusalem’s website and on its official tourism site.
- According to a November 2015 report in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper:
The [Temple] institute has received some 1.4 million shekels [approximately $361,000 USD] in Education Ministry funding over the past five years, according to Finance Ministry figures, while the Culture and Sports Ministry has provided a further 814,000 shekels [approximately $210,000 USD] in additional funding to another affiliate of the Temple Institute.
- According to a March 2013 report by Israeli NGOs Ir Amim and Keshev:
In the years 2008-2011, the Ministry of Culture, Science and Sports and the Ministry of Education supported the Temple Institute and the Midrasha at an average rate of NIS 412,000 [approximately $105,000 USD] per year.
On December 30, 2010 a highly attended conference took place at Binyanei Ha’uma (The Jerusalem Conference Center). The event, promoted as ‘Every Jew Has a Part in the Sacred’ (the logo on the invitation proclaimed ‘Something good is happening in Jerusalem!’), drew thousands of attendees, mostly Haredim. The program included a discussion of ritual sacrifice and an exhibit presenting a model of the Temple. It also showcased a virtual presentation illustrating the construction of the Third Temple on the ruins of the Dome of the Rock [shrine in the Noble Sanctuary]. The conference was held under the auspices of the Jerusalem Municipality’s Department of Religious Culture.
- In April 2015, Jerusalem’s chief rabbi gave his blessing to and attended an event held by the Temple Institute where a lamb was ritually slaughtered in “rehearsal” for doing so in the Noble Sanctuary one day. As one of the organizers noted, “The minute the government approves, we know exactly how to do it.” The event poster stated that it was “supported by the Jerusalem municipality,” and Jerusalem city council member Aryeh King, who heads one of the largest settler groups in occupied East Jerusalem, also attended.
- In June 2015, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat spoke at an event organized by the Temple Institute aimed at kindergarten-aged children.
Incitement & Indoctrination of Children in Israeli Public Schools
In addition to Israeli government funding for extremist Temple Mount groups and sponsorship of their events, public schools in Israel indoctrinate Jewish children into the Temple Mount movement and instill a desire to build a temple in the Noble Sanctuary.
- According to a November 2015 report in Haaretz newspaper entitled, Religious Public Schools Teach Children to 'Long for the Third Temple,' for a number of years Jewish public religious schools have been using a curriculum that stresses the importance of building a third temple in the Noble Sanctuary to the national goals of Israel and Judaism. According to the report, the government has been paying the Temple Institute to organize lectures and workshops for both religious and secular students. In 2014 alone, the Israeli government paid the Temple Institute more than $85,000 USD for such services.
The article also noted:
The section dealing with ‘Love of the Land and the Temple’ is part of the social studies curriculum in state religious schools. Development of the curriculum began about seven years ago, an Education Ministry source said, and since then has undergone a number of adjustments. This year, the curriculum – which is geared for grades 1 through 6 – is mandatory as part of the students’ study of faith. There is no direct reference in the set of lessons or elsewhere in the section on ‘Love of the Land and the Temple’ to Al-Aqsa Mosque [the Noble Sanctuary], which has been such a flashpoint in recent weeks.
The beginning of the ‘Love of the Land and the Temple’ curriculum states, ‘It is impossible to talk about the Land of Israel without speaking about the Temple. The Land of Israel and the Temple are attached to one another ... The Temple is at the pinnacle of the aspirations of the Jewish people and humanity as a whole.’”
To convey a sense of the loss of the Temple, the workshop proposes that teachers explore the following: ‘A list of the most major threats, both spiritual and material, facing the Jewish people, and add all your personal difficulties and those of your students. And then think about how each item on the list would be different if we had the Temple right here, right now.’
- Additionally, state-funded Zionist youth groups like Bnei Akiva indoctrinate young Israelis into the Temple Mount movement through workshops and other actions, including in cooperation with organizations like Return to the Mount (also known as Returning to the Mountain), which aggressively encourage Jews to pray in the Noble Sanctuary and openly incite them to destroy the mosques within it.
For further reference, see our previously released fact sheet, Misperceptions Regarding Tensions Over the Noble Sanctuary.