Today it is not the Jews who need a New Temple, it is the Muslims, because as long as the Jews have no New Temple a Damocles-sword is hanging above the Muslim sanctuaries, which stand on the site of the former Temple. If the Jews, “God’s Chosen People”, mean to act as healers in the conflict they may need to make themselves ready for a New Temple, in accordance with the scriptures, and with respect for their brothers and sisters in Abraham.
But currently many Jews would rather not have a New Temple. Liberal Jews categorically reject the idea of a New Temple. They see the destruction of the Temple by the Romans as a turning point, away from the sacrificial cult and from a central sanctuary towards decentralized places of purely spiritual worship.
For others a New Temple could not be just a revival of the Old Temple. They would not want to have animal sacrifices. A New Temple should not be a bloody one.
But above all the majority of Israeli Jews would not want to be dominated by a religious minority, which seeks to revive the old theocratic system, replacing the parliament with a new Sanhedrin. The majority of Israeli Jews would rather forgo a New Temple than jeopardize democracy.
In 1967, when Israel conquered the Temple Mount by force of arms, an historically unique opportunity opened up for a brief moment to rebuild the Temple. But the Israeli government did not jump at this opportunity. Only a small minority wanted a New Temple. The government did not want to take the risk of creating turmoil within the world’s Jewish population, which might have erupted, once the different denominations and ideological groups among them began to discuss the issue. Therefore, before there can be a New Temple, the conflict among the Jews themselves needs to be dealt with.
Today’s situation, however, might provide just that opportunity, since today it is not the Jews who need a New Temple but the Muslims. They need to be rid of the sword of Damocles menacing their sanctuaries. A New Temple could thus become an instrument of peace and of healing both for Jews themselves and for Muslims.
The Jews cannot rebuild the Temple without the Muslims. Even the orthodox Haredi-Jews might feel motivated to seek an agreement with the Muslims regarding the Muslim sanctuaries. All ideological and denominational Jewish groups will want to take part in the discussion, equally respected and recognized. And that might make clear to everybody that the New Temple really needs to be a new Temple with a new function, which is acceptable to all Jews. The object of conflict would thus be turned into an agent of the solution. The New Temple would show to the whole world that “God’s Chosen People” are indeed servants of healing and of peace.
The result of this dialogue-process, the New Temple, will then simultaneously be an instrument of atonement for the Jews, and, as predicted by the prophets, people of all over the world will come to see it as a shining symbol of peace, and they will start going there on pilgrimage to receive its blessings.
All this might sound quite unrealistic – if it were not for a public opinion poll of 2009, which showed that a surprising 64% of the total Jewish population of Israel wants a New Temple now – among them 49% of secular Jews.
Gottfried Hutter, chairman of the non-profit “Temple-Project Association”, Theologian, Historian, Munich, Germany
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