More “Third Temple” Enthusiasts

The Jerusalem Post and other sources are reporting on a new proposal for a “Third Temple” in Jerusalem. The idea has come from a certain Yoav Frankel, who in a 2007 paper suggested that a “prophet” would have the authority to establish a new Jewish Temple adjacent to the Dome of the Rock, thus turning the Temple Mount into an interfaith space and defusing one reason for continued conflict in the region. His idea is explained on this website, with an extended English-language version of his article here. He is part of an “Interfaith Encounter Association“, and his project is being directed by Ohr Margalit, an academic at Bar-Ilan University. Margalit gives a gushing pitch at the Washington Post:

a rebuilt temple…would be the radical fulfillment of God’s original mandate to the Jewish people and of the original purpose of the Temple, to manifest the One God to the world. This would be more powerfully accomplished with Christian and Muslim shrines nearby along with the pilgrims that visit them. At the very same time, with a rebuilt Temple in peaceful proximity, Allah would be more powerfully manifested in the Dome and in the Al Aqsa Mosque, and likewise for God, the Prince of Peace, in surrounding churches. All would occur simultaneously because the world would then understand and embrace the prophecy of Zechariah 14:9, “On that day, God will be One and His Name One.”

In fact, Frankel is not the first person to suggest that a new Temple could be constructed without damaging the Dome of the Rock, although other schemes have been based on archaeological revisionism rather than the idea of a prophetic fiat. Problems still abound, though: how exactly would a “prophet” achieve the status needed to be taken seriously? Charismatic authority in ultra-Orthodox Judaism tends to lead to sectarian division rather than unity, while authority structures and intellectual traditions in other strands of Judaism mean there is little chance they would succumb to a personality cult. The reality of Temple worship would be unattractive as well – for most Westerners, a return to killing animals as a religious practice is more likely to evoke disgust and bewilderment than feelings of piety.

Further, most Israelis have no interest in a “Third Temple”, and would resent the way such a thing would symbolise the power of an already overbearing religious establishment, while right-wing groups who would like to see its construction are usually adamant that the Muslim buildings must go. Also, how could a new building avoid damaging ancient archaeology on the site or impeding research, even if the Muslim structures are untouched? A new Temple would hardly be a restoration job, but rather an unparalleled modification to an ancient site (with dramatic knock-on effects for the wider area) where conservation should be the top priority.

And why would Muslim authorities agree to it? The example of adjacent Muslim and Jewish worship at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron is not encouraging.

Alas for Frankel and Margalit, the religious group which has shown the most excitment over the idea is apocalyptic Christian Zionists (e.g. here, here, and here), although not in a way they would like: from this perspective the plan is just confirmation of a coming “False Prophet”, who will establish the anti-Christ at the head of a one-world religion based at this very spot. Once again, an idea that is on the outer fringes in the Israel of the real world becomes central to Christian fundamentalist fantasy.

(Hat tip: Paleojudaica)