American Rabbi Forced to Flee Temple Mount After Violent Palestinian Riots
JERUSALEM – For the first time since the beginning of the Passover holiday, the Temple Mount was opened briefly to Jewish visitors and tourists on Sunday, April 20. The site had been closed last week on Sunday, Wednesday, and Thursday because of violent Palestinian rioting.
On Saturday night, April 19, five Arabs carrying tear gas were arrested as they tried to access the holy site.
Nevertheless, on Sunday morning, influential New York Rabbi Meir Soloveichik and his family were able to experience two full minutes on the Temple Mount, considered to be one of Judaism’s holiest sites where two Jewish Temples stood for nearly a millennium.
The rabbi’s visit was cut short when violent rioting once again broke out. The riots forced Soloveichik and his family, who were accompanied by Temple Institute International Director Rabbi Chaim Richman, to flee the site.
Two police officers were injured in the confrontation, and 24 arrests have been made. Arab worshipers threw concrete blocks and rocks at Israeli police.
The visit provided an opportunity for the American rabbi to join the struggle for Jewish prayer and presence on the Temple Mount. The Islamic Waqf, which was given administrative control of the mount following the Six Day War in 1967, bans Jewish prayer and worship.
Soloveichik is known as a Torah scholar, teacher, and leader, and gave the invocation at the opening session of the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. He is the son of Rabbi Eliyahu Soloveichik, the grandson of the late Rabbi Ahron Soloveichik, and the great nephew of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik – whom are credited for founding what has become the Modern Orthodoxy movement of Judaism.
He currently serves as rabbi of the Sephardic Congregation Shearith Israel in New York City.
“We are honored to welcome Rabbi Soloveichik,” said Temple Institute International Director Rabbi Chaim Richman. “His visit to the Temple Mount this morning was both spiritual and emotional for all involved. Above all else, his visit sends a strong message to world Jewry that we cannot abandon our holiest site.”
Commenting on today’s incident, Soloveichik expressed his dismay at the current situation.
“Under the current circumstances, even to go to the Temple Mount for two minutes was a tremendous privilege,” he said. “I am very much in favor of ascending the Temple Mount according to Halacha [Jewish law] and after taking the appropriate halachic precautions. It is critical for Jews to understand the importance of the Temple Mount. I applaud the increasing number of Orthodox rabbis and heads of yeshivot that are going to the holy site, and I predict we will see even more Jews ascending in the future.”