When my late father would hum to to himself, “may the Temple be rebuilt in our time”, he was not thinking of a political plan or a potential ideological agenda, only of an ancient Jewish soul music song.
He could not have imagined Naftali Bennett, Yehuda Glick or Moshe Feigllin as icons of the neo-Jew. He could not have imagined the idea being promoted by these three to rebuild the ancient Jewish Temple as concrete and viable plans; for my father, the Temple was an eternal yearning. This is the real gap between the Israeli generations: Grandpa and grandma did not conceive of an independent state, mother and father did not conceive of the Temple, and the grandsons are already conversing with the Messiah. Two generations read Israel’s future – our present – completely wrong. Those generations are gone now, but the Temple has been resurrected and turned into a political work plan. It is a huge and inspired idea that has naturally replaced the old, worn down content. Once we used to talk about the resurrection of the Hebrew language, the redemption of the land and of man, of nationality, of multi-culturalism, a melting pot. Today we talk about the Temple. Not all of us, but it is only a question of time.
We are nearing a third Israeli revolution. The first lasted from 1948 to 1977. It inspired the founders of the state to lay down the foundations for a secular and socialist state. Their energy lasted 29 years. In 1977, they were deposed and replaced by the second Israeli revolution. This one turned Israel into a religious, nationalistic and capitalistic society and state. On Israel’s 70th anniversary, in 2018, the second Israel will celebrate nearly four decades. Apparently this revolution has run its course, as well.
Out of the ruins of the two, a third revolution is emerging. The idea at the heart of the first revolution was the state, the second’s was territory – a greater Israel comprising the land on both sides of the Jordan River. And the third revolution is motivated by an idea, which overshadows all the rest – the Temple.
From the West and from Tel Aviv, this idea seems remote and surreal, but in Jerusalem and the occupied territories it is a practical, political plan. Institutions, seminars, pilgrimages and known personas have turned this primordial yearning into a hands-on policy. I would not be surprised if a majority among the Likud party’s elected bodies support the Temple Mount Faithful.
The secular, veteran elite, the one that lived by Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s creed, the ruling party’s elite, no longer exists. Rivlin is up, while the more moderate and liberal Likud veterans – the “Meridor”s and “Begin”s – are down and [Benjamin] Netanyahu is only a flimsy facade, a worn mask of one-time glory. As long as the idea of the Temple and its resurrection was kept behind a political and rabbinical lock and a key, Israel was a sort of secular state. The moment the gatekeepers failed and the prison was broken into, the Temple and its demons escaped and there is no one to stop them.
The reasons for the growing popularity of the Temple idea are varied. First and foremost, God has been awakened. Then came state funding funneled to institutions and Jewish seminars which have been cultivating the Temple idea for decade, funding that changed the character of Israeli democracy. The ideologies were always there but this old-new idea has been imbued with a sense of urgency, a real sense of the end of days, according to which any clash of civilizations (even between Christianity and a Muslim Caliphate) is meant only to enable the resurrection and rebuilding of the Jewish God’s kingdom.
Several Jewish attempts to blow up the Temple Mount’s mosques have been exposed in the past. They were all foiled, but the motivation has not disappeared. On the other hand, despite all of the placating words spoken by Yehuda Glick and his foolish disciples, it is not likely they will ever succeed in enlisting supporters who are not violent and do not crave to destroy the mosques. Their supporters are encouraged by the fact that the issue, which was once on the farthest national and spiritual sidelines, has been turned into a focal point of rightist ideas. Israel has already been conquered by these idea, and in order to prevent any appeals against this conquest, they now want to re-liberate the Temple Mount and the holy goal justifies the means.
I think that this issue has become the deepest and most essential issue of Israeli politics. It has become the test which defines the political camps in Israel. Who is in favor of a Temple? Turn right. Who is in favor of rehabilitating Israel as a secular and democratic state? Turn left.
Sadly, the Israeli left is lacking a leadership that can handle such a confrontation. Such leadership could have had a chance of turning this current madness into a winning political force. The separation of state and religion, keeping agitators away from the Temple Mount and bringing down the pyromaniacs. The answer to slogans like “the left will divide Jerusalem” is “the Likud is building the Temple.” The answer to “the left will return everything” is “the right blows up mosques.” The response to “Security is Bibi’s strength” must be “Netanyahu is responsible for the Third World War, the War of Religion.” Above all should hover the understanding that “the right is the Temple, it is the Jewish Daesh” (Islamic State).
Parts of the Muslim world want to go back to the seventh century and the mythological Caliphate. Some Jews want to go back even farther, to 70 AD, to the day before the destruction of the Temple on the 9th of the Jewish month of Av. The only way to fight them is in the present, in the year 2014 AD. For that there is still a majority in Israel, in Palestine and in the Middle East.
Avraham (Avrum) Burg served as Speaker of the 15th Knesset and Chairman of the Jewish Agency. He is a writer and Senior Fellow of the Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue, Vienna.
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