Guidelines to Ascending the Temple Mount
Forward: For many years the Temple Institute offered a personal tour of the Temple Mount for all who were interested in ascending. For a variety of reasons, we are no longer able to offer this service, not the least of which is the ever increasing number of people, Jews and Gentiles, who are interested in ascending the Mount in purity and from a Jewish halachic and spiritual perspective. However, large groups of Jews do ascend the Temple Mount every morning and afternoon and they are led by people knowledgeable in both the halachic requirements, the history and the topography of the Temple Mount. Jews and Gentiles are welcome to join them. Excellent guides, expert in Jewish law, the history and archaeology of the Temple Mount, are present each day, and afternoon. Among them are English speakers, as well as speakers of other languages. With or without a prearranged guide, you will be placed among a group of knowledgeable Jews who can assist you and answer any questions you might have.
The Temple Mount is opened to non-Muslims Sunday - Thursday, 7:30-11:00 AM, and 1:30-2:30 PM. These hours are slightly adjusted in the winter, and may be subject to change on Muslim holidays and during the month of Ramadan. Updated hours are usually posted on the Temple Institute's Facebook page. Additional information can be found in the article below.
The following is meant to be a brief summary of pertinent halacha (requirements of Torah law) and guidelines for ascending to the Temple Mount (aliya) in purity. It is not intended to be a substitute for in-depth study or at the very least, consultation with a Torah scholar who is acknowledged to be an expert in this highly specialized, often neglected subject.
The Temple Mount, in Hebrew Har Habayit, known in the Torah as Mount Moriah, is the holiest spot in the world for all mankind. It is the location of both the First and Second Holy Temple. Here, G-d commanded Avraham, father of the Jewish people, to bind his son Yitzchak. According to all the prophets of Israel, when the Third Temple is rebuilt on this same spot, this will usher in an era of peace and universal harmony unparalleled in the history of mankind. It is a fundamental principle of Jewish faith that the Temple will be rebuilt.
The Temple Mount is unlike any other place on earth, for it is the one spot where G-d chose to rest His presence and to make Himself known to man. Thus we find many expressions in the Torah such as "the place that I will choose" and "the place that I will show you." From the very beginning of time, this one location was set aside and sanctified by G-d as the focal point for mankind's spiritual energy.
When the Holy Temple stood, the experience of being there was to be in the presence of G-d. All people, Jews and Gentiles alike, were able to come there and partake of this direct, purposeful, and unfolding relationship. All came to recharge their spiritual batteries and come away renewed and invigorated by the reality of our constant, vibrant and intimate relationship with the Creator.
According to Biblical law and understanding, the holiness of the Temple Mount is unlike that of any other physical location on earth. For the Jewish people, there simply is no other holy site. Nothing else, no synagogue or house of study - or even the Western Wall - could be compared to this level of sanctity. This, despite the fact of the Temple's destruction and the desecration of the Mount.
Thus we find in the words of the great Torah sage Maimonides that visiting the Temple Mount today - as he himself did in his day, despite the risk of great personal danger - is similar to making a pilgrimage to the Holy Temple, itself. Since the levels of holiness are still in place, we are obligated to conduct ourselves accordingly, with the utmost reverence, and in accordance with Torah standards.
It is of primary importance to note that when we ascend to the Temple Mount in purity and under halachic guidelines, at no point will we actually tread on any of the areas where the Holy Temple or its inner courtyards actually stood. According to Torah law, this is forbidden for all people. Rather, we shall be tracing a path around the periphery of the sanctified areas, coming as close as we can to the actual Temple location, but remaining all the while in the outer areas of the Temple Mount.
The route of our visit is based on the rulings of great Torah authorities such as the Radbaz, Rabbi David ben Zimra, (1479 - 1573), who was one of the Torah giants of all generations. His halachic responses to thousands of questions posed to him by Jewish communities the world over, have been preserved in writing. When questioned as to where on the Temple Mount Jews are allowed to enter in order to perform the commandment of "morah mikdash" - showing reverence to the site upon which the Holy Temple stood - he answered in great detail. His vivid description of existing structures found on the Temple Mount, some of which are still standing today, and his clear answers concerning where one may approach the site of the Temple, form a halachic basis for all who go up to the Temple Mount today, (to perform the commandment of "morah mikdash" in accordance with Jewish law).
The laws of Biblical purity are extremely complex, and all their nuances cannot be clarified in this limited space. The magnificent dimensions of renewal experienced in everyday Jewish life by those who follow the eternal values of family purity, is living proof of the timeless wisdom and validity of these Divine principles. Suffice it to say that in the context of the Holy Temple, there are many more variables and dimensions of purity that form an integral part of the equation when coming to the place of the Shechina, the Divine Presence.
Thus even though the Temple veritably lies in ruins, we are still considered as pilgrims to the Holy Temple (olei regel), and we are encouraged to prepare ourselves as the pilgrims would, and once there, to conduct ourselves with due reverence as well.
Every effort should be made by tour participants to follow these minimal guidelines. This will help to ensure that our ascent to the Temple Mount will be extremely meaningful, both as a spiritual experience, and also as an educational experience. After all, we would expect to have to prepare ourselves both physically and spiritually, before entering into a holy place, wherein the presence of G-d is felt so strongly how much more so if we are about to enter into the holiest place on earth. If we know that a visit to the Temple Mount is so significant in G-d's eyes, and such a powerful statement of spiritual alignment and identification, then we have every right to anticipate a life-changing experience. As such we can readily understand the need for intense preparation and kavanah, intent, so that we do not fall prey to the dangers of complacency.
On the morning of the day of ascent to the Temple Mount, all Jewish males, regardless of age (even under bar mitzvah) should immerse in a kosher mikvah. Gentiles, both men and women, who are equally welcome to visit the permitted places on the Temple Mount - "for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations" - are not required to immerse.
Those who must immerse in a mikvah should first prepare themselves by making sure that nothing is present on the body that would constitute a separation between the body and the water of the mikvah. It is customary to trim the fingernails and toenails before immersion. Any questions regarding the complex laws of what constitutes a separation (chatziza) regarding immersion, should be directed to a competent authority.
According to Torah law, Jewish women should refrain from ascending the Temple Mount during the days of menstruation (niddah). No Jewish woman can ascend the Temple Mount in a state of niddah and without having immersed. A married Jewish woman may not ascend the Temple Mount while she is a niddah. She must purify herself through immersion in a mikvah. She must also wait three days since last being with her husband, and immerse again. This will be explained further on.
In order for a single Jewish woman to ascend the Temple Mount according to Torah law, there are issues which are challenging to solve. Single girls in our society do not use the mikvah until the eve of their wedding (indeed, there is a beautiful custom for a kallah to ascend the Temple Mount on the eve of her wedding, after immersing in a mikvah for the first time). Such a single woman would have to make all the preparations necessary before the immersion; these things are generally not taught to Jewish girls until they are ready to marry. However, there is a unique women's organization called "Women for the Holy Temple," with rabbinical support, which instructs and assists married women as well as girls in preparing for proper halachic ascent to the Temple Mount. Thus, although more complicated, under very specific circumstances after proper planning and preparation it is possible for unmarried women to make suitable arrangements for ascending.
Regarding an older woman. A woman who is after menopause is never again a niddah. Therefore, theoretically, she could ascend freely to the Temple Mount upon demand, with no need for any preparations... she is perpetually pure. However, this would only apply if: When she originally stopped having her period, she did the "hefsek" and the seven clean days, (as if she were preparing for her husband, normally) one more time... and then went to the mikveh. Then, afterwards she would never need go to the mikveh again. But she would only be in this category the rest of her life providing that she went to the mikveh properly that one more time. If she never went to the mikveh to differentiate between the pre and post, then -- even though she is after menopause and has never been a niddah since... still, halachically she would still be a niddah, and wouldn't be able to ascend without doing the hefsek, seven days, and mikveh. This could even be done years later.
All of the above, concerns a woman who does not have a period, and also, is not living with a man; i.e., a widow, divorcee, or single. IF a woman has a partner she lives with -- even if she doesn't get her period, there is still another issue that has to be taken into consideration, having nothing to do with the menstrual flow; this has to do with her husband's sperm, and for her, the halacha is that she must wait 3 days from the time of having been with her husband, and must then tovel in a mikveh again.
All who ascend the Temple Mount, whether man or woman, Jew or Gentile, are encouraged to wear non-leather shoes. This follows the understanding that we are visiting the Mount as pilgrims to the Holy Temple, and pilgrims do not enter into the hallowed area of the Mount in leather shoes. All plastic, rubber, canvas, or man-made materials are acceptable. It is also acceptable, and even praiseworthy, to ascent the Mount barefoot.
As befits conduct at any religious site, modest dress is requested. Furthermore, the Moslem wakf guards are quite insistent regarding this point. Women should be aware that if their attire is considered immodest by the Muslims, they will be told to cover up, however they can, or be denied entry. This includes bare arms and shoulders, low neckline, or shorts. Men, too, are not permitted by the Muslims to ascend in shorts.
Serious camera gear is not always permitted by the police. Smartphones, however are permitted.
For many decades Jews were not allowed to pray or show any outward, (or even visibly inward) expressions of their Jewish identity. While official policy has not changed, a revolution has taken place on the Temple Mount. Today, Jews regularly pray in a minyan (quorum of ten men or more), both morning (Shacharit) and afternoon (Mincha) services. Birkat kohanim (the priestly blessing) and kaddish are also regularly recited. People may use their smartphones as prayer books. Despite the loosening of restrictions, no Bibles, prayers or religious publications or paraphernalia, including jewelry, of any kind are allowed Men are permitted to wear kippot and to have tzizit showing.
Hishtachaviya – the act of prostrating oneself on the Temple Mount – which is a positive Torah commandment, is not allowed by the police. One who does prostrate oneself and is seen by the police, will be removed from the Mount and possibly detained or distanced from the Mount.
Today, hundreds of Jews ascend the Temple Mount daily, and the numbers keep growing. What was once described as “extreme” has now become mainstream.
The Jordanian run Muslim Wakf, (the Muslim authority granted de facto control of the Temple Mount, by the Israeli government, since 1967), remains as aggressively opposed to any Jewish presence on the Temple Mount, as ever. Jewish prayer and presence, (as well as that of righteous Gentiles) on the Temple Mount, has taken on crucial significance. Our peaceful presence is testimony to the paramount significance of the Temple Mount to the Jewish people and the spiritual life of all mankind. No less importantly, our peaceful presence on the Mount is a daily reminder to the Israeli government, and to freedom loving people around the world, that our most fundamental and inalienable rights of freedom of worship must be honored. We will continue to work toward greater freedom of access and worship for all, peacefully and in accordance with the law.
It is important to add that, despite oft-printed sensationalist headlines stating that the Temple Mount is a “powder keg ready to explode,” or the like, the Temple Mount, with the exception of Muslim holidays, when non-Muslims are not allowed entry, is a quiet and peaceful place. Your time spent on the Temple Mount will be restful, spiritually uplifting and greatly enlightening. Please contact us if you have further questions.