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Israeli Settler Priests Prepare to Build Holy Temple, Resume Animal Sacrifices

temple institute

Temple Institute’s Passover priestathon

An Israeli friend has found an amazing YouTube video (apologies that it is in Hebrew without English captions) of the quasi-religious ceremony at which settler paraded scores of white tunic-clad (also called “kittels”) men of various shapes and sizes as the coming generation of kohanim (priests), who would assume duties when (not “if”) the State destroys the Dome of the Rock and replaces it with a rebuilt Holy Temple.  All this is under the auspices of the Temple Institute.  In a related incident, Israeli police arrested radical settler activists attempting to bring goats to the Temple Mount for the ritual Passover sacrifice.  No sooner were they released than one of them was rearrested bringing yet another goat into the Old City for sacrificial purposes.

To my surprise, my rightist readers didn’t pooh-pooh earlier coverage of this incident by saying these are a bunch of crazy marginal extremists.  Instead, a few readers argued that this ceremony is an entirely mainstream ritual with no extremist overtones.  I’d hoped at least a few readers would try to argue the marginal angle so I could respond by noting how insane Ariel Sharon’s plan to settle hundreds of thousands of settlers in the Territories appeared in the late 1970s, when there were only 20,000 settlers there.  One could retreat even farther in history to 1968 and speak of the small spark that was the settler movement then.  No one could foresee that from a tiny protest in Sebastia led by Shimon Peres, this incipient movement would, in effect, become a hidden elite actually controlling the Israeli government and political system.

So, when a bunch of seeming fanatics parade a bunch of fat, balding middle aged men through the streets of Jerusalem and tell us they’re the Jewish High Priests of the future, I sit up and take notice.  This is friggin’ scary.  Not because the rest of world Jewry will respond in any positive way to this rump attempt to revive the priestly elite.  But rather because the combination of this religious movement allied with State power will send Israel even farther in the direction of religious holy war.

There may be readers and policymakers in the U.S. and Europe who believe that this is a case of the boy who cried, “wolf.”  But I assure any sensible analyst or policymaker that this is a lot worse than a silly visual farce (which it is).  It could rapidly spin out of control, just as Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount led directly to the second Intifada.  If anyone thinks Muslims throughout the world will react with equanimity to news of Jews encroaching on the Haram al-Sharif, they should have their heads examined.  Israeli Jewish fanaticism will be met with strenuous Muslim resistance.

I also urge Jewish religious leaders around the world to soundly reject this project.  There must be a loud, united voice saying Jews do not want this.  We do not want priests, we do not want sacrifices, we do not want Jews raising their arms in a priestly salute that reminds some of us other similar past racist salutes, we do not want a Temple.  The poor goat sacrificed is worthier than those who would slaughter it.  The blood flowing from its veins which they bless with a bracha is nothing more than a travesty and needless animal cruelty.  Their ritual project is nothing more than what the impatient Jews did in Sinai with the Golden Calf.  It is avodah zarah, worship of strange gods.  We want values and ideas, not sacred relics.

If there is anyone out there who objects, let them think back in Jewish history to the age of the Temple.  Remember the corruption, violence, unrest, class divisions.  Remember when the Romans destroyed the Temple and Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai escaped to found his school at Yavneh and ushered in the era of rabbinical (rather than priestly) leadership.  Since that historical moment Jews have rejected centralized authority in the form of monarchy or priesthood.  Instead, Jews have embraced a decentralized, democratic form of leadership led by rabbis and lay leaders.

We don’t need priests.  We don’t need kings.  We don’t need a theocratic state.  As Jews, we need Israel to be a democratic state.

Speaking of the Judaism (and Israel) I want, a group of African refugees celebrated a seder in an Israeli concentration camp along with Israeli human rights activists:

holot passover seder

Behold the bread of affliction. Let all who are hungry come and eat. (Roi Edan)

Outside the Holot detention center, migrants sat with Israeli activists amid the dust of the vast desert and listened to speeches about the lessons of the weeklong Passover holiday: the meaning of freedom and the importance of showing hospitality to strangers. They ate matzo, the unleavened bread meant to commemorate the Jews’ hastened flight from Egypt, when they did not have time to wait for their bread to rise. There was no wine, a main fixture of the holiday, out of respect for Muslim migrants who refrain from drinking alcohol.

“(Jews) asked to leave Egypt. We also asked to leave our countries because the situation there is very difficult,” said Anwar Suliman, a migrant from Sudan’s Darfur region who has been held at Holot for the past month. “We are in the same situation.”

During their Passover ritual they, just like Jews, asked for their freedom. They asked why, if Jews could gain their liberation from bondage in Egypt, today’s refugees can’t be treated with dignity and respect in modern Israel. Why they can’t be sheltered as international law demands instead of being sent to countries like Rwanda and Uganda, where they are stateless.

Poignant questions deserving of answers. Instead of the hostility and moral obtuseness with which they’re normally met by Israel’s racist government.

{ 17 comments… add one }
  • Marc April 16, 2014, 12:11 AM

    I wholeheartedly disagree.

    The sooner the kooks and crazies get their temple into gear, the sooner there will be either a bloody altercation or, less probably, a temple in reality. And when the kooks and crazies get the temple up or the violence up – there will be a civil war in Israel. And, alas, it is time. It is past time.

    Israel needs and Sumter. Israel, more so, needs an Antietam. And Israel needs an Appomatox.

    There is no promise that the non-kooks will win. But a civil war will clarify who is and who isn’t.


  • Sara April 16, 2014, 5:21 AM

    “If anyone thinks Muslims throughout the world will react with equanimity to news of Jews encroaching on the Haram al-Sharif, they should have their heads examined. Israeli Jewish fanaticism will be met with strenuous Muslim resistance.”

    This comment typifies your extremist worldview on the conflict. Why is it Jews encroaching on their own holiest site? Why is it the Muslims who are resisting? It makes no sense; you often speak this way when it comes to the Temple Mount. It’s like you have no comprehension or appreciation whatsoever of the concept of Jewish holy sites and rituals, but when it comes to Islam you have all the appreciation and context and sympathy in the world.

    And to compare the priestly outstretched arms with the Nazi salute…that is simply, I don’t know what

    • Richard Silverstein April 17, 2014, 1:01 AM

      Jews encroaching on their own holiest site?

      Worshipping a physical site as holy whether a Temple or land, is Christian. It’s avodah zarah. Jews worship books, ideas, rituals. The Ten Commandments don’t call on us to sacralize buildings. They call on us to repsect ethical values. They don’t tell us to worship places or bones or relics. We no longer have a physical ark or Temple for worship.

      As for the “encroaching” part of your commment: there is no Temple. There is only a Wall left as a remnant. In place of the Temple there is a mosque. For Jews to do anything on or to this site it means destroying the Haram al Sharif. There is no way to share the TEmple Mount. It’s either Muslim or Jewish. Right now it’s Muslim because there is a gorgeous mosque there that is sacred to hundreds of millions of the world’s Muslims. If you want to encroach you will cause a holy war. That’s something I refuse to allow to happen if I can do anything to stop it.

      • Elisabeth April 17, 2014, 2:44 AM

        I am not sure that worshipping a physical site as holy, a temple (church?) or land (Israel?), is Christian. What comes to mind is perhaps the supposed site of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. Or do you mean the graves of Catholic saints that are pilgrimage sites?
        But Jews make pilgrimages to graves of famous rabbi’s too, and pray at ‘Rachel’s Tomb’ or the ‘Cave of the Patriarchs’ and so on. And many certainly seem to treat the Western Wall as holy.
        I think that, as is usually the case, both (or all) religions include groups that do certains things and groups that don’t. And that goes for every aspect of religion.

        • Richard Silverstein April 17, 2014, 11:39 AM

          When I referred to CHristianity’s worship of physical objects I was thinking of pilgrimage sites which there are throughout Europe and Israel (Lourdes, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Gethsemane, etc.) plus the worship of saints’ relics. I guess this is more a Catholic thing than Protestant, just as Orthodox Jews do their own pilgrimages while non-Orthodox don’t.

      • Shoshana April 17, 2014, 3:05 AM

        The Dome of the Rock became politicized, and than holy, in response to Zionism. Before Zionism, Muslims could care less about the Dome and Jerusalem.

        link to jpost.com

        • Richard Silverstein April 17, 2014, 11:35 AM

          @ Shoshana: The fact of the matter is despite your rather lame grasp of Islam, the Haram al-Sharif is the 3rd holiest site in Islam. Just as you cannot deny, try as you may, that there is a Palestinian people, you simply cannot deny this fact regarding the Dome of the Rock.

          Whether it was or wasn’t important to Islam at some date in the past is immaterial and fudges the issue. What matters is how it is viewed now. Unless you want to live in that time in the indistinct past. BTW, at some date in the indistinct past before Zionism, there was NO interest in Judaism in rebuilding the Temple. So you’re even. And what does it all prove? Nothing.

          • ben April 17, 2014, 1:20 PM

            Richard according to wiki the temple mount is the 3rd holiest sight for sunni and around 5th for shia.

            Yes the sight is beautiful today but afaik thats do to the bin Laden family renovating the sight in the 80’s. Pictures from the jordanian occupation show a sight that was close to ruin. I am thinking that as long as jews did not have a direct interest in the sight there was little interest in maintaining the sight. Which obviously changed in 67 with israel being the current occupier. To me it reminds me of when I was young and found one of my brothers old toys… he could have cared less about it but the second he saw me play with he he would demand it back and then covenant it.

            Does this story not sound simular to jews wanting to pray on the temple mount?

      • ben April 17, 2014, 1:10 PM

        Richard do you think there will be a time when jews praying at muslims sights would not be seen as radical? My temple in Toronto does anual tidings with a local mosque without any provocation…

        I mean can an orthodox Christian pray in the blue mosque or if a muslim want pray in the vatican? Or is it more like former mosques in Spain where muslim prayer is forbidden…

        Personally if we jews were respectful in reverence on the temple mount I see no quarrel with have a small prayer area between the wall and the dome as there is enough room if they let us…

        • Elisabeth April 17, 2014, 3:02 PM

          Ben, I think a major problem is the context, as you also seem to indicate: We have (liberal) churches here in the Netherlands (in my town for instance) that function on Sundays as churches in the morning and mosques in the afternoon, but this is possible because there is no context of occupation or history of ethnic cleansing. It will be hard to share places of worship in a similar way in Israel for a long time because of the Nakba, discrimination of Israeli Palestinians and so on. (But then, even without such a history, the more militant ‘our religion is IT’ denominations in any country will balk at the idea of sharing their locations of worship.)

  • Sara April 16, 2014, 5:27 AM

    And Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount had nothing to do with the Second Intifada, which was planned long beforehand. But even if it did cause it, just think about that for a second, it’s the perfect example of your topsy-turvy worldview: how is this not a manifestation of Muslim fanaticism? Why is somebody walking somewhere a spark for a war that killed thousands?? Do you see how far your 100% non-critical approach to Islam, Arabs, and Palestinians takes you?? You have two completely different sets of standards for the Jews and the Arabs.

    • Richard Silverstein April 17, 2014, 12:54 AM

      @ Sara: Of course Sharon’s walk on the Mount not only directly provoked the Intifada, Sharon intended for it to do so. In fact, IDF generals have explicitly said the army was provoking Palestinian violence in the hopes of drawing a violent response from Palestinians. The IDF too wanted a violent Palestinian rebellion it could brutally put down. This became the Intifada. I’ve published a post about this quoting the general in question.

      Only an idiot or someone ignorant to the bone could wonder how a murderous Israeli general’s provocative walk on the Temple Mount could provoke Palestinian violence. Are you obtuse? Do you have any sense in your brain? Or do you just eat drink & sleep Jews & Israel all day long to the exclusion of all else?

      You’re done in this thread. DOn’t publish again here (in the thread) or you will be moderated.

  • Robert April 16, 2014, 2:52 PM

    Richard, I love these sentences: “The poor goat sacrificed is worthier than those who would slaughter it. The blood flowing from its veins which they bless with a bracha is nothing more than a travesty and needless animal cruelty. Their ritual project is nothing more than what the impatient Jews did in Sinai with the Golden Calf. It is avodah zarah, worship of strange gods. We want values and ideas, not sacred relics.”

    • Richard Silverstein April 17, 2014, 12:44 AM

      @ Robert: You have no idea how grateful I am to find that my writing resonates for you. I devote a great deal of thought & effort to it. Nice to have it appreciated.

  • Robert April 16, 2014, 3:00 PM

    Can we ask what the concept of “sacrifice,” as represented in the ancient ritual of the donation of an animal, might actually mean to Israel now?

    • Richard Silverstein April 17, 2014, 12:48 AM

      @ Robert: Interestingly, there is a great poem by Natan Alterman called, in English, The Silver Platter. The concept is that the youth of Israel are served on a silver platter. Those young people who fight & die for the Jewish homeland are something like a paschal sacrifice, served on a silver platter to the nation. In a similar sense, they are making a personal sacrifice of their own lives to the nation. So in some sense Israeli nationalism is steeped in martyrdom, sacrifice, and even in cases like Masada, Trumpeldor or Samson, heroic suicide for the nation.

  • Nonsense April 16, 2014, 7:56 PM

    [comment deleted–off topic. Confine yourself to the specific topic of the blog post]

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