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Proposal to Build Synagogue on Temple Mount Shunted Aside

August 8, 2000
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Israel’s Chief Rabbinical Council has postponed a debate on a proposal to build a synagogue at what is perhaps the most sensitive site in the Middle East — Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.

Instead, the council, which is the top policy-making body for Israel’s Orthodox establishment, appointed a special committee on Monday to study the matter.

In an indication of how charged the proposal is, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, the senior Islamic official there, warned that building the synagogue would start a war “that only God knows where it would lead.”

The site of the First and Second Temples, the Temple Mount is now where the Al- Aksa Mosque and Dome of the Rock shrine are located. It is regarded as the third holiest site in Islam.

The synagogue proposal was made by the chief rabbi of Haifa, Sha’ar Yishuv Cohen, a longtime supporter of letting Jews pray at the Temple Mount. He is reported to have evidence that a synagogue existed there following the destruction of the Temples.

The Chief Rabbinical Council said Monday that it still supports a religious ruling barring Jews from entering the Temple Mount.

Because the exact location of the original Temples is not known, the ruling was issued because of biblical injunctions about maintaining ritual purity when entering the holy site.

While Monday’s deliberations were of a religious nature, they were also politically delicate, given that the issue of control over Jerusalem and its holy sites was what caused the recent Camp David summit to end in disagreement.

One of the proposals reportedly raised at the failed summit was to grant the Palestinians administrative control over the Temple Mount.

Earlier Monday, Israel Radio reported that a senior Israeli official had asked that the rabbinical council cancel its planned meeting because of the political sensitivity of the matter.

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