JERUSALEM — In a troubling trend that continues to be overlooked by international media, the Temple Activist movement that seeks to destroy the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and replace it with a Third Temple continues to advance its agenda. The movement’s forward progress is largely thanks to its successful efforts in recent years to rebrand as a “civil rights” movement — securing support from secular and religious Zionists alike — as well as to growing levels of support in Israel’s executive and legislative branches of government.
As was detailed in Part I of this series, the Temple Activist movement is now more mainstream than ever before and its effort to destroy the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, the third holiest site in Islam, has advanced with great rapidity since the year began and has picked up precipitously in recent weeks. Yet this new face of the Temple Activist movement — one that claims that its quest is to wrest control of the holy site from Jordanian and Palestinian custody in the name of “equal rights” for Israeli Jews — obfuscates the troubling origins of this once-fringe yet now normalized campaign.
Beginning in earnest after the Six Day War in 1967, the Temple Activist movement within Israel was largely formed by two groups of people: 1) a small, then-fringe group of messianic religious Zionists led by Rabbi Shlomo Goren that supported the complete annexation of Palestine, particularly Jerusalem with the Al-Aqsa mosque; and 2) former members of the secular Zionist paramilitary groups Irgun and Lehi, known for their penchant for massacring Palestinian civilians for political gain, who either became religious messianists following Israel’s 1967 victory or remained secular and felt that salvation for Israeli Jews necessitated the miltiary conquest of Palestine and the destruction of its mosques and churches — particularly the site of Al-Aqsa mosque, often referred to as either the Temple Mount or Haram El-Sharif (Arabic for “the Noble Sanctuary”).
The modern “friendly” face of the Temple Activist movement — embodied by figures like Yehuda Glick, former executive director of the Temple Institute and a member of Israel’s Knesset — hides the extremist and largely secular origins of this quasi-religious movement that — as Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss of Neturei Karta, an international organization of ultra-Orthodox Jews opposed to Zionism, told MintPress in Part I — is ultimately colonial (i.e., Zionist) in nature and uses religious imagery and appeals “to excuse their occupation and to try to portray this [the occupation of Palestine] as a religious conflict.”
As this installment of this multi-part series on the current threats facing the historic Al-Aqsa Mosque compound will show, the Temple Activist movement’s extremist origins and increasing normalization in Israeli society parallels the rise of Israel’s political far-right, particularly of the Likud Party — whose roots, much like those of the Temple Activist movment, trace back to secular Zionist paramilitaries like Irgun.
Miko Peled, Israeli author and human-rights activist, described this trend to MintPress as “the resurgence of the ‘good old days’ when young zealots were the forefront of the Zionist project.” Peled pointed out that these zealots set up the foundations for actions that are later pursued and consolidated by the Israeli state, such as in the context of the settler movement where, as Peled noted:
The [Israeli political] establishment comes in and takes over and turns an ‘outpost’ [established by a small group of extremists] into a settlement and then a city. The Haram El-Sharif or Temple Mount compound will be the same. These zealots, young and old are the cutting edge of Zionist ideologues and they do the ‘dirty work.’ Now they do not seem so radical any more and soon the state will come in full force.”
For that reason, and as this report will show, there is a significant degree of overlap between the dominant parties of Israeli politics today and the Temple Activist movement, with a majority of current Israeli government ministers, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself, and a large and influential lobby of lawmakers in Israel’s Knesset openly supporting the Israeli government takeover of Al-Aqsa mosque and its destruction and replacement with a Third Temple. Subsequent installments of this series will show how such an outcome is a grave threat to peace — not just in Israel/Palestine, but the entire Middle East — and a major yet widely overlooked motivation behind the foreign policy objectives of not only Israel’s current government but the Trump administration.
Shlomo Goren: The man who lit the match
The Israeli military’s conquest of the Old City of Jerusalem in 1967 was seen by some of its soldiers as a sign from the divine that end-times prophecies were being fulfilled. Among those who were the first to arrive at the newly conquered historic district of Jerusalem were three men who — in distinct ways — would go on to lead a movement aimed at remaking this area of Jerusalem in the image of their specific, and then-fringe, interpretation of Biblical prophecy. They were Shlomo Goren, then-Rabbi of the IDF and later Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel; Geroshon Salomon, then-soldier and later founder of the Temple Mount Faithful; and Yisrael Ariel, Rabbi and founder of the Temple Institute.