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In Israel, defenders of the Temple are gaining ground

That morning, a dozen faithful Jews are waiting around a buffet of snacks and fruit juices: they are waiting for their turn to “go up” to the esplanade of the Mosques. They revere it as the Temple Mount, the holiest place in Judaism. According to tradition, this is where the first two temples in Jerusalem were built, under Kings Solomon and then Herod. Right next to the sideboard, a model reproduces what the third should look like – a white rectangular building, with a facade decorated with columns, preceded by a large courtyard.

The small troop is led by Rabbi Tzvi Tal, white mustache and beige bob. All the Israeli guards know him; four years that he comes from the colony of Ofra, in the occupied West Bank, once a week, after soaking in a ritual bath. After about ten minutes, the group has the green light. The Jewish faithful enter the esplanade of the Mosques escorted by armed police, under the worried gaze of the Muslim guards.

Since the Israeli conquest of East Jerusalem in 1967, the Jewish state considers itself sovereign here, without this being recognized by the international community. In practice, the esplanade of the Mosques, the third holiest site in Islam, is administered by a pious Jordanian foundation, the Waqf. Israelis have officially retained the historical status quo of the Ottoman era: only Muslims are allowed to pray there. In the middle, the Dome of the Rock, whose golden dome has overlooked the Old City for thirteen centuries, houses the “Foundation Rock”. Muslims believe that from here Muhammad rose to heaven. The Jews see it as Mount Moriah, on which Abraham planned to sacrifice his son Isaac to God. This is where some, including Tzvi Tal, hope to rebuild the Third Temple.

” We are on the right path “

“This is the first time that the State of Israel is open to Jews. It is time “, judges this 65-year-old Orthodox rabbi. Makes him pretend to believe that a division of the esplanade between Jews and Muslims is possible. “The Al-Aqsa Mosque is not within the Temple, it can stay”, he said. History proves otherwise. In October 1990, seventeen Palestinians were killed in the Israeli police’s crackdown on a protest sparked by rumors of the Temple’s reconstruction. In September 1996, 80 people, mostly Palestinians, died in clashes after the opening of a tunnel under the esplanade. The place is a powder keg and Third Temple zealots walk around with a match.

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