The controversy over the Temple Mount is again threatening to ignite the region. Three Israeli and Jewish viewpoints suggest a different perspective on the holiness of the site and the meaning of sovereignty over it. Professor Israel Knohl relates to the partial fulfillment of Yeshayahu’s vision; Professor Elhanan Reiner explains the idea behind aliyah l’regel; and Professor Menachem Fisch explains that the holiness of place is not connected to ownership.
Yeshayahu’s vision of the nations thronging to the Temple Mount in the Final Days – “And it shall come to pass in the end of days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established at the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it” (Yeshayahu 2:2) – does not state that the nations will come to the Mount in order to receive the Torah as Jews. Yeshayahu spoke of the gathering of the nations to Jerusalem, to the Temple Mount, in order to encounter the one God and to receive instructions and guidance from him.
It should be remembered how unrealistic that idea appeared in his time: During the second half of the 8th century BCE, the whole world, apart from the small nation living in the Land of Israel, was made up of idol worshipers. Therefore to a certain extent, it is possible to view the fact that Muslims today, who according to the last survey of the Pew Institute this month constitute close to one quarter of humanity, believe in one God, reject idol worship and wish to pray to the one God in Jerusalem, as a partial fulfillment of Yeshayahu’s vision.
Since we are not living in the Messianic era, and in any case cannot rebuild the Temple, there exists today a situation in which it is possible to positively view the fact that Muslims come to the Temple Mount to pray to the one God, that they strictly reject divine images and pictures and ensure that other gods are not worshipped on the Mount.
Thus, apart from the questions of sovereignty and control and confrontations of this type, I think that we should view the issue of the Temple Mount through the lens of Yeshayahu’s great prophetic vision and hope that the partial fulfillment which we see today is the beginning of a process that will lead to its total fulfillment: “And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”