Looking back at the Six day war of 1967, many remember the emotional pictures of Israeli’s at the Western Wall. On top of the wall, dramatic scenes were also taking place on the Temple Mount itself – scenes which would lay the foundation for the modern day movement to rebuild the Temple.
Looking Back at ‘67
On June 6th 1967, the words of Paratroop Brigade Commander Motti Gur resounded across the nation of Israel: ‘The Temple Mount is in our hands’.
Rugged and war-weary Israeli soldiers streamed to the Western Wall towards which the Jewish people had prayed ever since the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. Even secular Israeli soldiers who had never prayed a prayer were seen openly weeping and asking their fellow soldiers how to pray.
Meanwhile, on the Temple Mount, the Israeli flag was hoisted over the famed Dome of the Rock. Motti Gur held a brigade roll call for his paratroopers on the Temple Mount Plaza itself. Addressing his men that dramatic day, Motti spoke of the heroes of Israel’s past including the Maccabees who liberated Jerusalem and rededicated the Temple in 164BC. Like the Maccabees, Motti’s men had overcome overwhelming odds to return to Israel’s holiest sites. Was Motti’s brigade destined to be part of a new generation of heroic Maccabees – returning the Jewish people to the Temple Mount?
IDF chief chaplain, Rabbi Shlomo Goren did not exactly attempt to restrain the troops’ religious excitement. Having sounded the shofar at the Western Wall, Goren excitedly ascended the Temple Mount and entered into the Dome of the Rock itself where he recited psalms.
Upon exiting, Rabbi Goren approached IDF commander Uzi Narkiss. “In preparation for the imminent Messianic era”, he suggested, “the IDF should utilize its explosives on hand to demolish the mosques on the Temple Mount”.
A Stunning Disappointment
Rabbi Goren was in for a stunning disappointment – IDF commander *Narkiss not only ignored Goren’s request – but according to reports even threatened Goren with prison if he kept on with this idea.
Meanwhile, Israel Defence Minister Moshe Dayan spotted the Israeli flag adorning the Dome of the Rock and immediately ordered its removal. The Israeli government had long been concerned that capturing Jerusalem might spark an international backlash. The deeply secular Moshe Dayan therefore acted quickly to return control of all religious sites in Jerusalem to their respective religious leaders – including the Temple Mount back to the Islamic authorities.
It all happened so quickly – and the opportunity to rebuild the Temple was gone as suddenly as it had appeared.
The Birthing of the Temple Movement
Although Rabbi Goren’s dreams were dashed, the seeds of Israel’s Temple Mount Movement were sown deeply into the lives of two young men that very day.
Gershon Salomon was one such soldier. Not long before the Six Day War, Gershon had been wounded in battle against the Syrians. As Israel conquered the Temple Mount in 67, Gershon – still on crutches – joined his fellow Israeli soldiers on the sacred grounds.
50 years later, the Temple Institute is busy preparing vessels and training priests for service
As Gerson and his fellow soldiers toured the Temple Mount, they encountered a neatly dressed Jordanian guide. Addressing them in English, the guide explained where the Temple, the menorah and the altar originally stood. When asked by the group of soldiers why he was showing them all this, the Jordanian guide reportedly answered “we have a tradition from our fathers [and] they from their fathers that one day the Jews would wage a war and conquer this mountain and rebuild the Holy Temple”. Addressing the incredulous Israelis, the guide went even further saying, “I assume that you’re starting tomorrow”.
The whole experience appeared so miraculous that he and other soldiers assumed the guide must have been an Angel! Facing towards the Holy of Holies, Gershon solemnly pledged that day to work ceaselessly for the re-building of the Temple.
Gershon has since established the ‘Temple Mount Faithful’ organisation. He has been known for his tireless advocacy for the rebuilding of the Temple – admonishing the Israeli nation with words from Haggai “Is it time for you, yourselves, to dwell in your well-timbered houses, while this house lies in ruins?” (Hag. 1:2)
Another young man whose life was changed that day was Yisrael Ariel. Yisrael also witnessed the episode with the Jordanian tour guide and was that night given the duty of watching over the Dome of the Rock.
At the time Yisrael wondered to himself, “We have arrived at the threshold of the Holy Temple: we are standing at the Western Wall – where is the Messiah?”
Yisrael Ariel later became a rabbi and through his studies came to answer his own question. He became convinced that the reason Messiah did not arrive in ’67 was simply that Israel had not taken the steps to prepare for the Messiah’s arrival – one of those steps being preparing to build the Temple.
It was this conviction that led Rabbi Yisrael to form what is today the most prominent movement to rebuild the Temple – the Temple Institute. Now 50 years later, the Temple Institute is busy preparing vessels and training priests for service in the Temple.
Today, Rabbi Yisrael Ariel’s Temple Institute, and Gershon Salomon’s Temple Mount Faithful are both part of the nascent Israeli Sanhedrin working together for the rebuilding of the Temple. Their shared experience on the Temple Mount and their shared disappointments led to the birth of the Modern Temple Movement.
Although Rabbi Goren’s dream of rebuilding the temple was ultimately dashed in 1967, the seeds sown in those brief moments on the Temple Mount are today bringing Israel closer than ever to the rebuilding of her temple.
Orthodox Jews pray daily for the Third Temple saying ‘May it be thy will Lord God, God of our fathers, that the temple be rebuilt speedily in our days’. It would seem that we may be part of the generation that sees this prayer fulfilled as we edge ever closer on the prophetic clock to the Lord’s Return.
*Photos sourced from: jewishvirtuallibrary.org