Israel’s chief rabbi urges building Jewish temple on Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif (article by Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man in +972).
This is a very important, and troubling move by the Chief Rabbinate. To this point, the chief rabbis (Ashkenazi and Sephardi) have maintained that Jews are forbidden to visit the Temple Mount, lest they walk on holy ground. For example, the Holy of Holies in the ancient Temples was forbidden to all except for the high priest, and the court of the priests was limited only to priests. Even for the areas of the Temple courts that were open to other Jews (men and women), those entering had to purify themselves before entering, both from common forms of impurity such as semen or menstrual blood, and from the impurity that comes from contact with a dead body. It is possible now to purify oneself from the bodily discharges, but not from the impurity of the dead. For that, the ashes of the red heifer are needed, and they haven't existed for almost 2,000 years.
Thus, when Rabbi David Lau, the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi, said earlier this week that he wanted to see the Third Temple built, and that it is possible to do this without destroying the Muslim shrines on the site, this is a remarkable about face. The insistence on building a third temple, either by replacing the Muslim shrines or by building it next to them, has been the province of the right-wing religious fringe up to now - groups like the Temple Mount Faithful or people like Yehuda Glick (who is now a Likud member of Knesset - he advocates Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount). Apparently the fringe is starting to take over the mainstream now.
Rabbi Lau said in response to a question by the interviewer Nehama Dueck, “'In that place, by the way, in the same place where it was, there’s room for Jews, there’s room for Christians, there’s room for Muslims, there’s room for everybody,' Rabbi Lau continued. 'It won’t take up the entire Temple Mount — take a look at its measurements.'”
As Omer-Man says, the chief rabbinate has always played "a sane counter-weight to religious nationalist groups that advocate visiting and praying on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, in addition to making preparations for a Third Temple. Chief rabbis have always argued that it is forbidden for Jews to enter the Temple Mount complex for religious reasons, specifically in order to inadvertently walk over areas that laypeople were forbidden from entering."
I am curious to know what the Sephardi Chief Rabbi, the Rishon Le-Zion, thinks about this.