Looking back at the 6 day war of 1967, many remember the emotional pictures of Israeli troops in awe as they arrived at the Western Wall. On top of the wall, and mostly out of sight of the cameras, 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 now famous 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 who had been engaged in a battle for the very survival of the Jewish state, found themselves unexpectedly conquering the Old City of Jerusalem. The 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, other Israeli soldiers roamed freely on the Temple Mount itself. With permission from his commander, Paratrooper Ezra Orni dramatically hoisted the Israeli flag over the famed Dome of the Rock. Ezra’s commander Motti Gur meanwhile held a brigade roll call for his paratroopers on the Temple Mount Plaza itself. Addressing his men on the Temple Mount with the backdrop of the Israeli flag adorning the Islamic Shrine, Motti spoke of the heroes of Israel’s past including the Maccabees who liberated Jerusalem and rededicated the Temple in 164BC. Motti’s men had a lot in common with the Maccabees and had overcome similar overwhelming odds to return to Israel’s holiest sites. The paratroopers must have felt a sense of destiny about returning to Judaism’s most sacred ground, and Motti’s words about the ancient battles for the Temple would have resonated deeply. Was Motti’s brigade destined to be part of a new generation of heroic Maccabees – returning the Jewish people to the Temple Mount?
Separately a group of Israeli soldiers entered the Dome of the Rock itself, quickly forming a ‘minyan’ (group of ten men required for Jewish worship) and spent time in prayer on this uniquely holy site.
IDF chief chaplain, Rabbi Shlomo Goren did not exactly attempt to restrain the troops’ religious excitement. Having sounded the shofar and prayed at the Western Wall, Goren excitedly ascended the Temple Mount and entered into the Dome of the Rock. There Rabbi Goren – armed with a Torah Scroll – proceeded to encircle the Foundation Stone. This is the very stone upon which the Ark of the Covenant is believed to have rested in the Holy of Holies.
Upon exiting, Rabbi Goren excitedly 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 some 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 from the powerful Christian, Catholic and Islamic communities. The deeply secular Moshe Dayan therefore acted quickly to return control of all religious sites in Jerusalem to their respective religious leaders – and proceeded to also hand control of the Temple Mount back to the Islamic world represented by the Islamic Waqf.
It all happened so quickly – and the golden moment of opportunity to begin rebuilding 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.
Born into a family with a heritage of longing for the rebuilding of the Temple, Gershon Salomon was grievously wounded in battle against the Syrians in the lead up to the six day war. He experienced a miraculous deliverance from his would-be Syrian executors and felt God calling him to dedicate his life to the rebuilding of the Temple. As Israel conquered the Temple Mount in 67, Gershon – still on crutches – joined his fellow Israeli soldiers on the sacred grounds. What he witnessed that day would change his life forever.
As Gerson and his fellow soldiers toured the Temple Mount, they encountered a neatly dressed Jordanian guide. Addressing them in English, the guide proceeded to give the Israelis a tour of the site, explaining 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”.
Gershon further relates that the tour guide seemed to suddenly disappear, and 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.
While Gershon was bitterly disappointed with Dayan’s decision to hand back the Temple Mount to Islamic control, Gershon remained faithful to his word and established the ‘Temple Mount Faithful’ organisation. Gershon has since that time advocated tirelessly for the rebuilding of the Temple – admonishing the Israeli nation with words from Haggai the prophet “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 became convinced that Israel was not called to simply wait passively for the Messiah – but should have proceeded to do everything they could to rebuild the Temple. His answer to the question of why the Messiah did not come in ’67 was simply that Israel had not taken the steps to prepare for the Messiah’s arrival.
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 has made extensive preparations for the rebuilding of the Temple and its centre in Jerusalem is filled with vessels prepared for use in the Holy Temple.
Today, Rabbi Yisrael Ariel’s Temple Institute, and Gershon Salomon’s Temple Mount Faithful are both part of the nascent Israeli Sanhedrin working 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.
While the idea of rebuilding the Temple was a fringe idea in 1967, prominent temple activist Yehudah Glick explains that it is now becoming mainstream. “Ten years ago, there was not a single member of Knesset who ascended the Temple Mount,” Glick told CBN News. “Today we have 20 Knesset members who are interested in ascending Temple Mount… and bringing the Temple Mount back into the centre of the next step in the redemption process.”
Although Rabbi Goren’s dream of rebuilding the temple was ultimately dashed in 1967, the seeds sown in those momentous 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 well be part of the generation that sees this prayer fulfilled as we edge ever closer on the prophetic clock to the Lord’s Return.
Enoch Lavender was born in Australia, raised in Norway, spent time living in China and is now based in Melbourne, Australia. He has been studying Hebrew and the Jewish roots of our faith for the past decade, and has a keen interest in the Middle East from a Bible prophecy perspective.