August 25, 2000

THERE is a photograph, taken during the Six Day War by Micha Bar-Am, of Israeli paratroopers brandishing flags and rifles, on the Temple Mount. I am not in that group.

There are very few things I would change from my past. If I made the smallest change to 1967, what would happen to 2000? Would I have lived to be here? Would I have met and married Hanna? Would my children be the same?

Sometimes I believe that, if I possessed a time machine, I would run those risks. When I study the 50 faces in the photograph, it seems that the pride and honour of being among that band must outweigh any danger.

Their heroism outweighed all danger on June 7, 1967, when Commander Motta Gur and his brigade overpowered the Jordanian Legionnaires to take Jerusalem’s Old City.

Every soldier — and I was one of the nation’s paratroopers, though my unit was fighting to the north of the city — faced the obliteration of the rest of his life by a single bullet or shellburst.

I risked my life; could I risk wiping it out now, when I have lived 33 years longer? Would I go back and put those years on the front line?

Yes, I think I would.

Motta Gur’s first words as he seized Temple Mount from the Arabs are still echoed by Israelis today: ”Har habayit beyadenu!” (The Temple Mount is in our hands!)

But in the 21st century, the cry of a hero has been twisted by irony. For more than three decades the Mount has been under Israel’s law but Muslim control. Almost every rabbi holds that Jews cannot walk upon the Mount, let alone pray there, because it is such an ineffably sacred place.

The mullahs agree — Jews cannot go there. The Mount, in Islam, is Al-Haram al-Sharif, the third most holy place on the planet and the focus of millions of pilgrimages.

In a book called The End Of Days, to be published later this year, journalist Gershom Gorenberg argues that Israel should, for the sake of the peace process, admit that the Mount has never truly been ”in our hands”.

He says: ”The Muslims have had autonomy there ever since ’67.”

I find this heart-breaking, to be torn between my love for my religion and my pride in Jewish bravery on the one hand and my urgent desire to see peace with the Palestinians on the other.

But after so many extra years of life, years I was willing to abandon for the sake of Jerusalem, I ought to have learned that spiritual faith is not about stark political choices.

Imagination, belief, trust and openness of mind are the measures of faith. Even while I was forgetting this, and while the talks at Camp David were collapsing, a book arrived at my home, by a Christian writer, from an imprint whose name I’d never heard: Gothic Image Publications. And this book demonstrated all four measures of faith, in full.

John Michell is a visionary historian whose reputation was made in the Sixties with The View Over Atlantis. His latest work is The Temple At Jerusalem, and he subtitles it A Revelation.

In fact it is a series of revelations, each opening out of the last, like a nest of jewelled boxes, to reveal an extraordinary theory.

The theory begins with the ancient dictum, ”A generation that does not rebuild the Temple is judged as if it had destroyed it”.

It concludes by proving that every generation has indeed been rebuilding the Temple — not metaphorically but physically, stone by stone. A real, tangible Temple.

Most extraordinary of all, these generations have been not only Jews, but Muslims and Christians and even Romans working the will of God for almost 2,000 years.

Michell takes the detailed blueprint for the Temple, laid out cubit by cubit in the Book of Ezekiel and lays it over a map of Jerusalem. Every feature of the ancient architect’s plan corresponds exactly to a city wall, a major thoroughfare or a sacred place in Jerusalem.

What Michell terms ‘the city’s hidden geometry’ is a precise replica of the Temple — six times larger.

Every cubit in Ezekiel — about 1.75 feet — is six cubits in the city, or approximately 10 feet. Jerusalem has evolved into the Temple itself, six times larger than imagined by the prophet.

”The northern side runs parallel to the north wall of the Temple Mount,” writes Michell, ‘the eastern side is marked by the east wall at the Golden Gate. The rectangle provides the framework for the grid of streets in the north-west quarter of the city, now called the Christian quarter. To the east of the Cardo, in the Muslim quarter, the other street grid takes over.”

The twin pillars of the temple are the two rocks —”Golgotha, the most sacred rock of Christianity, and the Rock of Foundation on which the Ark rested in the Holy of Holies of the Temple”.

Equidistant from each end of the Temple that is the whole of the Old City, they divide its axis into four equal parts.

Michell shows the work of rebuilding began with the Roman augurs, the priests of pagan gods who decreed a crossroads must be made, of the Decumanus maximus and the Khan al-Zait street — today represented by the alignment of David and Chain streets.

The numerical synchronicities are layered upon each other until the mind swims. Long after my initial doubts were smothered, the ‘coincidences’ of city design and temple architecture kept piling high.

I am convinced. The wranglings over individual aspects of Jerusalem, however sacred, are irrelevant. It is the whole which is our true Temple.

Har habayit beyadenu!


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