Israel, like America, has its fair share of ideological activists determined to have their way even if it endangers the country — and possibly the world.

For years, a group of Ultra-Orthodox Jews — supported by American fundamentalist Christians anxious for Armageddon — have been working to undercut all hopes of peace in the Middle East by promoting the idea of tearing down the two 1300-year-old mosques on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, and replacing them with a third Jewish temple.

The whole enterprise is as absurd as it is dangerous and unnecessary, but that doesn’t stop supporters of the “Temple Institute” from constructing “temple-ready” menorahs, tables, lamp stands, and sacrificial implements for use when they believe a third temple will be constructed.

Ultra-Orthodox activists fling the carcass of a lamb onto a pyre atop a new altar they constructed in Jerusalem. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi for Haaretz.

According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, would-be priests dressed in what they imagine to be biblical garments unveiled a new scaled-down version of an altar for animal sacrifices on December 10. They burned a sheep on top of it and declared it “temple-ready.” They had set up in a public area near the Temple Mount and wanted to slaughter the sheep there, but authorities wouldn’t allow it in a public park, so they had to slaughter the animal elsewhere and bring its carcass to the site in a green plastic bin.

Temple Mount dominates the Old City of Jerusalem. the “Dome of the Rock” is to the right and the Al Aqsa Mosque is to the left. Photo by Tony Cartledge.

Jerusalem’s Temple Mount is the third holiest site in Islam. The iconic, gold-capped Dome of the Rock was constructed in the late 7th century CE, and the nearby Al Aqsa Mosque was built in 705 BCE. When the League of Nations squeezed Palestinians into a small portion of  their land and gave the rest to Jews who wanted to settle there, the Temple Mount was wisely left under the control of Islamic authorities. It remains a bone of contention for the Ultra-Orthodox who want it back, but that’s not going to happen.

Does anyone in their right mind think those two mosques could be destroyed without precipitating a major war, if not World War III? Even right-wing sympathizers like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu know better than that, though his administration fails to discourage them.

If you want to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, pray that the Third-Temple activists will go belly up before they can blow up what fragile peace there is.

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