Thirty years ago I visited Israel for the first time, partly to do research for my novels about Jezebel. In Jerusalem I passed a store window with small but colorful posters—artistic imaginings—of the ancient Temple, supposedly built by Solomon. The storefront was the information center of a religious group that wanted to tear down the Dome of the Rock—Islam’s third holiest shrine—and rebuild the ancient Jewish Temple, complete with animal sacrifices. “But if you try to do that,” I protested, “all the world’s Muslims in the world, over a billion of them, will declare war on Israel.”
“God will grant us the victory,” the woman behind the counter replied serenely.
At that time, I dismissed her group as a tiny cult, destined to become less than a footnote in the history of a modern state. But this month the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz published two articles discussing the project of rebuilding the Temple. Apparently there are significant numbers of Israelis, including political and religious leaders, who intend to do just that. According to the November 29th article, a rebuilt temple would mean the end of modern Judaism and any pretense of Western liberal democracy: “…control [would be] in the hands of a priestly caste that is centered not around schools of Torah study but around one temple; one that does not pray but sacrifices animals, does not seek God in holy actions and at holy times, but at one special holy site.”
So, a hereditary priesthood and bloody animal sacrifices. And quite possibly a man (certainly not a woman) claiming descent from King David would be chosen as monarch. Many Zionists argue that Jews have a right to all the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. This is appalling enough, but the Temple rebuilders take it even further. They think they are entitled to re-establish the legendary empire of Solomon. It supposedly extended all the way to the Euphrates, encompassing a large chunk of what is now Syria.
I wonder how much bloody human sacrifice—soldiers and civilians—they will tolerate in attempting to achieve their goals.