For only the second time in over 2,000 years, a Jewish couple was married at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Judaism’s holiest site, in a secret ceremony.
A Jewish couple engaged to be married recently approached Rabbi Chaim Richman, international director of Temple Institute – a non-profit educational and religious organization located in the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, dedicated to the rebuilding of the Holy Temple – asking if he would officiate a wedding ceremony on the Temple Mount.
As explained on the Institute’s Facebook page, “after scrupulously examining the detailed halachot [Jewish religious laws] concerning the marriage ceremony and consulting with other rabbinical authorities, Rabbi Richman happily accepted the task upon himself.”
The Temple Institute describes the performance of the ceremony as “a great achievement in the face of the extreme anti-Jewish discrimination” by the Muslim Waqf [Islamic Trust], which maintains authority over the site.
After liberating the Old City of Jerusalem in 1967, Israel gave authority over the Temple Mount to the Waqf. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly stated his determination to maintain the status quo, providing Muslims with exclusive prayer rights while allowing members of all faiths visiting access.
In March 2015, an Israeli court ruled in support of the right of Jews to pray on the site, but the Israel Police, preferring to maintain the peace, did not abide by the ruling and continues to enforce the Waqf’s prohibition against non-Muslim prayer. Visibly Jewish visitors routinely suffer harassment on the Mount.
“The couple met with Rabbi Richman early one recent morning in the Old City of Jerusalem headquarters of the Temple Institute, where the blessing over wine was made, a prerequisite to the marriage ceremony,” according to the Facebook post. “Two appointed witnesses then met the couple at the entrance to the Temple Mount. The witnesses were obligated to both hear the declaration of marriage from the lips of the groom and see him place the gold wedding band on the bride’s finger. All members of the party were instructed by Rabbi Richman that this had to be done without drawing the attention of the Israel police or the Muslim Waqf guards, who would be accompanying the group of Jewish worshipers on the Temple Mount. Were they to notice, they would certainly arrest all the parties involved and remove them immediately from the Mount.
“The plan went like clockwork, and while walking along the eastern perimeter of the Temple Mount, Rabbi Richman gave a tacit signal,” the post continues. “The two witnesses drew close to the groom, who, ring in hand, said quietly to the bride, in Hebrew, ‘Behold, you are sanctified to me with this ring, in accordance with the law of Moshe and Israel,’ and quickly slipped the ring on the bride’s finger. This act, known as kiddushin (sanctification), is the binding act of marriage in any Jewish wedding ceremony.”
‘The Temple Mount is the Center of our Lives’
The publicity surrounding the clandestine wedding ceremony was surprising to some people, who wondered whether the authorities will now make it even tougher for Jews ascending the Temple Mount. In this regard, Rabbi Richman stressed in an email discussion with United with Israel, “The Temple Mount is the center of our lives. We are Jews, and that is where we belong. It should be the most natural thing in the world.”
He explained that “the reason for publicizing the story was to inspire and encourage the many Jews who ascend the Temple Mount to be strengthened and encouraged to fight for Jewish rights at our holiest place. The story is for all those to whom the honor of the G-d of Israel is precious and who know that our ability to pray there, and to act as Jews there, is a direct reflection on Hashem’s [G-d’s] honor, and when we are prevented from acting as Jews at this place, there is no greater desecration of Hashem’s honor.”
The ancient custom of brides and grooms visiting the Temple Mount – separately – on the day of their wedding has been revived in recent years, but the actual performance of the wedding ceremony on the Temple Mount is a unique act in history following the destruction of the Holy Temple 2,000 years ago, the Temple Institute stated.