God’s Moun­tain: The Tem­ple Mount in Time, Place and Memory

Yaron Z. Eliav
  • Review
By – June 25, 2012
Any view­er of CNN or Fox can’t help but be famil­iar with the loca­tion known sim­ply as the Tem­ple Mount. Unlike most address­es it requires no city or coun­try name to fur­ther iden­ti­fy it. There­fore it is quite strik­ing to read a book on this top­ic, which nev­er explic­it­ly men­tions the cur­rent con­flict over this sacred precinct. The word explic­it is nec­es­sary, because for Eli­av, real­i­ty is nev­er sim­ply real­i­ty, but a con­struc­tion built of words, mem­o­ries and per­spec­tives. 

The book actu­al­ly ends its sur­vey before the Mus­lim con­quest, and so its bound­aries are the Jew­ish Tem­ples and lat­er Roman and Byzan­tine struc­tures. In his book, Eli­av uses numer­ous ana­lyt­ic tools, from archae­ol­o­gy to decon­struc­tion­ism, to reen­vi­sion the site through the eyes of the Chris­t­ian Fathers and the Rab­bis. In fact, a key argu­ment is the sug­ges­tion that the very term Har Ha- Bay­it—which is the source for the Eng­lish phrase — is actu­al­ly a First Temple/​Biblical expres­sion recap­tured across the mil­len­nia by the Rab­bis of the ear­ly Com­mon Era to endow the ruined plat­form with a holi­ness of its own. Heady stuff. 

A schol­ar­ly work, and close­ly argued, the book does offer new ideas. Most inter­est­ing­ly, Eli­av pro­pos­es a con­vinc­ing plan for Aelia Capi­toli­na, Hadrian’s juden­rein recon­struc­tion of the ruined Jerusalem. How­ev­er, his intense­ly scholas­tic focus obscures his vision in two impor­tant ways. First, it occa­sion­al­ly forces him to make more of an insight than is war­rant­ed by its impor­tance. The fact that the lat­er Rab­bis may have changed some ear­ly baraitot to refer to the Tem­ple Mount, instead of the Tem­ple, may be explained sim­ply by the fact of the Temple’s con­tem­po­rary absence, not by a new way of look­ing at the site. 

Sec­ond, the prej­u­dices of the acad­e­my find a way to slip in. Eli­av finds it com­pelling to state with lit­tle argu­ment that Hadri­an didn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly des­e­crate Jerusalem or exile Jews, or that lat­er Chris­t­ian the­ol­o­gy didn’t need to call atten­tion to the destruc­tion of the Jew­ish Tem­ple by neglect­ing the site. And it strikes this read­er as strange to read of the Chris­t­ian Quar­ter” of Jerusalem, fol­lowed by ref­er­ences to the so-called Jew­ish Quar­ter.” Sad­ly, the con­flict over the Tem­ple Mount con­tin­ues. Illus­tra­tions, maps.
Jeff Bogursky reads a lot, writes a lit­tle and talks quite a bit. He is a media exec­u­tive and expert in dig­i­tal media.

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