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A Coherent and Rational Approach to Rebuilding the Third Temple: A Proposal for an International Architectural Competition

 

We, the Jews, are lacking in a commodity almost every other Nation possesses - self-respect. Even oppressed ones possess this - the Muslim Nations and, in particular the Arabs ones, most of all. What other nation would have held its hand for over "forty years" (a good 'Biblical' term - 45 to be exact) from doing something about its most Holy of sites - so 'holy' that few will even approach it while allowing outsiders to trample all over it and, even worse, remove the archaeological remains of its original existence. 

 

On the other hand, we are, for the most part, utterly caring about others' rights and privileges and particularly those of us who reside overseas (after the Holocaust when some Six Million were brutally and mercilessly murdered in the most horrific of circumstances, some right before their very children's eyes - some having to watch their babes or children being torn from their arms and tossed living into the 'death pits', some uncaringly dispatched before them with a bullet to the head - and this is "Holocaust Remembrance Day" world-wide, which few world-wide probably even commemorate or memorialize - many preferring long since to have forgotten) care more about other people's rights and causes, preferring to remain 'Liberal', than they do their own. All kudos to them - it has always been so.

 

The below piece, "The Greatest Heritage Site of all", I posted almost 2 and 1/2 years ago on THE EISENMAN LINE on November 8th, 2010 and those who wish to see it can still find it there today; but since there is so much agitation presently about "Rebuilding the Third Temple", which seems even to be mounting towards some sort of crescendo, I thought it would perhaps be not unhelpful if I reposted it again now (a variation of it - can you believe it? - also appeared at the time in The Huffington Post). In it, I proposed an "International Architectural Competition" to be entitled "The Temple Mount: Holy to Three Faiths" or "The Temple Mount 2000", in which all the world's greatest architects would be invited to submit proposals on how they would solve the problem of the situation on the Temple Mount and possibly building there or "rebuilding the Third Temple".

 

I hesitate to use the word "rebuilding" because everyone knows how much I despise the person and name of "Herod" (if you look at my previous blogs, you will even find some on "Kissing the Stones Erected by Herod"); and now, of course, the Israel Museum is going to sponsor an exhibition in his name (mostly architectural - how fitting!): "Herod the King" or "Herod the Great". "Herod the Terrible", like "Ivan the Terrible", would be a more appropriate title (he too was a 'Great Caesar'/'Czar), but you see many such despots love to build to distract the populations over whom they rule or are given leave to rule from all the genocide, murdering, assassinations, and other atrocities they do.  

 

But we shall treat that matter in a succeeding blog I intend to write about this "Exhibit" or "Glorification" (good for the amusement of tourists) which I will entitle: "'Herod the Terrible' not 'Herod the Great'". Hitler was a great builder as much as he loved to destroy and Stalin loved to build too - perhaps even more so. But so did Nero, Vespasian, and Titus, the builders of 'the Temple of Death' which doubled as an Entertainment Arena known and still known today as "The Colosseum" - again to distract the local population and amuse them with blood sports.

 

And wouldn't you know it? They did it with Jewish Money (uh oh, sorry Silvio) - the money and objects they stole from the Temple or Temple Treasury when they destroyed it (we won't speak about the 'slave' workmen who built it) - and it still stands today as a superb example of Foundational Architecture. But enough on that subject. I shall treat it presently as I said.

 

Actually I first had this idea 30 years ago and submitted it as a proposal  to Yuval Ne'eman when he was serving in the Governments of Begin and Shamir as Science Minister and asked me to give up my academic position in America and come to serve him as an Assistant or, at least to submit to him new ideas. Lucky I didn't go as he soon left the Government, but this is what I did in "The Proposal for an International Architectural Competition" to solicit ideas from the world's greatest Architects as to what to do in a modern, civilized, sophisticated, and artistic way about "The Problem of the Temple Mount: Holy to Three Faiths", to be entitled  "Temple Mount 2000", which was in the future then.

 

(I meant no nepotism here as my brother, Peter Eisenman, had not yet won The Competition for - and successfully constructed - The Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, in contrition actually for the very "Day" we are commemorating today; or won the 2010 Wolf Prize in Jerusalem, which I mention in the piece below; though he would obviously have been the best Architect to do it - LOL!). So here is the Article, just as I wrote it then, for the interest of your readers - since the agitation for and the interest in rebuilding the Temple or doing something about the situation on the Temple Mount for some reason seems to be reaching such a fever pitch at the present time:

 

                                     THE GREATEST HERITAGE SITE OF ALL

 

 We know how to commemorate the dead, but do we know how to commemorate the

                                                               living?

 

A Proposal for an International Architectural Competition to Help Solve the Problem of

                                           what to do about the Temple Mount.


The recent spate of news reports about international groups being unwilling to recognize - and even condemning - Israel’s designating such locations like Joseph’s tomb in Shechem or “the Tomb of the Patriarchs” in Hebron as Jewish Holy sites has brought the issue of all “heritage Sites” front and center again (this article was originally printed in its totality in The Huffington Post, 8/3/10 - a much curtailed version appeared as "Enough Crying over Herod's Stones", The Jerusalem Post, 13/3/10).

The awarding of the Wolf Prize for architecture to my brother Peter Eisenman for his splendid Holocaust Memorial in Berlin is a well-deserved and noble gesture for extraordinary and brilliant efforts in memorialization. Having said this, let me observe that while we Jews - ‘we’ in Israel and ‘we’ abroad - are expert at giving awards or commemorating our tragically-obliterated and long-departed dead (now most notably on the very boulevards in Berlin where these monstrous exterminations were planned and executed); we totally lack or are deficient in creating memorials - to say nothing of holding competitions or giving awards for them - for the living in our “Altneuland” of Jerusalem. This process we haven’t even begun nor seemingly, for the most part, feel the need to. I speak now of the Temple and Temple Mount (note my previous two articles on this subject in this paper last year and the year before: “Remember the Temple was Built by Herod” - 10/27/09 and “Digging on the Temple Mount” - 9/16/07).

In his Auto-Emancipation, a half-century before the Holocaust, Leo Pinsker, who was a physician by training and having witnessed the pogroms in 1870’s Odessa, identified the lack of need or the desire for Emancipation or Nationhood as something akin to a disease. At least this was how he claimed it was perceived by outsiders, i. e., a phobia on their part, he designated in medical terms as “Judeophobia.” He even spoke of how Jews appeared to these surrounding them as an apparition - in modern terms, perhaps, “the walking dead” (Toynbee might have put it, as “fossils”) and therefore Antisemitism, based on this “Judeophobia,” was merely a species of “fear of ghosts” - people being afraid of ghosts. Whether he was wrong or right in this analysis (which now might seem a little quaint, the Jewish People having been overtaken by a tsunami of hatred, the likes of which even Pinsker could never have imagined) is impossible to say.

But, unfortunately, it is possible to observe the same lack of feeling or need now infecting the Jewish People where the Temple and the Temple Mount is concerned - whether in Israel or abroad (the one he characterized, by implication, as a species of “dead men walking”). They cannot put a finger on what the yearning is. They go in all sincerity and kiss stones, representing in the end brutality and national humiliation, set down by the archenemy of the Jewish People - Herod.

One cannot blame them for this. They are trying to express something, however bizarre it might appear to the observer standing without the “Cave of History." I speak here, again, about the lack of feeling for or need of a Temple. Of course, this is what this yearning at the Western Wall or so-called “Wailing Wall” really represents. Everyone knows it, but no one is really prepared to speak of it in polite society. Of course, any “normal People” that had been through the horrors the Jewish People have been through, to say nothing of the redemption of returning thereafter, would have been at work to ameliorate this situation years ago. But we or, shall we say, the Jewish People are not “a normal People.”

So here we are worshipping at - again in all inner rectitude - stones set down by one of their cruelest arch-nemeses for his own self-glorification and vanity and also as a sop - which many since have swallowed - to keep the People otherwise occupied rather than in revolt. In the aftermath and in wake of its destruction, this was then allowed them by their conquerors for the next some two thousand years to make manifest their humiliation in no less a way than the images on the Arch of Titus in Rome or the Judea Capta coins, issued by the same predators to commemorate these same events (nor is this to say anything of the Roman Colosseum itself, in which so many died so horribly - built with the moneys robbed from the Temple Treasury and objects taken as booty just as depicted on the Arch of Titus).


And yet they have returned. They have - to put it honestly - been triumphant in the face of such odds, in the face of the sacrifice of some six million, yet one would hardly know it. There is so little awe or joy. The return and its aftermath have not been commemorated. Oh yes, the country itself may be commemoration enough but, as “the Wall” so unfortunately and graphically illustrates, people need something more - something they can feel and touch and see.

The six million dead have now, thankfully, to some extent been commemorated and this in the heart of those who brought about their brutal and heartless annihilation. Whether for political reasons - to celebrate the new United Germany and move its capital to Berlin - or otherwise; this commemoration is now done but, except for the name of the architect, by the hands of others. Still, the Jews - perhaps because they have been so preoccupied with political matters - have not commemorated their return. They have not given the living a symbol and, as the Wolf Prize so graphically recognizes, this is what architecture - especially when combined with sculpture - does so consummately both then and now.

This is what a Temple - even if only a monumental one (because we as Jews would never be able agree on anything - in particular, what such a building or monument could or would be or do) - would mean. Oh yes, one knows the arguments for and against, the “dos” and “don’ts”, the difficulties, talking points, religious injunctions, commandments, absurdities - the whole subject being fraught with nuance pro and con. These I would not even attempt to sort out as they are far beyond my abilities - probably, in fact, all of our abilities (though I am sure similar issues were explained to Alexander at Gordion on his way to conquer the whole of the Middle East including Jerusalem. I doubt also if Herod would have taken much notice of them).

But thirty years ago, when Prof. Yuval Ne’eman (z”l) was Minister of Science, I was invited to participate in assistantship capacity. As a Professor at a California University, the logistics prevented me from doing so in any formal way; but I gave an answer, when asked for new ideas which he could promote, with a proposal made directly to him for his Ministry to sponsor. This was for an International Architectural Competition fifteen years before the Millennium (much like the one ultimately held in Berlin and later in New York to commemorate and replace the destroyed World Trade Center) which was to be called: “Temple Mount Two Thousand: Holy to Three Faiths,” announcing a architectural competition - real or utopian - and outlining a call to all the great architects of the world to participate.


This is the way these things are traditionally worked out. This was the way it was done in Berlin (in fact, it was redone and done twice before final designs were decided upon). This is the way it still should be done today. The best minds of architects, city planners, sculptors, memorialists, artists - even archaeologists - could be invited to participate and contribute suggestions, models, and designs for how to deal with the situation on the Temple Mount in its totality (which has not changed very much, except for the emotions and political agitation surrounding it) from any perspective they wished - what to construct anew, what to add, what to bridge, what to reconstruct - building, monument, or sculpture - even perhaps what to move, span, or over-arch. This would not be beyond them to envision in one way or another and, from my perspective, this was the way to move forward.

The proposals, of course, at that time (though not necessarily now) would have been completely theoretical and no promise of any actual building, engineering activity, or sculpture was to be made or accompany them - even the winners, just innovative ideas for arranging the enormous space involved. Still I knew people would participate both then and now. People would not be able to resist the call to help solve the burning issues inherent in a reconstruction of or on the Temple Mount incorporating in its locale even an actual Temple, monument, or field of sculpture that would express the ideas a "New Judaism" or "Post-Holocaust Independence-War Jewish People" would need for commemoration - not of the dead but to celebrate and inspire the living.

Nothing would be deemed out of bounds, not even contemporary solutions using modern sculptural or engineering techniques such as those of a Frank Gehry in Los Angeles or Bilbao or I. M. Pei in Paris. It was my feeling then that these persons of soaring imaginative design would come up with something that could help solve many of these much-vexed and pressing inherent problems, not only physical (its kind, design, placement, the place or movement or spanning of other monuments and shrines on the same location) but spiritual, far superior than any nationalist, anti-nationalist, classicist, traditionalist, or even post-modernist or pilpulist could do. I still think this.

They could suggest means of how to commemorate the return of the Jewish People to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount and this did not necessarily mean a rebuilding of either the Herodian or Solomonic Temples (even the Talmud makes it clear that Herod totally deconstructed the Ezra/Nehemiah/Maccabean Temple previously down to its very foundations - whatever it had been. Nor were its remains necessarily still extant, so there could be no reasonable hope of reconstructing that), though it could include Ezekiel’s vision of the Temple of the Last Days (Chapters 40-48), should anyone be moved to do so. What I was proposing was a competition of the greatest minds and artists of our time to present their ideas on how all these matters should be arranged - even including, since the competition was at that point only to be considered theoretical or utopian, sacrifice cult or commemorative architectural structure.

Nor for such a Memorial or Center of the People’s need for homage, religious urges, and commemoration did it have to be built exactly on the site of previous endeavors, nor the previous “Rock” as it were - if anyone could really claim to identify it without the aid of meticulous archaeological investigation which in the present circumstances was impossible. While nothing needed to be re-arranged or moved, unfortunately - just as for the Muslims and as they see it now and saw it then - it had to be on the Temple Mount. Nothing less would do. As I said in one of my articles previously, “There is plenty of room there for everyone.”

What was needed was a Temple or Memorial for the Future. It is a shame that Berlin’s Monument for the dead had to show the Jewish People the way forward for a Monument for the Living, to celebrate the in-gathering of the People and the fulfillment of the Centuries-old dream, so old that is repeated almost every day in prayer and Festivals - most strikingly perhasp at Passover, our National Liberation Festival.

But the first step should have been and could still be something like this competition proposal I suggested to Yuval Ne’eman, then Minister of Science, some thirty years ago. No one could really condemn a call for new, innovative, theoretical, and artistic engineering designs worthy of the 21st Century. Then, of course, nothing was done. Now perhaps something could be. Whether they are aware of it or not, the People’s sensibilities and emotions require it - and they are not the only ones. Other people’s religious sensibilities also call for it - some Christians for instance. There has been enough crying over Roman reverses or stones set down by Herod. For those who wish to continue this tradition and express themselves in this manner, let them do so. For the rest of us, let us now move forward in a sensitive, intelligent, historical, and spiritually-insightful manner to create a Living Temple, Monument, or Memorial such as this.

For a start, let this theoretical Competition be called for and held and let the most thoughtful, serious, innovative and elegant, insightful, and advanced ideas of how to move forward be entertained. Then, Israel, let us proceed to do and perhaps even build something on the Temple Mount where it should be (without affecting anyone else’s rights there) - who knows yet what. In the words of Conservative or Traditional Judaism’s “Historical School” of Leopold Zunz and Nahman Krochmal, “the Zeit-Geist” or ”Spirit of the Age” could and would determine this. This would give even newer meaning to the old Hebrew/Zionist marching cry, "Bilu!" - “Bo’ Israel, lech u-va’”/”Come Israel, it's time to proceed” - let us begin. 
 

 

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