Only once in the last thousand years (since the second Muslim conquest of the Holy Land – the first was in the 7th century after the rise of Islam) has a Yom Kippur service been carried out on the Temple Mount. Kept secret for nearly 50 years, the prayer leader at the time recently told the story to correspondent Haggai Huberman.
The service was complete with prostrations as in Temple times, though without sacrificial and incense offerings. The main participant was none other than Rabbi Menachem HaCohen (the name Cohen means priest and almost always denotes someone descended from Moses’ brother Aaron, the first Priest), who served in the past as Labor Party Knesset Member, Rabbi of the national Histadrut Labor Organization, and top aide to IDF Chief Rabbi Maj.-Gen. Shlomo Goren. In the famous photo of Rabbi Goren blowing the shofar atop the Mount upon its 1967 liberation by Israeli forces, Rabbi HaCohen can be seen at his side.
After the Six Day War, a sharp dispute arose between Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, who“returned the Temple Mount keys” to the Waqf, and Rabbi Goren, who felt that Jews must be allowed to pray at their most sacred site and wanted to build a synagogue there. After Rabbi Goren held a Tisha B’Av prayer service atop the Mount just six weeks after the Six Day War, Dayan forbade him by military order to pray there again.
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