With imported sacrificial cows, ancient hymns and growing support, some nationalist Jews hope to rebuild their temple in Jerusalem’s Old City, at a site at the heart of Israeli-Palestinian tensions.
In a suburb of Tel Aviv, a group of choristers were getting ready for the moment they will rejoice at the reconstruction of the Jewish temple some 2,000 years after its destruction, which they believe will accelerate the arrival of the messiah.
But for others, realising their goal would massively inflame tensions around the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.
Chorister Shmuel Kam said Jews have been “waiting” two millennia for the revival of the temple.
Members of the Orthodox Jewish group claim to be descendants of the biblical Tribe of Levi, which performed hymns and music at the holy site.
“When the temple will be built, we will ask the Levites to come sing and they won’t know. They have to learn,” said Menahem Rozenthal, director of the men-only choir created a few months ago by the Temple Institute.
Founded in 1987, the institute aims to rebuild the temple, training choirs and clerics and making objects for use in religious rites.
While apprentice choristers come from across Israel to delve into the collection of ancient hymns, the Temple Institute has made all of the objects deemed necessary for Jewish rites according to rabbinical instructions.
These include priestly robes, baking moulds for bread, incense burners and musical instruments.
The faithful have their sights set on the large, tree-dotted compound in the heart of Jerusalem’s Old City.
Known as Temple Mount to Jews and revered as their holiest site, the compound has for centuries housed Al-Aqsa mosque, the third most sacred place in Islam.
Those seeking to rebuild the temple recall the former place of worship, destroyed around 70 AD during the Roman period.
According to Jewish tradition, their first temple was demolished in 586 BC by then ruler Nebuchadnezzar II at the same location.
For Haim Berkovits, a 50-year-old third temple advocate, “you can say whatever you want (about the Muslim presence), this was the place for Jews”.