Guiding in Israel after the fall of the THIRD Temple

Julian Resnick writes from Israel

This is dystopian, so read no further if you like to be comfortable, if you prefer the comfort of armchair Zionism to facing what is happening to us right now, here, in Israel.

I write this on a Shabbat morning (soon, the Shabbat enforcement police units of Ben Gvir will break down my door and take me away to the Gulag – no, I have already wandered off into the dystopia), filled not with the joy of Shabbat, but with a foreboding. Possibly of the type Stefan Zweig was feeling when he wrote this in 1917:

“I say unto you, people of Jerusalem, that war is a fierce and evil beast, one that devours the flesh of the strong and sucks the marrow of the mighty, crushing towns in its jaws and trampling the land beneath its hoofs. Those who awaken it, shall not again lay it to sleep; and he who draws the sword is likely to perish by the sword. Woe to those who murder peace with the words of their mouth.

It is never too late to talk of peace.


Blessed is he who first holds out his hand for peace. Blessed is the king who spares the blood of his people.

Jeremiah, Stefan Zweig, 1917

Those of you who have previously read what I write know by now how strongly I feel about Israel and hopefully will not be shocked by the title I have chosen for this month’s piece. Yes, as of now only two Temples have fallen. The first destroyed by the Babylonians and the second by the Romans. Where is the third? you ask. Not when was it destroyed but, before that, when was it built and where does it stand?

I am using a conceit over here. The State of Israel is the Third Temple, and it stands here, in part of the Biblical Land of Israel, without at this point international borders recognised by the international community and disputed by many — including many of us, its inhabitants.

As I prepare myself to guide one of the sites I most enjoy guiding, the site I use so often as my opening site, the one where I draw the lines of the overarching narratives which will in many ways give substance and clarity to the time I spend with my Journeyers, here in Israel, the Haas Promenade, with the stunning view of Jerusalem it lays before us. The Old City skyline, the City of David, the Mount of Olives, Mount Zion, crucially Mount Moriah and, take out my opening text, one of the ones I love most, the story of the Akedah, the Binding of Isaac, I ask myself for the first time, after months of protests here in Israel, where will I stand to do the overarching piece after our present government has done a Nebuchadnezzar, a Titus, brought down the walls of the Temple, this time with our own hands.

This is not a thought I think with relish. There is no joy in my heart. There is terror in my heart. I thought of Stefan Zweig’s powerful piece when thinking about what is happening here, as the new Jewish Wars (Josephus’ term, not mine) breaks out around me.

His language is dramatic, not exactly 21st century taste, but it issues a dire warning to us: stop before it is too late. If you prefer not to notice us tearing down what we have built here since the return of the Jewish People from the late 19th century to our home (a home I returned to 47 years ago last week) around 150 years of, literally, blood, sweat and tears – and so much joy, too — then sit back in that proverbial armchair, sing songs from your youth movement days and drink terrible Kiddush wine until everything is a pleasant blur.

If, however, you care to face the truth head on, look Ben Gvir, Smotrich and their band of zealots in the eye, and declare, as we are doing right here, every week, we will resist!!!

Otherwise, when you visit us in the not-too-distant future, I might not take you to the Haas Promenade and read to you from Beresheet, my eyes might not well up as the angel says, “Lay not thy hand on the Lad.” 

I might take you to Kaplan Street in Tel Aviv and tell you of the demonstrations, week after week, as tens of thousands warned of impending doom. 

Or I might take you to the ruins of the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, where once Shoftei Yisrael, the Judges of Israel, meted out Justice, ruled on complicated cases, protected the rights of individuals, of communities, according to the letter and the spirit of our Declaration of Independence.

I warned you this was going to be dystopic. 

The reality of 2023?


Julian Resnick was born in Somerset West and grew up in Habonim Dror. He studied at UCT, and made Aliyah to 1976. He’s conducted numerous shlichuyot and educational missions on behalf of Israel, to Jewish communities in England and the USA. He works as a guide in Israel and around the world (wherever there is a Jewish story). He’s married to Orly, and they have three children and seven grandchildren and is a member of Kibbutz Tzora.

• Published in the August 2023 issue – Click here to start reading.

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