President Shimon Peres met with leader of the Lithuanian haredi stream, Rabbi Yosef Sholom Elyashiv in his sukkah in Jerusalem on Thursday as part of a round of meetings with head rabbis, including Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and Israel's chief rabbis during the days of Sukkot.
The president was accompanied by Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, and discussed with Elyashiv, among other things, the religious tension to sweep over east Jerusalem in recent days.
At the start of the meeting, Peres said, "I am here to greet you on the holiday of Sukkot. Israel faces many challenges, and one of them is preventing the deterioration of the tension in Jerusalem to the point of a religious war. In all matters related to the Temple Mount, the inciters can set the whole thing on fire"
Peres with Elyashiv in sukkah (Photo: Yosef Avi Yair Angel)
In response, Rabbi Elyashiv told the president that according to halacha, Jews are forbidden from going to the Temple Mount – both because of its sanctity and because of the political repercussions their presence may have.
"I have declared this in the past, and I repeat once again my statement," the rabbi said, "Beyond the halachic aspect, it is also a kind of provocation of the world's nations that could lead to bloodshed, and this would be one sin leading to another."
Peres went on to praise his host, saying, "Your voice has been heard. You are a great man of the Torah and are respected by the public. We must make sure that your position is heard.
"The people have ears and your voice must be heard," he added.
The rabbi parted with the president, saying, "As president, you need a special blessing to be able to steer the country at this difficult time."