Temple Mount in Jerusalem, National Religious Society, Jewish Extremism

Temple Mount in Jerusalem, National Religious Society, Jewish Extremism

Post-doctoral fellow Sarina Chen explores the symbolism and controversy surrounding the holy site

One of the most contentious topics in the ongoing attempts at peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians has always been the Temple Mount and its future. Today, forty-six years after the Six Day War and unification of Jerusalem, the site has become a hotbed of activism. Among those in the National Religious groups, it has become popular to visit the mount, despite past warnings from the Chief Rabbinate that it is forbidden to walk on the holy ground. This is a sharp contrast from the period immediately following the 1967 war, in which few people, mostly considered extremists, chose to ignore the prohibition on visiting.

The evolution of views on the Temple Mount, and the diversity of beliefs surrounding the site are the subject of research by Dr. Sarina Chen, Schusterman Post-Doctoral Fellow at the UCLA Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies.

In her doctoral thesis and her articles, Chen focused on the “Temple Activists”- Jewish nationalist-religious extremists who intend to build the third temple on the Temple Mount, and exploring their ideas and motivations. Her upcoming book, Speedily in Our Days: The Temple Activists and The National Religious Society in Israel (Hebrew), analyzes their rhetoric and visual discourse. Showing the way this discourse created a huge shift in the Nationalist-Religious community toward the question of visiting the Temple Mount in the last two decades. 

She has been collaborating on ongoing project with Dr. Ayelet Harel-Shalev, Y&S Nazarian Center research fellow. Their research deals with the similarity and contrast between the nationalist and religious conflict over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and the Ayodhya Temple in Uttar Pradesh India.

Dr. Chen was a Posen visiting scholar in Tulane University, New Orleans and a Schusterman visiting professor in Northeastern University, Boston. In addition to pursuing her research, Dr. Chen has taught two core courses in Israel Studies this past year: Modern Israeli Culture, Society, and Politics, and Modern Jerusalem.