Halacha for יום שלישי י"ב אב תשפ"ב 9 בAugust 2022

Flying Over the Temple Mount

Question: Is it permissible to fly in an airplane or helicopter over the Temple Mount?

Answer: In the previous Halacha we have discussed the prohibition to enter the area of the Temple Mount nowadays. Maran zt”l writes on this topic that once, Sir Moses Montefiore entered this area inadvertently, for he was unaware of the prohibition to do so and there were those who wished to excommunicate him as a result. However, after Sir Moses apologized and explained that he did so innocently, the sages of Jerusalem reassured him that he need not be concerned about the excommunication he was placed in at all.

Sir Moses Montefiore Enters the Temple Mount in a Box
Maran zt”l writes (in his Responsa Yabia Omer, Volume 5, Yoreh De’ah, Chapter 26) as follows: “I remember hearing in my youth that Sir Moses Montefiore and his rabbi Dr. Levy entered the Temple Mount in a wooden box they were seated in while being carried by non-Jews, for they believed that there was no prohibition to enter the airspace of the Bet Hamikdash and the entire prohibition applied to walking on the ground of the Temple Mount.”

Based on the above, if the assumption of Sir Moses was correct that there is no prohibition to enter the Bet Hamikdash while in a box, it would seem to be permissible to fly over the place of the Bet Hamikdash in a helicopter as well since one is not actually walking on the earth of the Bet Hamikdash and is merely taking a tour in its airspace.

Nevertheless, Maran zt”l proves from the words of the great Rishonim (Shevuot 17a) that the airspace of the Bet Hamikdash was likewise sanctified along with the Bet Hamikdash itself. Thus, it is actually forbidden to enter the Temple Mount while riding within a box or to fly over it in a plane or helicopter, for by doing so, one passes through the airspace of the Temple Mount all of whose area we are concerned may have been the actual location of the Bet Hamikdash and the sanctity of the Bet Hamikdash continues up to the sky. What Sir Moses Montefiore did was contrary to Halacha as he himself apologized for later after having realized that he was misled with opinions among the Poskim that were halachically rebuffed.

Flying Over a Cemetery
As a side point, an issue related to this is Kohanim flying over the airspace of cemeteries. Indeed, there are authorities who prohibit Kohanim to fly on planes when there is a possibility it will be flying over cemeteries, for they may not pass over the impurity of a corpse. Nevertheless, regarding a Kohen’s impurity there is indeed room for leniency, for there are several doubts that can be combined: Perhaps the plane will not even fly over a cemetery and even if it does, perhaps the graves are of non-Jews who graves do not cause impurity in their airspace (which is likewise a doubt regarding impurity in a public domain which is permitted) among several other reasons (see Chazon Ovadia-Avelut, Part 2, page 50). However, regarding the Temple Mount, flying over any area of the Temple Mount is forbidden, as we have explained.

May Hashem hasten our Final Redemption so that we may merit seeing the Third Bet Hamikdash in all its glory perched atop the Mountain of Hashem for all eternity, Amen.

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