Yisroel Lapidos, Beis Moshiach
It was a surreal sight. Two people meet, and although their outward appearances seem disparate, they share a common interest. One is a tall, bare-headed man. His counterpart is a respected rabbi and Chassidic mentor, but they are both discussing their desire to see the Temple of the future.
A Shared Vision
One explains eloquently how important it is to live with a consciousness of redemption, and although his external appearance seems to belie his convictions, the rabbi and the religious journalist listen eagerly to his words, and especially to his plans.
Yoram Ginsberg is an architect par excellence. His current big project has been six years in the making now, one that he prefers would stay far away from the spotlight of the media and public debate in Israel, and is maintained in almost total secrecy.
In light of his friendship with Rabbi Zalman Notik, Yoram agrees to dispel some of the secrecy surrounding the project. Still, this fascinating interview that took place at his office located in southwest Jerusalem reveals little and conceals even more of the enormous venture he and an elite team of professionals have undertaken to prepare for a realistic and practical outline plan of the third Temple and Jerusalem of the future.
The project is called “Rebuilt Jerusalem,” and it is guided by visionaries and professionals who believe in the integrity of the Torah, the people, and the land of Israel. Their short term goal is to create global awareness among Jews regarding Jerusalem during the era of the Third Temple.
It is important to clarify: “Rebuilt Jerusalem” does not intend to include the full range of biblical and rabbinic Messianic promises. For example, their plans for Jerusalem’s jurisdiction do not extend to the outskirts of Damascus, or space alongside the Temple for all the synagogues and houses of study that relocated from the diaspora.
However, there is nothing more amazing than to discover how the world is slowly preparing for the redemption. Just imagine: the finest minds of Israel’s professionals are dedicating their talents and energy to create an executable plan for Jerusalem post-redemption which responds to several troubling questions such as how Jerusalem can accommodate millions of people, how public transportation will be conducted within the city and beyond, and how to allow the vast multitudes to witness the Temple’s proceedings.
Ginsberg’s spacious office walls are covered with three-dimensional drawings that give a bird’s eye view of the future Jerusalem. “This is really a surprise,” says Itai Ben Ezra, the talented photographer who accompanied us to this interview, “to enter a typical Jerusalem office and discover blueprints of Jerusalem as it will be built at the Redemption hanging on the walls. It’s just thrilling!”
Like Itai, dozens of clients and colleagues who meet with Ginsberg in his office leave with a dose of real anticipation to build the third Temple. Those sketches may be available to anyone who wishes to view them, but the bulk of the plans and drawings are defined as ‘confidential.’ “Even we didn’t get to peek at them,” Itai complains, “as they have not yet been approved for public release.”
The “Rebuilt Jerusalem” team intends to publish a 600-page book in large album format, including maps, computerized images, photos, and a review of the concrete plans. “The book will make it to every Jewish home in Israel and around the world, and even to gentiles, so that everyone in the world will want to visit Jerusalem at least once in his lifetime.” Yoram’s vision doesn’t stop there. “The book will change people’s perception by elaborating on our destiny: to serve as a beacon of holiness and grace for the whole world.”
In addition to the extensive album, they also plan to open a research and visitors center with one clear goal: to give the general public access to the great Jewish concept of the third Temple and create a conceptual revolution within the Jewish public.
As a child, Yoram Ginsberg was educated in a secular school, but through Bible studies, his love for G-d and the Torah was revealed. “Ever since, I live with a sense of global responsibility.” Therefore, when approached with an offer to serve as the architect in charge of the re-planning of his hometown Jerusalem, he saw this as a wondrous show of individual Divine providence. “I felt that my whole life I have been waiting for this phone call.”
Like his architecture, his appearance and accomplishments seem contradictory. Although Ginsberg is labeled a secular man, he sees himself as a believing Jew associated with what he calls the “invisible kippah” sector.
He is a sensible and rational person who studied and specialized in architecture in Florence, Italy, and currently serves as a senior lecturer at the Ariel University. His firm is responsible for planning, amongst other projects, the Tel Shiloh visitor’s center and long term infrastructure plans for the town of Alon Shvut.
At the same time, he is very well aware of what large parts of Israeli society, including some of his close friends and colleagues, think of the project he heads. “An ambitious idea” some will say, while others will bluntly consider these plans “fantasies” that have no realistic substance. But to the question, “What would you say if the temple was erected in the middle of the night from start to finish?” most people, even most skeptics, react happily.
His deep faith, otherwise dormant, bursts forth when it comes to this matter. Ginsberg, a pleasant and collected conversationalist, does not hide his feelings on this issue, causing him to squirm uncomfortably on his chair and express them in an honest and straightforward manner:
“An overwhelming majority of the Jewish people in Israel adopted a modern hedonistic and selfish lifestyle, meaningless, and void of real hope. This state of being is comparable to a formless porridge, and without spiritual compass based upon our sole authority – the G-d of Israel and the Torah of Israel – we are in a hopeless situation and are losing our way.
“That’s why I embarked on this project whose goal is to project the image of the imminent future – the ’rebuilt Jerusalem.’ To restore the spirit and hope to those broad sectors of Israeli society as well.
“To date, most people are in a state of rootlessness with no major anchor in life. This state of mind and consciousness finds its expression in the reality of life in Israel.
“The fact that the vast majority of the Israeli population – three and a half million, or 60 percent of the Jewish population – live in the lowlands, in the Dan region, and not around the ridges of, or in Jerusalem itself, is sad evidence of this national predicament. The fact that Jerusalem itself is built and designed today without any urban hierarchy, without a focal point and center around which the city evolves, is an indication that the city has no character and identity.
“All these things confirm that people need direction; purpose; centrality; meaning; aspiration for the future.
“When I speak of the Temple being that focal point, I refer not only to the physical and architectural dimension, but the mirror image of the Jewish idea. We need to create – first a consciousness – a large rallying around the concept of the future Jerusalem and the third Temple.
“This can happen when people see clear images of how Jerusalem the capital will look with the magnificent, sophisticated Temple at its center. They will begin to ask themselves: “What if?” “What if this really happens?” And when people start talking about it, it penetrates the mind and becomes a real thing that can happen. This is the best and most effective way to create a collective change of mind now.”
The Length and Breadth
Ginsberg’s plans are all presented relative to ground level, so you can see all the elements that exist under the same height point as well. There are different types of plans and our host carefully explains the architectural structure of the future Jerusalem that includes an environmental plan, construction plan, strategic plan and more.
The dimensions of the Israeli capital as it appears on the “Rebuilt Jerusalem” maps will require even veteran Jerusalemites to use the Waze app to find their way around their hometown that will expand to gigantic proportions.
The future Jerusalem is planned to be capital of the world and will be divided into eighteen districts, like Paris. Current Jerusalem only includes three districts, the Ein Kerem district, Samuel the Prophet district, and Biblical Givat Shaul district. The Temple complex is located in the Moriah district.
According to the plans, Jerusalem will be eight times larger than its current size, spanning over 306 square miles. The city’s vast municipal borders will include many cities in the reigon like Beit Shemesh, Ma’aleh Adumim, Gush Etzion, Ramallah, and Bethlehem. In comparison, Jerusalem now spans only 48 square miles.
Ginsberg sees future Jerusalem larger than New York City, boasting a population of 5 million strong, like present-day Moscow.
The program calls for a 78-mile-long road surrounding the Jerusalem area called “Moriah Highway.” This road will define the borders of the future Jerusalem. “To travel around the Jerusalem of the future will take as long as traveling from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv and back!” Ginsberg demonstrates.
“One of the key parameters in determining which cities will be included in the municipal boundaries of ‘Rebuilt Jerusalem’ is a professional premise that the unique geographical landscape of Jerusalem must be maintained.
“So we mapped the entire area, according to criteria such as terrain, mountains, rivers, types of vegetation, and climate. All these exposed a common element Jerusalem shares with Ma’aleh Adumim, Beit Shemesh, Gush Etzion, and the Binyamin region. Since the territory is mountainous and the area is relatively similar and homogeneous to Jerusalem and the biblical story, we decided to have them included in the territory of the future Jerusalem.”
The most attention is given to what Ginsberg sees as the core of the program: “The Butterfly Avenue” – named for its shape in the drawings. This is an avenue that surrounds the entire ridge that surrounds the Temple which begins at present-day Armon Hanatziv, continues through Mount Zion road, crosses Safra Square, and ends at the border of Meah Shearim, Ma’aleh Hazeitim, and Mount Olives – a total of a little over 8 square miles.
The plans call for this entire area to be under the authority of the “Temple Authority Council,” which will operate parallel to the Jerusalem Municipality appointed in charge of “The Butterfly Avenue.”
The Talmud states that initially they sought to build the temple in an area called Eyn Etam, which is the highest point in the Benjamin territory, but in the end it was decided to build a little lower to fulfill the biblical blessing to the tribe of Benjamin “and between his shoulders he will rest not “upon his head.” When studying Ginsberg’s topographic maps, the biblical term “shoulders” receives additional life and meaning: the Temple is located slightly lower than the adjacent peaks, forming the outline of the butterfly shape.”The temple will be surrounded by sort of a park area that includes pedestrian walks, beautiful gardens, a boardwalk, and a cable car transportation system all within the boundaries of the “Butterfly Avenue.” But above all, “Butterfly Avenue” will serve in and of itself as the central point from which all the traffic to the temple, by foot or any other means, departs.
“In the whole world, it is rare to find a tall mountain peak surrounded by taller mountains, both with equal distance from the top of the lower middle peak. This creates a sort of natural and immense amphitheater. The only other place like it is at the summit of Mount Shiloh, another location of the Tabernacle for many years.
“The avenue itself and the large area within its boundaries has room for ten million people who can stand and watch at any given moment what is going on in the Temple yards, the sacrificing of the korbanot by the priests and the perfect musical performance of the Levites. This area will serve as the largest natural theater of its kind in the world, especially during the three pilgrimage festivals: Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot.
“I look at the maps of Jerusalem and the Temple and am convinced beyond any doubt that this place was planned in advance to contain the occurrence of such a tremendous event; basically we are just recreating what already lies here in potential. Even if our planning is ambitious and on a larger scale than ever before seen in Jerusalem, it is clear to me that the potential has been here all along.
“What matters to me in the making of these plans, is to not destroy the rare combination of Jewish culture, technology and the natural attributes of perfection that come together only at this most sacred place on Earth”.
Alongside the Temple, which will be significantly taller than its predecessors, the complex will also include three courtyards and the Sanhedrin. Outside of the Temple Mount, various royal sites will be constructed including the royal palace, the House of Representatives, and a musical center and a diplomatic center called “The House of Nations” on the summit of Armon Hanatziv.
On all the main streets such as Hebron Road and Yaffo Road, skyscrapers up to a hundred floors tall will be built using the “multi-function use” system to include homes, hotels, stores, and offices.
The program also shows that all entrances into the city as well as all the city streets are designed to be connected to three enormous intersections – like in Rome, Italy – all directed towards “Butterfly Avenue” and from there, straight to the Temple. For example, all the pilgrims on Route 1 will connect to Jaffa Street – the left branch of the intersection that leads into “Butterfly Avenue.” This traffic system is meant to centralize Jerusalem and all who come through the gates around the epicenter of the city: the Temple.
A Light unto the Nations
Thousands of years ago, the Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah) stated: “Jerusalem is the light of the world.” To make Jerusalem the city that will host all of mankind, Ginsberg envisions her as a perfect blend between nature and technology, between architectural perfection and spiritual inspiration.”The goal of the project is that Jerusalem will be paradise on Earth. Jerusalem will not only be the most beautiful city in the world, or the most technologically advanced city, or even the city that functions best, but above all, Jerusalem will be a city of kindness and justice, a hospitable center in the spirit of the Torah. An icon of everything good that exists in this world.
“Any person who will come to the city will feel the abundance and the holiness of it already at its outskirts. The abundance alone will produce within each individual an instinctive drive to contribute and assist others. The feeling lingering in the streets of the future Jerusalem will be like that in a co-op, whose members all feel responsible for its continued success. A half-shekel like tax will assure the welfare and maintenance of the city.
“This material goodness and bounty will ensure an aura of holiness and spirituality. The economic situation of a person is what sets his social perceptions. Reality creates consciousness, and vice versa, consciousness generates reality.
“Therefore, we must assure that the reality of holiness and spirituality will be reflected in concrete conditions of comfort and affluence in maximal efficiency; everyone who sets foot in the Jerusalem of the future – and will experience all the material goodness in it, will instinctually be affected and his consciousness will be elevated to one which senses the reverence of G-d’s special presence and providence of Jerusalem, culminating in His abode, the Temple.”
“In addition to 5M residents, Jerusalem will be designed to comfortably host 5M pilgrims for a full stay including lodging. Wherever a person arrives, he will feel at home. Shade and shelter from the sun, a bench to rest, drinking water, and fruit trees will be widely available, all for free.
“Two million people will lodge in special units owned by Jerusalem residents. A municipal bylaw will stipulate financial assistance to every Jerusalem resident for the construction of an additional guest unit that will be designed for pilgrim families during the festivals.
“In addition, ‘Rebuilt Jerusalem’ calls for the port city of Ashdod to become ‘maritime Jerusalem.’ which will house another million people. You heard right… Ashdod will cease to be an independent city and will become the financial center and the port of Jerusalem.
“Any metropolitan city.” Ginsberg explains, “especially an international one like Jerusalem, must gain a foothold in the sea. ‘Maritime Jerusalem’ will serve as the business center of Jerusalem, with the stock exchange, office buildings, and all the mundane matters we don’t want conducted in the Holy City; a Manhattan-like locale.
“We chose Ashdod over Tel Aviv since the Ashdod port is much larger. An enormous international airport will be constructed nearby, and the city will be home to the largest shopping and banking center in the Middle East.
“High-speed subway lines will make traveling time from Jerusalem to Ashdod take no longer than 10 minutes.
“As part of the ‘pilgrim hospitality program,’ another 2M pilgrims will lodge in special campsites built in the hills of Jerusalem. There will be at least 10 such camps, with each compound housing a population of a city like Netanya – 200,000 guests!”
“The camps will be built in areas with a 15 percent angled incline so that the topographical shape can be used like ‘steps’ that will allow for the building of a terrace containing large underground ‘drawers’ which can store the equipment for the temporary buildings and camps when they aren’t in use, to maintain the beautiful landscape of the city.”These huge areas, throughout the year, will be parks lined with tens of thousands of trees and fruit orchards, lakes and lovely foot paths for public benefit.”
It is likely that you haven’t heard so far about homes popping out of drawers. It’s like, if we may, an upgraded “Playmobil” (just ask the kiddies, they’ll explain it to you.).
Using a super-technological system, conceptualized by the staff of “Rebuilt Jerusalem,” with the click of a button or the turn of a key, inflatable semi-pneumatic structures will be extracted from the mountain walls including doors, toilets, a kitchen and more, all operating on air pressure. Within half an hour to 40 minutes, thousands of ready-to-use, state-of-the-art homes will appear on the shaded park avenues.
In addition to the homes, each camp will contain pre-designated areas for synagogues and Yeshivos, food chains and shopping centers, and of course, public transportation stations to be used by the Temple-bound masses on weekdays.
Interestingly, although special needs and handicapped people will not exist when Moshiach comes – they will be completely cured – all programs of “Rebuilt Jerusalem” are also accessible to those grown accustomed to such transportation means during a much too long period of exile.
Ginsberg explains: “We came from a basic premise which believes that a place where a handicapped, elderly, or weak person cannot come to, no one will come to! All of our plans are made to be handicap accessible. There will be no discrimination. Jerusalem is a place for all,” he says emphatically.
Ginsberg acknowledges that according to the prophecies in the Torah, the Jerusalem of the Messianic era will be much larger than his plans now encompass.
“I’m an entrepreneur, and to guarantee a successful delivery of these plans, we need to limit it at its first phase.
“Our heads may be in the clouds regarding this project, but our feet are deeply grounded. On the one hand, we need to train people to think big, and on the other hand, our idea must be feasible, so we deliberately limit ourselves.
“When an architect builds a street, he must allow it to advance independently. With our project as well, we are just beginning. The development of the city is not in our hands. We are not deluding ourselves, but by introducing the idea into the public consciousness, we are determining the future. This is our mission for the benefit of the Jewish nation and for humanity as a whole .”
Just before our talented photographer turns to leave, he turns to Yoram and asks, “When the temple is finally dedicated, count me in for the photography, okay?” A smiling Yoram, in turn, makes a lucrative offer: “Come before, to cover the construction.”
The magazine can be obtained in stores around Crown Heights. To purchase a subscription, please go to: bmoshiach.org