Holy Temple in Jerusalem in VR

A controversial virtual-reality tour showing the Temple before its destruction is dazzling. But that doesn’t mean the producers want it rebuilt.

The virtual-reality attraction was produced by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, a government body established by the Religious Affairs Ministry in 1988 with a mandate to preserve and develop the Western Wall area and the tunnels connected to it. In an ancient underground chamber, visitors are transported back to the Second Temple Period, some 2,000 years ago, letting them wander around the Temple Mount – Robinson’s Arch, the Royal Portico, the Temple’ courts, and of course the Temple itself.

The project was the product of research by historians, rabbis, archaeologists and art scholars. They leaned heavily on the Talmud, the writings of Flavius Josephus, archaeology finds, and evidence elsewhere of Roman architecture. The structure of the Temple Mount and the Temple itself was recreated in fine detail and actual dimension.

“The research opened the way for restoration at the level of the kind of marble, flooring and construction materials used at the time,” said an official at the Western Wall Heritage Foundation who requested anonymity. “So a new layer was added to the excavated ancient remains. This allowed for a clear mapping of the position of every element in the Temple area.”

According to the official, “Our goal isn’t technological excellence. For us, technology is simply a tool that has to be used with restraint. We’re not Disneyland.”

At this point, I wasn’t yet aware of how often the word “Disneyland” would resurface among the people in the project.

Some 9 million people visit the Western Wall Plaza every year. Almost 1 million of them tour the Western Wall Tunnels and the adjacent sites, but the tours are designed for groups. The new attraction, created by the scientists and designers of the Israeli outfit ArchTour, targets the individual, though that’s not the only motivation.

“We looked for a common denominator for Jews everywhere,” said the Foundation official, as it turned out, shortly before UNESCO’s controversial decision this month overlooking the Jews’ ties to the Temple Mount. “We wanted to create a place that’s not divisive, not controversial and focuses on pilgrimage. That’s our task, to show what was here in the past, to transmit the Western Wall heritage, which draws on the Temple.”

A visualization of the Second Temple’s interior

 more : Haaretz.com