EXPLAINED: What are the Red Heifer cows doing in Israel

Red heifer sacrifice ritual.

Israel has imported cows from Texas, believed by some to hold the ‘key to fulfilling ancient biblical prophecy’. Reportedly, a massive altar is being prepared in Jerusalem for a ritual that dates back to the time of Moses (Musa). Steeped in religious significance, the events are capturing worldwide attention

The Temple Institute’s efforts to fulfil biblical prophecy has also sparked political tensions in the occupied West Bank. These red heifers, believed necessary for rebuilding the Third Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, are seen as a provocative symbol by Muslims worldwide including the Palestinians.

However, the proposed location for this temple, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City, is also home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock shrine, two of the holiest sites in Islam.

Islamic nations view cow slaughtering and potential temple construction as part of Israeli occupation, asserting control over Jerusalem and disregarding Palestinian sovereignty.

Nearly 33,000, mainly women and children, died in the Gaza genocide starting October 7, 2023, as Hamas retaliated against Israel’s occupational crimes.

According to the Jewish tradition, a perfectly red heifer cow is required for purification before the Third Temple can be built. The temple’s construction is desired by radical Jewish groups, awaiting the messiah.

Palestinian factions noticed the red heifers’ arrival. In a recent speech marking Gaza’s 100th genocide day, Hamas spokesperson accused Jews of bringing red cows, linking them to the ongoing conflict.

Yitshak Mamo, from Uvne Jerusalem, has facilitated the cow transportation from Texas to the West Bank. Red heifers, classified as pets to bypass export regulations, are destined for sacrifice on a massive white altar in Jerusalem.


What is the Red Heifer sacrifice 

According to the Jewish texts, a Red Heifer is a cow that is entirely red in color, without any blemish or markings, and has never been used for work. This specific type of cow is required for a ritual purification process described in the Hebrew Bible.

In Jewish tradition, the Red Heifer sacrifice is detailed in the Old Testament. According to the text, the ashes of a red heifer cow, ‘without blemish’, was sacrificed and its ashes were used in purification rituals of Jews.

The ashes were used to cleanse a person from ritual impurity, particularly those who had come into contact with a corpse. The Red Heifer is a symbol of purity and the restoration of ritual cleanliness in Jewish tradition.

This purification process was considered necessary for people to participate in certain religious activities, such as entering the Temple in Jerusalem or partaking in specific religious ceremonies.

Israelis believe that the preparation and sacrifice of a Red Heifer are prerequisites for the rebuilding of the Third Temple in Jerusalem, where today, the Al Aqsa mosque stands.


Islamic viewpoint: What do the Muslims believe

The second and the longest sura (chapter) in the Quran is named “al-Baqara” (Arabic: البقرة “the cow” or “the heifer”) after the heifer that was ordered to be sacrificed as the commandment is related in the surah.

The incident mentioned in the aayah (verse) 61 to 71 read as follows:

And when Moses said unto his people: Lo!Allah (God) commandeth you that ye sacrifice a cow, they said: Dost thou make game of us?

He answered: Allah forbid that I should be among the foolish!

They said: Pray for us unto thy Lord that He make clear to us what (cow) she is.

(Moses) answered: Lo! He saith, Verily she is a cow neither with calf nor immature; (she is) between the two conditions; so do that which ye are commanded.

They said: Pray for us unto thy Lord that He make clear to us of what colour she is.

(Moses) answered: Lo! He saith: Verily she is a yellow cow. Bright is her colour, gladdening beholders.

They said: Pray for us unto thy Lord that He make clear to us what (cow) she is. Lo! cows are much alike to us; and Lo! if Allah wills, we may be led aright.

(Moses) answered: Lo! He saith: Verily she is a cow unyoked; she plougheth not the soil nor watereth the tilth; whole and without mark.

They said: Now thou bringest the truth. So they sacrificed her, though almost they did not.

— Quran, Surah 2, Aayah 61-71 (translation by Pickthall)


What is the Third Temple of Solomon?

As per the Jewish tradtion, also corroborated by the Quran, after King David conquered Jerusalem and made it his capital, in 1000 BC King Solomon built a temple to worship God.

The building was known as the First Temple of Solomon. It was destroyed in 586 BC by Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, when he conquered Jerusalem.

The Second Temple of Solomon was built in 37 BC, when King Herod enlarged the Temple Mount and rebuilt the temple with the consent of the public.

During the Roman period, in AD 70, the Second Temple was destroyed, along with Jerusalem, by Titus’ army. It was also during this period that Jesus was in Jerusalem.

Since then, the temple does not exist to this day.

Radical Jews believe that they have to build the Third Temple for the Messiah to come and help them rule the world.


Christian perspective: What does the Bible say?

The Book of Numbers prescribes specific instructions for the sacrifice of the Red Heifer and the use of its ashes in purification rituals.

This ritual is seen as a foreshadowing of the ultimate purification through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ in Christian theology.

Numerous prophecies in the Hebrew Bible, particularly in the books of Ezekiel and Daniel, speak of the rebuilding of the Temple and its central role in the end times.

The Bible says: “Speak unto the children of Israel,” the Lord commanded, “that they bring thee a red heifer without spot, wherein is no blemish, and upon which never came a yoke.” The cow will be given to a priest to slay, the Lord continued, and burned on a pyre of cedar, hyssop, and a strand of scarlet thread. Then the ashes of the heifer will be mixed with water and used to purify those who have been exposed to death. Anyone who fails to be purified “shall be cut off from among the congregation, because he hath defiled the sanctuary of the Lord.”

Many Christians interpret these prophecies allegorically, believing that the Third Temple symbolises the spiritual dwelling place of God within believers.

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