“A Song of Ascents. When Hashem brought back those that returned to Tzion, we were like unto them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing; then said they among the nations: ‘Hashem hath done great things with these.’” Psalms 126:1-2
When Philip Gilchrist, a non-Jewish architect from New Zealand, visited Jerusalem on Tuesday, he was shocked to see what he was sure were the beginnings of construction of the Third Temple. Gilchrist mistook simple maintenance, shoring up of the bases of the walls, for pre-Messianic construction, but his innocent mistake bears a powerfully inspirational message.
Gilchrist, who prefers to be called Yochanan Ben Yosef Gil Yisrael, has had his own architectural firm in Dunedin New Zealand for over 15 years. He was physically distant from the Holy Land and has no family connection with Judaism, though he is investigating his genealogy. When he was studying architecture at Auckland University, his father, a devout Christian, asked him to do an illustrated study of the Tabernacle. Gilchrist complied, later adapting his labor-of-love to be submitted as his final thesis. His study included the Temple and its utensils.
After arriving in Jerusalem and touring the Temple Mount Compound, Gilchrist toured the tunnel complex that runs adjacent to the retaining walls of the Temple Mount. The tunnel complex is open to the public and is undergoing renovations intended to strengthen the ancient walls supporting the structure above. At the same time, archaeologists are weaving through a political minefield in order to study the unique site.
When Gilchrist viewed the construction he was shocked.
“I was sure that what I was seeing was the beginning of construction on the Third Temple,” Gilchrist told Breaking Israel News. “As an architect, I know that if I was charged with the project, that is precisely the way I would have set about doing it. You don’t start at the top; you begin with making the foundations strong.”
Perhaps more amazing was that the work was being carried out by Muslims who seemed quite happy to be working on the Jewish Temple. Perplexed by what he had seen, Gilchrist consulted with Rabbi Chaim Clorfene, who has written authoritative books on the Third Temple. Rabbi Clorfene assured Gilchrist that the construction had not been contracted by any authority higher than the Israeli government, but the conversation had a powerful impact.