So you want to rebuild the Temple? Get ready for some crazy… cost overruns

It’s almost Tisha B’av, and that means The Children Are Ready — to be precise, The Children Are Ready III.

Ready for what?

To record the latest fundraising video on behalf of the Temple Institute! The organization recently released its third annual video calling for the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem — you may recall earlier editions if you close your eyes and concentrate — or you can just click on these links (first and second).

But what is different about this video from all other videos? The 5774 version is accompanied by a brand new Indiegogo campaign, titled simply “Build the Third Temple“:*

Build the Third Temple

As you can see, the campaign so far has raised nearly $6,000 toward its $100,000 goal, and with stellar rewards like “$18 – A mitzvah!” and “$50,000 – Preview of architectural plans” you know it should have no trouble raising the full amount by the end of the nine days, or at least before its scheduled deadline… right in the middle of Rosh Hashana (I kid you not).

But it’s not the Indiego-goals I’m worried about — it’s that $100,000 is probably not going to get the Temple done. How do I know? Because it’s already been tried.

The New York Times reported this week that the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God recently completed its 10,000-seat replica of the Temple of Solomon in São Paulo. Sadly, construction wasn’t completed in time for the facility to host any World Cup matches last month, though I suppose the hometown team is lucky that Brazil then lacked the facilities to accommodate the complete Scapegoat Ritual.

Leaving aside for a moment that a structure containing 10,000 seats** and a helicopter landing pad probably falls somewhat short of a perfect replica, the cost of the facility far exceeded $100,000. Sure, there should be ample opportunity for cost-saving when it comes time to build the real thing: After all, the Church imported its structure’s “monumental walls of stone” all the way from Israel. But then again, it also managed to cut costs by sourcing its cedar from somewhere other than Lebanon.

In total, the building cost $300 million to construct, up from the $200 million price tag expected when it was first approved in 2010. Amazingly, those cost overruns managed to exceed even World Cup stadium cost overruns (as measured by percentage). An impressive accomplishment, to be sure. But even using more conservative estimates, Build the Third Temple is still staring down cost overruns that exceed the ask of its campaign by nearly 2000 times.

The good news is while that ratio of Needed Funds:Fundraising Goal may sound somewhat daunting, it does not even approach the monumental achievement of the infamous Potato Salad Kickstarter campaign, which at the time of this writing had raised $52,557 toward its original goal of $10. One would have to imagine the Temple in Jerusalem could attract more funding than one salad. After all, can potato salad successfully compete with “$180 – The High Priest’s Crown Jewel”? I didn’t think so.

Finally, if you’re practical-minded, and wondering how in the world Build the Third Temple will complete its plans given that its desired footprint is currently occupied by an iconic shrine, I would simply point you to midwife of the Temple,  the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. If you learned anything from today’s misguided rockets that struck a hospital and a playground, as well as occasional rocket fire in the direction of Islam’s third holiest city — which somewhat unbelievably prompted one resident of East Jerusalem to complain to the New York Times that Israel does not build enough bomb shelters for East Jerusalemites — it’s that one of these days, one of those rockets is going to miss, and is going to miss badly.

And when that happens, something tells me Iron Dome might hesitate just the fraction of a second necessary to allow one through.***

*Yes, a cursory examination of the fine print reveals that the title oversells the campaign’s ambitions somewhat. And yes, moderately disappointing that the $500 Platinum family membership reward only guarantees admission to the Temple Institute rather than to the actual Temple.

**For some reason, this seems to be the preferred capacity for mega-Temples of Solomon. The Belz Great Synagogue in Jerusalem similarly seats 10,000, though I imagine that figure includes the women hidden in the ceiling.

***This scenario is set in the future, when Iron Dome will have more impressive missile-tracking technology than is currently available. And no, this is not meant to be a suggestion. Stop asking questions!


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