The battle over the Temple Mount rages on
by Nadav Shragai, israelhayom.com, Nov. 27, 2013
Today, some 2,150 years after the Maccabees victoriously returned to the Temple Mount to resume divine service in the Jewish Temple and light the menorah, the commemoration of the Hanukkah miracle could serve as an opportunity to revisit historical, Jewish roots in Jerusalem and at the Temple Mount. But Israel has long since given up on that battle.
For more than a generation, the Palestinians have been systematically working to deny the existence of the Jewish Temple. Their stubborn refusal to recognize Israel as the Jewish state is not unrelated to that denial. At Camp David in 2000, then-President Bill Clinton was shocked to hear such claims straight from the mouth of Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat. At first, Arafat insisted that the Jewish Temple existed in Nablus. Two years later, he “reformed” his opinion, stating that Temple never existed in Palestine at all. Senior PLO official Nabil Shaath, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, senior PLO official Yasser Abed Rabbo and PA President Mahmoud Abbas all question the very existence of the Jewish Temple at the Temple Mount, called Haram al-Sharif in Arabic. The denial is common in Islamic circles, the academic world, and, of course, in the Arabic media — it is a preponderant belief in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and other Gulf countries.
The prevalent theory has been documented by authors such as Yitzhak Reiter, Shmuel Berkowitz, Dore Gold and others. From the Palestinians and Arab perspective, the Temple is simply a figment of the Jewish imagination. They call it “Al-Mazoum,” meaning the miniscule thing, attempting to paint Jewish claims as imaginary, mendacious, not based in reality. At the same time, such individuals have been busy for years trying to hide the truth, destroying archeological evidence of the Jewish Temple that threatened to invalidate their lies.
Such colossal fraud would not be very hard to settle but Israel, whether out of indolence or the desire to avoid “holy wars” that could invariably push the conflict toward religious lines, has opted out. That’s a big mistake. We are already fighting religious wars; the root of the conflict is religious. Trying to isolate the national-territorial elements of the conflict is totally naive. Also, denying the Jewish Temple’s existence is a phenomenon that has already begun to penetrate certain circles in Europe.
The time has come to fight back. The mission at hand is not so complex. To support our argument, the fact remains that up until 1967, we constantly told the story of the Jewish Temple and shared details about the structure. The destruction of the First Temple by Nebuchadnezzar is a firmly established, undeniable motif prevalent throughout Islamic literature. Take, for example, Jerusalemite Arab geographer and historian Al-Muqaddasi from the 10th century. Take 14th-century Iranian legal scholar Al-Mastufi, the poetry of Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi from the 13th century, or even books and travel guides from the time of Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Jerusalem religious leader who struck an alliance with the Nazis.
In the mid-20th century, Palestinian journalist, historian and East Jerusalem Mayor Aref al-Aref wrote that the Temple Mount is located at Mount Moriah, where the Biblical Jebusite Araunah owned his threshing floors and which King David purchased for building the Temple, eventually built by Solomon in 1,007 B.C.E. (for more information, see Retiner’s book “From Jerusalem to Mecca and Back”).
Joining the Muslim writers is a plethora of facts, discoveries and sources, reinforcing the Jewish bond to Jerusalem and the existence of the Temple, such as the Bible, Mishnah, Gemara, several midrashim and myriad Jewish commentaries. These sources provide evidence for the divine service and for the Temple’s existence over many years. First century Roman Jewish scholar Josephus saw the Temple with his own eyes and documented its destruction. And, of course, there are the multiple archeological finds. To name a few:
The remains of engravings barring access to the Temple for non-Jews past a barrier surrounding the Temple, also mentioned by Josephus; the southwestern cornerstone of the Temple Mount from the Second Temple period with the inscription describing how a priest would be present during the sounding of the horns when Shabbat began and ended, as described in the Mishnah as well; the remains of a corpse identified by the British during the Mandate Period, on the Temple Mount, belonging to a Jew who had undergone ritual ablutions; over the past few years archeologists made First Temple discoveries on the Temple Mount, but quickly covered them up to avoid conflict.
But such findings and many more have only sped up the process of amplifying Jerusalem’s holiness to Islam and the sweeping denial of any Jewish bond to the city and its sanctity. Hanukkah is our time to respond.