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Op-Ed: The Temple Mount is to Jews as Mecca is to Muslims

reposted from Israel National News

A Letter to Europe: The Kab'a, in Mecca, is Islam's holiest site. It is the Jews whose holiest site is the Temple Mount. Jews around the world face the Temple Mount when praying, Muslims face Mecca even when they pray on or near the Temple Mount.

by Ezequiel Doiny

Last week Haaretz published a document that listed the EUs red lines for Israel among which is a warning not to "harm the status-quo at Temple Mount". The fact that the EU chose to include the Temple Mount in the list of red-lines shows that they will likely support Palestinian demands for sovereignty over the site.

The Europeans claim that Temple Mount has to be in 'Palestine' because the Jewish Temple is no longer there while the Al-Aqsa Mosque is there now. This argument is wrong for three reasons:

1. There are more Muslims in Israel than in the 'West Bank', Israeli Arabs have the same claim to Al-Aqsa as 'West Bank' Arabs.

2. Israel preserves Muslim Holy sites while Arabs destroy Jewish Holy sites if given a chance. Israel has not destroyed Al-Aqsa or the Dome of the Rock from 1967 till now, 2014, under Israeli sovereignty. The Palestinians destroyed Joseph's Tomb and illegally excavated and destroyed Jewish Archaeological remains from Solomon's Temple and would destroy much more if given sovereignty.

3. The area of the Temple Mount is the holiest site for Judaism even without the Temple there.

The Temple Mount was the site where the two Jewish Temples were located. King David blessed the Temple Mount before King Solomon built the First Temple in 957 BCE. The First Temple was destroyed in 586 BCE by the Babylonians. The Second Temple was built in 538 BCE and destroyed in 70 CE by the Romans. The Al Aqsa mosque was built on top of the ruins of the Jewish Temple after the Arab conquest of Jerusalem in 709 CE.

This is an excerpt from Mark Twain's "The Innocents Abroad" describing his visit to the Mosque of Omar and the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem in 1867:

"Everywhere about the Mosque of Omar are portions of pillars, curiously wrought altars, and fragments of elegantly carved marble - the precious remains of Solomon's Temple...see the costly marbles that once adorned the inner Temple...the designs wrought upon these fragments are all quaint and meets with these venerable scraps at every turn, specially in the neighboring mosque Al Aqsa, into whose inner walls a very large number of them are carefully built for preservation. These pieces of stone, stained and dusty with age, dimly hint at a grandeur we have all been taught to regard as the princeliest ever seen on earth; and they call up pictures of a pageant that is familiar to all imaginations - camels laden with spices and treasure - beautiful slaves, presents for Solomon's harem - a long cavalcade of richly caparisoned beasts and warriors - and Sheba's Queen in the van of this prison of Oriental Magnificence. These elegant fragments bear a richer interest than the solemn vastness of the stones the Jews kiss in the place of wailing can ever have for the heedless sinner.

"Down in the hollow ground, underneath the olives and oranges trees that flourish in the court of the great mosque , is a wilderness of pillars - remains of the ancient Temple, they supported it. There are ponderous archways down there...we never dreamed we might see portions of the actual Temple of Solomon..."

Deliberate Destruction by the Waqf

The Jewish Temple was not only destroyed by the Romans 2000 years ago, it continues being destroyed by the Arabs today. If the Palestinians assume responsibility over the site they will have freedom to destroy much more.

Journalist Ilan Ben Zion reported in December 2012: "The Muslim authority managing the Temple Mount on Sunday dumped tons of unexamined earth and stones excavated from the holy site into a municipal dump, in violation of a High Court injunction, Maariv (Hebrew Daily, ed.) reported on Monday."

Israel?s top court in September 2004 prohibited removal of earth from the Temple Mount and ruled that, should it be necessary [to do so], the Antiquities Authority must be notified a month in advance so it may examine the earth for artifacts.

Jews regard the Temple Mount as their holiest site, where the First and Second Temple were located. Muslims call it the Noble Sanctuary and regard it as their third holiest site after Mecca and Medina. According to the existing arrangement, the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, or trust, administers the Temple Mount complex.

Despite the High Court of Justice?s ruling, the Waqf has reportedly removed large piles of dirt from the Temple Mount in recent years and dumped them in the valley east of the Old City walls, provoking an outcry from biblical archaeologists and Jewish groups.

Tzachi Dvira, the archaeologist managing the team that sifts through soil excavated from the Temple Mount, told Maariv that mounds of earth containing historic relics were carted off and dumped on Sunday without notification and before archaeologists could investigate them.

Police claimed the removal of the soil was coordinated in advance. Dvira, however, said there were no Antiquities Authority officials on site, and the one police officer monitoring the operation had no idea of its significance.

Dvira claimed Waqf workers exploited a permit for removing construction waste from renovations done at the al-Aqsa Mosque on the site, which also contains the Dome of the Rock, in order to cart off artifact-laden earth from the Temple Mount.

He stated that official oversight of earth removal from the Temple Mount has grown lax in recent years, and said that ?the fact that no one has succeeded in stopping the Waqf?s destructive actions raises many doubts about the role of the government in this matter.?

Soil from the Temple Mount that had been removed by the Waqf to the Kidron Valley in recent years has yielded ?tens of thousands of finds, including signet rings from the First Temple era, painted floor tiles from the Second Temple era, ancient gold coins, and horseshoe nails and arrowheads belonging to the Knights Templar, who stabled their horses in Solomon?s Stables,? Dvira said.

Suzanne Singer, a contributing editor to the Biblical Archeological Review reported about Palestinian destruction of Jewish Archaeological remains in Temple Mount in September 2000: "Large-scale illegal construction on the Temple Mount and wholesale dumping of earth in the nearby Kidron Valley resumed this spring..."

"... The Temple Mount is, of course, sacred to three great Western faiths and is part of the world?s cultural patrimony. Here may lie remnants from the time of the First Temple of Solomon, the Second Temple built by Herod, the Byzantine period and the early Islamic eras. Israeli excavations around the exterior of the Temple Mount since 1967 have found remains from all these periods, but the Mount itself has been terra incognita, protected by an understanding between Israel and the Waqf that says no construction will take place there...

" ...Last November, we reported that the Waqf, in the dead of night, had dumped hundreds of truckloads of earth from the Temple Mount into the Kidron Valley and municipal garbage dumps. About 6,000 tons of earth were removed ...Despite the flagrant disregard by the Waqf of the requirement for IAA supervision, there was no serious response by Israeli authorities. Today the dumped earth is unprotected and is being covered with garbage, making it unlikely that the IAA will ever act on its announced intention to salvage artifacts by sifting through the piles."

"...This spring and early summer, trucks and tractors returned to the Temple Mount, bringing building materials in and carting earth away through the Lions? Gate, just north of the Temple Mount. For 200 yards along the inside of the Temple Mount?s eastern wall, from the al-Marawani Mosque?s new entrance to somewhat south of the Golden Gate, lie stacks of paving stones, scaffolding, wood and iron materials, along with large architectural fragments, such as pieces of ancient columns...

" ...The construction on the Temple Mount is only the latest, albeit perhaps the most egregious, example of the Waqf?s disregard for the protection of antiquities. In 1993 Israel?s Supreme Court found that the Waqf had violated the country?s antiquities laws no less than 35 times, with many of the violations causing the irreversible destruction of archaeological remains.

" ...Due to Prime Minister Barak?s concern for negotiations with the Palestinians, no effective archaeological oversight is taking place on the Temple Mount. No one halts the work so that potential damage can be assessed and prevented; as a result, heavy equipment is free to move about the Mount for projects that are neither approved nor supervised. The frequently heard view is that a tough stance by Israel will enflame the Palestinians and set back the peace talks..."

While Israel preserves Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock, Arabs have proven that they cannot be trusted to respect Jewish Holy sites. In 2000 the Palestinians destroyed Joseph's tomb.

Sidney Brounstein wrote for the Los Angeles Times "Oct. 8: Where is the outrage? Imagine what would have happened if Jewish police stood by and allowed a Jewish mob to destroy a Muslim holy place! Does the destruction of a Jewish holy place by an Arab mob while Palestinian police stand by (after promising to protect it) deserve no more than inclusion in a list of other damage done by rioters? Is this an acceptance of attacks on Jews and things Jewish as a normal part of life?"

"It makes a mockery of any thought of giving Arabs any control of Jewish holy places. The destruction of dozens of such places in the Old City of Jerusalem from 1948 to 1967, along with the exclusion of Jews entirely from their most holy site, the Western Wall, was clearly of a piece with the current destruction."

The Temple Mount Area Has Always Been Holy to Jews

The Temple Mount was holy to the Jews even before the Temples existed because there is a special connection with God at the site:

According to the Torah (Bereshit [Genesis] 22:1-14), God told Abraham to bring his son, Isaac, and offer him as a sacrifice there.

It was also at Temple Mount that Ya'akov (Jacob) had his famous dream where he saw angels going and coming from heaven on a ladder.

"Ya'akov was fleeing from his brother Esau. Ya'akov left Be'er Sheva and went towards Charan. He came across the place and spent the night there because the sun had set. He took some of the stones of the place and placed them around his head, and he lay down to sleep in that place.

"He dreamt, and - look! - a ladder was wedged in the ground and its top reached to heaven, and - look!- angels of God were going up and down on it.

"Suddenly, God was standing over him, and He said, "I am God, the God of Abraham your father, and the God of Isaac. I will give to you and to your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be as the dust of the earth, and you will be strong to the west, to the east, to the north, to the south. All the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants. Look, I am with you, and I will guard you wherever you go. I will bring you back to this land, for I will not abandon you until I have carried out what I have spoken for you.""

"Ya'akov woke up from his sleep and he said. 'God is truly in this place, and I didn't realize.'

He felt frightened. He said, 'How awesome this place is! This is none other than the house of God, this is the Gate of Heaven.

"Ya'akov arose early in the morning. He took the stone that he had placed at his head, set it up as a monument, and poured oil on top of it... Ya'akov made a vow saying 'If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father's house in peace, then God shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God's house'." (Bereshit 28:20-22)

While the Jewish Temples existed it was believed that the Schechina (God's Presence) rested in the Holy of Holies, the part of the Temple where the Holy Ark (with Moses' tablets) was. Now that the Temple is no longer in place, even with the Mosque there, Temple Mount continues being the Holiest Site for Judaism, a place where God's presence is closer.

The Europeans believe that because the Jewish Temple was destroyed and there is a Mosque on the Temple Mount, the Palestinians have a stronger claim to the site: This shows a great ignorance about Judaism. Jews around the world face the Temple Mount when they pray. Muslims face Mecca even when they pray on or near the Temple Mount.

Even without the Temple, the Temple Mount is the Holiest Site for Judaism. The Holiest site for Islam is the Ka'ba in Mecca. Taking away Temple Mount from the Jews would be like taking the Ka'ba in Mecca from the Arabs.

One of Maimonides 13 principles of the Jewish faith, for which Jews pray three times a day, is the belief in the resurrection of the death and the coming of Messiah, the descendant of King David. When Messiah comes, the Temple will be rebuilt - on the Temple Mount.


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