An ancient Islamic tradition foretells the rebuilding of the Holy Temple on Mount Moriah. More about that later: But this past Friday, Aug. 3rd – it happened to be Tu B’Av, a significant holiday in the time of the Holy Temple – a large Palestinian flag was flown over the Temple Mount, in a deliberate and flagrant violation of Israeli sovereignty. You couldn’t have heard about this outrageous public display of a foreign flag flying over Israel’s holiest site in her capital city, or read about it in any mainstream media, because it was not reported. The incident elicited no response whatsoever, neither from the Israel police, nor from any governmental agency or spokesman.
Two months ago it was reported that an Israeli policeman who displayed a small Israeli flag on the Temple Mount during a routine patrol was relieved of his duties, and would face additional disciplinary measures. The Islamic clerics were enraged and the police response was swift and severe. The Wakf officials viewed the incident with the utmost severity and spoke of it in their sermons, emphasizing that “Al Aksa is Muslim only.” Sheikh Ikrimah Sabri was outraged and noted that of late, more security personnel and ‘settlers’ have been present on the Temple Mount, but he found this action to be particularly infuriating: “The display of an Israeli flag is an act of aggression, with the intention of applying Israeli sovereignty on the Al Aksa mosque, to pull the carpet out from under the administration of the Islamic Wakf.” The police responded, “the officer displayed a tiny Israeli flag in the Temple Mount area. The commanders immediately removed him from the site. The officer was relieved of his duties and severe disciplinary measures will be enacted against him.”
The popular, much-repeated Israeli zeitgeist regarding the Temple Mount is that the holy site is unquestionably under Israeli sovereignty, and that the immortal words broadcast by Motta Gur on June 7th, 1967, “Cease fire, the Temple Mount is in our hands,” are absolute truth. However, the thought goes, herein – in our ability to withdraw and minimize ourselves – lies our greatness. For in a magnanimous gesture of respect for Islamic sensitivity, the government of Israel agreed that administration over the Mount would remain in the hands of the Wakf. The latter exercise almost all authority over the daily affairs at the site.
In 1924, an official guide booklet for tourists was published by the Supreme Muslim Council entitled ‘A Brief Guide to Al-Haram Al-Sharif.’ In this booklet, printed in Jerusalem in 1924 by the Wakf itself, the following statements can be found on page 4: “The site is one of the oldest in the world. Its sanctity dates from the earliest (perhaps from pre-historic) times. Its identity with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute. This, too, is the spot, according to the universal belief, on which ‘David built there an altar unto the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings (II Sam. 24:25)’.”
The author of this blog holds an original copy of this 1924 publication, as well as subsequent editions that were re-published periodically in the years following the establishment of the State of Israel: I have editions dated 1954, 1962 and 1965. In every edition of this booklet published after the establishment of the State of Israel, the material – or rather, the history – has been completely revised. The earlier statements testifying to Israel’s ancient connection are purged, and the entire historical review of the site has been distilled to this: “Haram es-Sharif – Noble Sanctuary – is the religious center of the Muslims of the Middle East and second only to Mecca in the Muslim World. The Prophet himself spoke of Al-Aqsa, the original name for the place and, according to tradition, made a miraculous journey to it. Thus it has been identified with Islam from its beginning.”
Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, founder of the Temple Institute and one of the paratroopers who liberated the Old City of Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War, tells this story about the heady day, 45 years ago, when Jewish soldiers once again found themselves on the Temple Mount after 1900 years:
The IDF paratroopers on the Temple Mount were approached by a Jordanian in civilian clothes who identified himself as the official guide, appointed by the Jordanian government, to guide dignitaries at the site. He asked the soldiers, Yisrael Ariel among them, if they would like a tour of the Temple Mount and began to walk with them, offering his explanation as they went.
“Here is where the Sanctuary stood.”
“Here is where the altar stood.”
“Here is where the Holy of Holies stood.”
A far cry from the official position of the Islamic Wakf today, that denies a Temple ever existed here.
Rabbi Ariel, the young paratrooper, was astonished as to why this man should be telling the Israeli soldiers all these details – preserved by Islamic tradition – regarding the Holy Temple.
The man answered: “We have a tradition from our fathers that one day the Jews will wage a war, and conquer this mountain, and rebuild the Holy Temple. I assume that you will be starting tomorrow, and I want this to be my contribution.”
Apparently, this is what they were expecting. Perhaps if we would have built the Holy Temple back then, we would have had 45 years of peace and security.
Wouldn’t that be ironic.