A Letter to President Mahmoud Abbas

Mr. President, I am not a presumptuous fellow.  I honestly don’t know what you did or did not learn while attending Damascus University or that other university in Russia.

Abu Mazen, most honorable President Abbas, you suggested banning Jews from the Holy Sites in Jerusalem.  I would like to suggest a few ideas that might assist you in reaching a closer, kinder relationship with your neighbors, my people, el SHAAB el YAHUDI.

First of all our common ancestor, Abraham or Ibrahim as he is known to you, first set foot on the “Al-Haram al-Sharif” الحرم الشريف (the Noble Sanctuary), while obeying a command he believed had come from G-d. He was going to sacrifice his son Isaac upon that rock, that very rock that is inside the Qubbat As-Sakhrah, or the Dome of the Rock.

Many years later a young King of my people, el SHAAB el YAHUDI, Malik Daoud or King David as he is commonly know nowadays, established Al-Quds (القدس‎), Jerusalem, as the new capital of his new kingdom.  He decided against having Al-Khalīl al-Raḥmān, or Hebron as it is commonly known, as the capital.  His son, King Solomon, built the first Holy Temple for my people in Jerusalem, atop the “Al-Haram al-Sharif”.

That Holy Temple was destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon sometime around the year 587 BCE, and then 655 years later in the year 70 CE, by the Romans.  Both dates are marked in our calendar as having happened on the 9th day of the Hebrew month of AV.

The Holy Temple was built a second time by Ezra and Nehemiah, and as far as anyone could gather, no Palestinian Arab was involved in the building of either the first or the second.  My people never did rebuild the Holy Temple.  There are so many reasons why we haven’t done so.

The Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik was the first Muslim to complete a Holy Mosque on the “Al-Haram al-Sharif”, around the year 691 CE.  The actual site was chosen by an earlier Caliph, Omar ibn al Khattab, upon the counsel of a rabbi who had converted to Islam.  Mythology points to an old Jewish woman sifting the ruins of the Holy Temple at that time. When Caliph Omar questioned her, she said that she was looking for Holy Artifacts from the Temple, and the caliph decided there and then to build a mosque commemorating the Islamic miracle of the Isra and Miraj, or the Prophet’s Night Journey.

Subsequently and over a period of many years, two mosques were built, as you well know, Mr. President.  The Al Aqsa Mosque and the Qubbat As-Sakhrah, were built and rebuilt many times up until the present day. Earthquakes and other disasters befell them, and they were built up to their present day beauty.  I myself was very fortunate because I visited the Qubbat As-Sakhrah, or the Dome of the Rock, and I was able to walk atop the “Al-Haram al-Sharif” several times.  I was amazed at the beauty of the architecture, both on the outside and on the inside of the Mosque.

Just after the Israeli victory over the Jordanian troops in 1967, and the subsequent capture of Jerusalem and the walled city of Jerusalem, it was the government of Israel that approached the The Jerusalem Islamic Waqf and charged it as the authority to control the  “Al-Haram al-Sharif”.  Israel then opened the entire old city of Jerusalem to the entire world.  Christians, Muslims and Jews, in fact anyone from anywhere in the world, was able to visit any and all of the Holy Sites within that city.

And now, Mr. President, you want to turn back the hands of time, and once again ban Jews, my people, el SHAAB el YAHUDI from visiting our Holy Sites.  This will not foster a spirit of cooperation.  This will not bring about the peaceful and neighborly relations between two nations living side by side in harmony and co-existence, Mr. President.  I am quite sure that Prime Minister Netanyahu is not planning to ban Muslims from visiting their Holy Sites, as long as they are peaceful.

There are many other Holy Sites.  I visited the Jezzar Pasha Mosque in Acco. It is beautiful. Would you ban Jews and others from that Holy Site as well?  I visited the Ibrahimi Mosque, known as the Sanctuary of Abraham, the Cave of the Patriarchs or the Machpelah in the town of al- Khalil, الخليل, or Hebron.  It’s not so safe there for me now, but wouldn’t it be a great idea to open that whole area up to tourists from the entire world?  It is really beautiful there, especially in the early spring, when everything is in bloom and there are cyclamen and red anemones everywhere.

In conclusion, Mr. President, let’s please not ban anyone from visiting any Holy Site in Jerusalem.  We don’t and I feel that you and your government should not as well.

About the Author
Born in Israel, Yuval emigrated as a baby to Austria and then Canada. He returned to live in Israel in '71 until '91. His military service was in Golani Brigade's 13th Battalion (including Yom Kippur War) with reserve duty as a tank commander and later a liaison officer in the IDF Liaison Unit. He now resides in Pennsylvania, USA.