Islam and the Future of Jerusalem

In poll after poll, when asked to choose between the importance of the West Bank or a capital in Jerusalem, Palestinians chose Jerusalem overwhelmingly. The reason for this is religious, not political. Palestinians have increasingly felt that the struggle for the Holy Land is a struggle between two religions both in a desperate search for conquest (a complete and total conquest). Even during its nationalist phase, when the PLO ruled supreme, religious symbols and the negation of a Jewish connection to the land was the norm within Palestinian nationalist and religious circles. Eventually, the Hamas charter became a prime example of this kind of thinking.

But was this always so? The answer is a firm NO! Robert Satloff of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy recently astonished a gathering of experts on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by producing a pamphlet published in 1924 by the Supreme Muslim Council of Palestine. Mr. Satloff, who is the director of the Institute, said that he kept this document on his desk to show visitors that the contemporary issues of dispute surrounding the Noble Sanctuary or Temple Mount have not always been as charged as they are today. At one time in modern history, the religious understanding between Jews and Muslims was, in fact, complementary. Given the narrative of this incredible 1924 Palestinian document, it seems that hope for a future path forward, even in these dark and bloody days, springs eternal. In fact, peace and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians are not only possible, but such an outcome even has the imprint of the Almighty G-d written upon it.

At the time of the pamphlet’s publication, the head of the Supreme Muslim Council was none other than Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Palestinian leader who later met with German dictator, Adolph Hitler. Given the recent controversial remarks by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu concerning al-Husseini’s direct authorship of the Holocaust, and the horrible random Palestinian violence in Jerusalem, the narrative of this pamphlet couldn’t be more timely. It speaks directly against the current incorrect and incoherent rendering of a religious conflict between Muslims and Jews over the future of a G-d given land. The pamphlet published by the Muslim High Council reads: “Its identity (The Noble Sanctuary) on the sight of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute. This too is the spot, based on universal belief, on which David built an altar to the L-rd and offered burnt sacrifices — as it is said in Second Samuel Chapter 24 verse 25”.

This description, in a Muslim pamphlet entitled “A Guide to the Noble Sanctuary”, was written by Islamic authorities within the document’s aptly titled section, “Historical Sketch”. This is the true history of what is now (today) being used as an excuse for the blind murder of innocent people just because they happen to be Israeli Jews. The simple truth is that there is no Jew (in his or her right mind) who would ever change the current status quo of the Noble Sanctuary, period. This not because Israel doesn’t have the power to do so; it is because Israel doesn’t have the Divine authority to do so. In fact, Jews are forbidden to pray on the Temple Mount (Noble Sanctuary). This location for prayer can only be allowed during the time of the Messiah. Only then will the rules be allowed to be changed. And even then, the new rules can only be activated with the explicit permission of the Muslim Supreme Authority over the Noble Sanctuary. This change of the rules will be a test for the Messiah, and the Messiah only. And it can only happen through a Messianic outreach toward Islam and the explicit affirmation of the children of Ishmael. Essentially, it will be a pure example of the respect that the Messianic candidate will have for the true and peaceful religion of Islam. Such an Islam, which chooses peace and reconciliation with Judaism and the Jewish people, will be rewarded as coinheritors of a Holy Land, a Holy Land whose boundaries stretch from the deserts of Jordan all the way to the Mediterranean Sea.

Any Jew who attempts to pray on Temple Mount must first pass the many arduous tests of Messianic kingship. The existence of the State of Israel is truly a sign of the Messianic Age to come, but it most certainly does not mean that every religious Zionist is the Messiah himself. This kind of behavior (prayer at the Temple Mount) is reserved initially for the accepted Jewish Messiah. All other pretenders to the throne are an abomination unto the L-rd. But so too is the extreme Palestinian reaction to such pretenders — that is, blood-lust terrorism. This behavior is also an abomination unto the L-rd. In fact, Palestinians and Israelis were far closer to a religious understanding of their co-equal inheritance decades ago, when the “Guide to the Noble Sanctuary” was written, than they are today. This is the sad truth: The attempt by both Jewish and Islamic believers to conquer the Holy Land, with its center being in Jerusalem itself, works only to shame all the Children of Abraham. This unfortunate happenstance weakens both religions. It also lessens their resolve to unite against the true enemies of G-d — that is, greed, blind materialism, war and nuclear weapons, environmental havoc, and the designs of false religious practices based on state or non-state military power.

The central platform for any peace treaty between Israel, as a symbol of the Jewish religion, and Palestine, as a representative of the Islamic faith, will be the unified and open city of Jerusalem. Unified and open because it will strive toward a universal acceptance of peace and reconciliation within a full religious context. This context will be based on the symbolic revelations at the Holy Rock of the Jewish Temple and the near-universal spreading of the Abrahamic faith, which came in its historical aftermath. First and foremost, the peace of the Holy Land must be religious in nature. This is so that billions of people across the planet will become inspired through its acclamation of Divine values. Jerusalem will, and must, become “a light unto all the nations of the world”. Violence and war are in direct opposition to this powerful moral message.

But now the very future of this Divine Promise to Abraham and his progeny has been put at stake. The region of the Middle East is in a vast Islamic war between the darkness of a recalcitrant Persian empire and a Sunni world positioned at a crucial crossroads with Israel. Iran must be stopped, and its nuclear and hegemonic designs for the region must be defeated through the wise diplomacy of Jewish and Islamic reconciliation and religious understanding. But the Palestinian people must be on board for this Divinely-inspired ship of history to set sail. The leadership of Palestine, both religious and political, must not be allowed to link up with Iran. For if this were to happen, it would throw the entire region into religious and geopolitical chaos. Peace between Israel and Palestine is needed, and it is needed as soon as possible, in fact now. At least an outline, or a general framework for peace, must be issued by Israel in order to cement the regional gains that have already been made between the Sunni Arab world and the Jewish state. This progress is already unprecedented. But this same progress toward Jewish-Arab understanding and brotherhood must not be curtailed because of a gross misunderstanding over the true and unified nature of the Noble Sanctuary or Temple Mount.

Jerusalem is at the very heart of the Divine inheritance promised to Abraham as a Covenant in the Torah (Genesis 17, verse 8). The Torah is a revelation of both Judaism and Islam . And it is within this Covenant of Abraham that the land was promised to ALL of Abraham’s offspring as an eternal promise. This Covenant is a Holy contract with the children of Ishmael, as well as the Jewish offspring that followed the birth of Isaac. It is a Land Covenant, and totally divorced from a second Covenant as described through Sarah (Genesis 17, verse 19). This second, and hidden Covenant, which I call the Covenant of Isaac, is a separate and distinct Covenant based not upon land. Unlike the first Covenant, land is never mentioned. But instead, a special and unique relationship (undefined) unfolds throughout the text, depicting a solely unique relationship with the offspring of this specific line through Sarah. It is Isaac and Jacob (not Esau) who come to define this people throughout history. This second Covenant is completely distinct. Esau later married Ishmael’s daughter, creating a separate genetic line that encompasses both Hagar and Sarah. However, the distinct second Covenant is through the specific family line of Jacob or Israel, upon which this Covenant of Isaac was established. This second (and hidden) Covenant, through Sarah leading to Jacob, led eventually to the events with Moses, which transpired at Mt. Sinai.

The Koran never once mentions the original Covenant of Abraham (Genesis 17, verse 8). In fact, the inheritors of the Holy Land are strictly defined within Koran as Jews, the offspring of Isaac and Jacob through Sarah. This is explicitly mentioned within the Koran. But in order for history to come full circle, and all the offspring of Abraham to be future inheritors of the land, it is the Islamic acceptance of the Divine authority of Torah (in all matters not inscribed within the Koran) that then takes precedence. I submit that Jerusalem, according to Jewish revelation, is of dual inheritance, Jewish and Islamic. So too is the Holy Land as shown to Moses. This Divinely-given land encompasses both banks of the Jordan River. Once the Rabbis acknowledge the distinct separation of the two Covenants (land as separate from Torah, within Genesis 17), the theology of a dual-land inheritance becomes perfectly clear and totally understandable. Because without this vital separation, and the appearance of a second (hidden) Covenant (Genesis 17 verse 19), G-d appears to be contradicting Himself, first giving and then taking away an inheritance. Of course, as we all know, this kind of contradiction is a Divine impossibility.

Let us never forget that the Dome of the Rock sits upon the cornerstone of the Temple of Solomon. And equally, let us never forget that Islam and Judaism, in the eyes of true Muslims, are kindred revelations. The land of Israel-Palestine (from the desert of the Trans-Jordan to the sea) is the historical proof of the biblical promise to our mutual father, Abraham. War cannot erase this mutual Covenant; it is based solely on Torah (Genesis 17, verse 8) and not Koran. The Koran says nothing about Muslim rights to the Holy Land. But the Covenant of Abraham is specific — all the offspring of Abraham shall be inheritors of the land. This includes Ishmael! It is therefore high time for the religious authorities within both nations, Israel and Palestine, Jewish and Muslim, to declare that Jerusalem is not under contention. Because this city is destined to become an open and unified capital of two nations, and two religions, living together with dual sovereignty under the Roof of Heaven. Long live the Covenant of Abraham, and long live Israel and Palestine, the shared Holy Land from desert to sea.

But the choice is ours, and ours alone. And while the Divine paradox is that G-d certainly knows what our answer will be, it is this choice which makes us in His image. This vital moral choice between right and wrong is what truly makes us human. Finally, it is because of our own free will that we will eventually be judged. I pray that we all make the right choice. For to kill is an abomination before His Divine Presence. We are brothers and sisters through our mutual ancestor, Abraham, and therefore we must become our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.

About the Author
Steven Horowitz has been a farmer, journalist and teacher spanning the last 45 years. He resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. During the 1970's, he lived on kibbutz in Israel, where he worked as a shepherd and construction worker. In 1985, he was the winner of the Christian Science Monitor's Peace 2010 international essay contest. He was a contributing author to the book "How Peace came to the World" (MIT Press).
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