The current negotiation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is a struggle close to the heart of many. In such a heartfelt situation would you prefer your nemesis to say; “you can’t have it” or “if it’s true you can have it”? Hope springs eternal, but questions remain. The first statement implies its adamant speaker may have authority to promise the outcome of the second. However, authority may not be required “if it’s true”.
Most would agree, President Obama’s insistence and Secretary of State Kerry’s persistence, are the primary instigators of the current negotiating round. Although the prospects of peace are always tantalizing, the likelihood they will raise unrealistic hope and stir long held tension is a real and present danger. The proposed two state solution is an imposition on Israel’s 65 year peace process and does not necessarily address the sensitivities of the people and regimes required to actually make and maintain peace. Beside settlements, recognition of Israel, Gaza and other significant issues, arguably the heart and soul of the conflict is reflected in the microcosm of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.
The complexity of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount appears insurmountable because demand to possess the world’s most contested rock will in all likelihood continue unabated until a peaceful solution emerges from it. The bedrock that is Mount Moriah stretches from the south at the base of the Kidron Valley floor to the Temple Mount at the head on which the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa mosque are built. No amount of coercion can stem the tides of Jewish or Muslim demands for exclusive access to and possession of the Temple Mount on which many Jews and people of other faiths expect the Third Temple will be built.
Jews are a self-described “stiffnecked” people so it’s no surprise their dogmatic attitude toward this location where the third Temple will be built is fervent, especially amongst the orthodox. Likewise, history demonstrates the frazzled fever pitch quickly rises to a pan Islamic crescendo each time Jews make a significant approach toward the Temple Mount. Peace between Israel and people living under the Palestinian Authority is therefore dependent on possession and occupation on this monolith.
The prospects of sharing The Rock are difficult because the traditional location associated with the Jewish Temple Holy of Holies is also the Dome of the Rock – a Muslim shrine built in 691 CE. Notwithstanding the importance of this location, by all accounts Jewish prayer must always be directed toward the Holy of Holies, the place on Mount Moriah where the Ark of the Covenant is thought to have once been located. If its location was once at the Dome of the Rock, Jews praying at the Temple Mount’s Western Wall would be required by Orthodox Jewish law to face it, but most face the wall despite the Dome of the Rock being ±15°’s North of the wall. The practice is easily explained because the precise location for Holy of Holies is presently unknown and any place on Mount Moriah’s bedrock monolith, which according to Jewish tradition is creation’s Foundation Stone, could ultimately house it.
The speaker of the opening paragraph has no authority to deliver peace from The Temple Mount. However, the validity of the Western Wall prayer may be tested by the emergence of an even more authentic and ancient proposition (see: Deception and Glory) offering hope that a Jewish Temple on Mount Moriah can be realized in peace. If religious authorities agree that the new excavation at the recently discovered site in Jerusalem’s City of David is the penultimate location for the Third Temple’s altar then according to Orthodox Jewish law a sea-change will have occurred. This site, if true, could shift perspective, tradition and reality. The emergence of a peaceful solution from the epicenter of conflict is a characteristic of Jewish thinking and could be persuasive.
In such a scenario, it cannot be overlooked that the economic boost from tourism to the City of David may be sufficiently significant to motivate 70,000 of east Jerusalem’s Jordanian Citizens, previously denied Israeli citizenship, to re-apply. Their efforts to obtain Israeli citizenship or permanent Jordanian/Israeli residency could seriously affect facts on the ground especially at the epicenter and may cause Prime Minister Netanyahu to respond. Such a demographic shift could finally put an end to the madness of division and cause an admission that the economic fundamentals of two states is suboptimal to Jerusalem’s constituents and flawed from the outset.