I must admit that prior to visiting Israel, I was relatively clueless about the Temple Mount. I was on a Gospel Christian tour which meant that they knew the Bible more than I did. I am Catholic. The Old Testament is not our forte. We subtly by pass it in lieu of the New Testament. I went along with the excitement of visiting the Temple Mount. Excitement and anticipation soon fizzled into unprecedented annoyance as we were informed that the site was not open to the public. Silly that I am, I asked why. Our guide nonchalantly replied that the site was only open to visitors at the whim of Waaf; a religious Muslim committee dedicated to the preservation of Islam sites. HOw convenient! Now that confused the heck out of me because I assumed, clueless that I still was, that being in Israel, why would Waaf or any other non-Jewish organization control and obstruct entrance to an obvious Biblical site? Why indeed!
As Paul Harvey often said: now for the rest of the story. The Temple Mount is located smack in the middle of Old Jerusalem. It is a large Herodian “platform” whose foundations date back to the first century BCE. It is also the site of two Biblical temples, and most important: the site of Mount Mariah where Abraham allegedly almost sacrificed his son. King Solomon built the first temple some 3,000 years ago. Two temples were built and destroyed by various armies and for equally various reasons. In the mid-7th century, Jerusalem was taken over by Muslims and eventually they built the Dome of the Rocks (Al-Aksa) on the former temples’ site and Mount Moriah. This is the abridged historical version. Until a few weeks ago, armed Palestinian authorities refused unhindered access to non-Muslims who wanted to visit the Temple Mount. Muslims proclaim Al-Aksa as their third Holiest shrine. If we go by logic then a 3,000 year-old temple site should trump (pardon the pun) a seventh century third holiest anything. Archeology supports Israel’s claim that the Temple Mount is of Judeo Biblical heritage. The Temple Mount is Israel’s holiest site; encompassing the Kotel or Western Wall. It also happens to be significant to Christians; mentioned and referred to in the New Testament. So why has Israel allowed the absolute control of the site to Muslim entities?
There is nothing vaguely religious about past control of the Mount. Armed Palestinian military walked the Biblical cobblestones with resolve. Our second attempt at visiting the site was successful but with strict conditions. We were to hide any religious symbols, Christian or Jewish, and to cover ourselves completely. We were also told not to have physical contact with each other even if married. Our guide had to chose his words carefully when making Biblical or Christian references to the site, regardless whether they were accurate or not. Muslim “worshipers” eagerly passed close by showing obvious disapproval. One such fervent worshiper decided to interrupt and make us aware that after Adam was Muslim! The “fake news” of the Temple Mount is further propagandized by pinhead organizations like the United Nations and UNESCO; two bodies giving credibility to the Palestinian “cause” and anti-Israel rhetoric. The Temple Mount is used as a pawn in the big game of pseudo Palestinian and Muslim victimization by Israel. However, few have ever wondered why the Al-Aksa is given so much credence as a third most holiest site, but millennia of Jewish substantial presence is ignored or dismissed as irrelevant? My theory is that historical bias fits in with anti-Israel talking points instigated by nebulous Human Rights and NGO organizations funded by individuals like George Soros and his Open Society Foundations; an anti-US and anti-Israel propaganda machine. Amid the various leftist organizations that he funds are organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International; with reports heavily weighed against Israel and the US for alleged Human Rights violations against Arabs, specifically Palestinians. Gisha-Center for Legal Protection of Freedom of Movement accuses Israel of alleged civil rights violations in restricting movement of Palestinians. The Arab American Institute Foundation continuously portrays Israel as the “brutal oppressor” of Palestinians. Finally: Al-Haq and I’lam; two NGO’s that blatantly bombast Israel for oppression and fund Arab media to continually report alleged violations by Israel. All funded and encouraged by George Soros under the insidious umbrella of his Open Society Foundations. (Organizations funded by George Soros and his Open Society Foundations. Discoverthenetworks.org, 2003-2015. http://www.discoverthenetworks.org/viewSubCategory.asp?id=1237)
Jerusalem is no stranger to strife or wars. The city has been fought for, destroyed, rebuilt, conquered, and restored several times over. But Old Jerusalem remains genuine. Walking through its cobbled narrow streets, bazaars, and sectors: one conjures up the past with wonder and awe. The Temple Mount is the epicenter of Judaism and Jerusalem. It is the symbol of resiliency and faith. It is the treffpunkt or meeting point of every Jew and Christian. Jews praise the glory of Solomon and David, and Christians recollect Christ. Like it or not, the Temple Mount is also significant to Islam. Al-Aksa is a sight to behold. Driving down the hill toward Jerusalem, the golden-domed Mosque is not only impressive but surreal. It adds beauty to the city’s skyline of Christian domes, olive trees, Mosques, and Herodian walls. Before I was ever told what the gold dome represented, I was taken aback by its size and mystique as it glittered in the early morning sun. Will Israel, Jerusalem, and Al-Aksa ever reconcile their differences?
The Temple Mount has become the battle cry for both Jews and Muslims. Who should control? Who has rights? In my opinion and probably it does not count for much: dibs go to Israel. No one can dispute archeological findings that support a Judeo habitat that pre-existed Islam by thousands of years. Jerusalem is Israel’s capital city albeit being a divided city. It remains geographically and politically part of the State of Israel and its areas of responsibility. Why would any sane individual to include world organizations think it acceptable to relinquish complete control of such a significant site to the Arabs? And what about Christians; they also have a religious claim to the Temple Mount? Why are they excluded? Walking through Jerusalem as a Christian is awakening and extremely frustrating. Most of the Christian sites fall in the Arab sector and very little respect is shown to the sites or those who visit. This point of contention is what makes folk like me annoyed at the one-sided biased world opinion in favor of Muslims in regard to the Temple Mount. Israel has been more than accommodating to other religions. Freedom of worship has never been disputed in Israel. Christians, Jews, and Muslims have the freedom to worship and exercise their rights through their faiths. As such, Israel has no beef with Islam, it has a beef with the continual historical distortion in favor of one specific religion. If the Temple Mount is so sacred to Islam (a peaceful faith or so we are told), then why the armed guards? Why the intimidation of tourists and guides? Why the threatening rhetoric? Why the attacks on Jews?
Unless one visits Israel, one cannot begin to fathom the enormity of the Temple Mount issue. Those who are ignorant of historical facts or refuse to consider them; find the controversy religious and irrelevant. But for those of us who have visited Israel and spent time in Jerusalem, it is anything but irrelevant. It is a minute irritation that has been scratched into a wound by global misconception and arrogance. There is not a merchant in Old Jerusalem, Arab, Jew, or Christian, who does not take advantage of the fact that thousands of Christians visit the city every year. Christianity is big business. Wooden rosaries, crucifixes, and other Christian symbols adorn every little cubby hole on the cobbled streets for miles. On the Temple Mount, a Muslim had the gall to approach me at an attempt to sell me pictures of Christian churches found in Jerusalem. Really? So why is my money not a threat to Islamic sensibilities? Why must I hide my Star of David or Cross but allowed and encouraged to buy pictures symbolic of Christianity? Why should I disguise who I am to pacify a faith that happened to set camp on a three thousand year-old Judeo site just a few hundred years back? In comparison to when the first temple was built; the Al-Aksa was built yesterday! Finally, and food for thought; had a Christian church been built; would they have refused Muslims or Jews from visiting?
The attack on the Mount and the current tensions are not raising any hopes for a peaceful settlement. Talk is cheap, so what should be done? Both sides must compromise but the ultimate control must remain with Israel. But will it ever be solved? I hope so. On a recent trip to Turkey I visited a Mosque. It was an interesting experience. Although scarves and disposable plastic “shoes” were provided; being Catholic, I had no problem covering my head. After requesting permission to take pictures I was also given permission to spend as much time as I wanted upstairs and downstairs. Later, I shared an amazing discussion from a Christian perspective. Although we found common ground, we both knew that I would never become Muslim and he would never convert to Christianity. But this knowledge that although different we still worship to a basic entity was mutually accepted and unexpectedly pleasant. The Temple Mount could become a great opportunity for moderate Muslims to showcase their faith as non-threatening and non-radical. I would have loved to visit Al-Aksa; they say one can see the tip of Mount Mariah in the center of the Mosque. I would pay to see that. What better way to help us heathens understand your faith then by showing us the good side of it? In the meantime you make a buck in entrance fee; but I digress.
The situation on the Mount has turned into a public relations disaster for Israel. The back and forth accusations are not giving credence to either side. But Israel needs to maintain control of the Temple Mount to deter more attacks. Maybe politics need to be kept out of Temple Mount, and religious leaders from both sides allowed to administer it jointly and financially. The Temple Mount could be run like the Vatican but with less pomp and circumstance. The Vatican is its own entity in the center of Rome. It is run by the Holy See as a small state within a city. The Temple Mount controlled by Israel would allow all faiths safe passage to the Mount with a caveat that it is still primarily a Muslim holy site and Islamic protocols remain in place. To be fair: when one enters a Catholic church one is expected to be reasonably covered and respectful. I would assume that the same is expected of those entering a synagogue. However, prohibiting symbols of other faiths and openly threatening them is unacceptable and inane. The drama is hardly a religious one. It is a political one. It is an attempt by the Palestinian Authorities to justify their grievances against Israel. Israel is the “big bad wolf” of the Middle East. What is warped about that reasoning? Israel is the only State in the Middle East that provides protection and religious freedom to everyone. The western world should be elated that Israel has control. More than a million Muslims live in Israel, enjoying citizenship, shared government, freedom of worship, and social support. I would like to ask the anti-Israel pinheads if they can name one Arab or Islamic country that comes close to Israel’s religious freedoms?
I predict that the situation will worsen before it remotely gets better. Time has come and gone for détente. The latest murders of Israelis has set the peace clock back for years. Stoked by anti-Jewish organizations, Palestinians wallow in underdog pseudo grievances and self-pity at the instigation of organizations that have little charity in mind. It is all about control and territory. The Palestinian saga has been milked to the point that I doubt most Palestinians even know why and what they are fighting for. They are too blind to realize that they have been hijacked by terrorists groups and leftist politicians who brainwashed them into thinking that Israel hates Arabs and Muslims. This is further pushed along the tiresome “fake news” road by pro-Palestinian EU countries, the UN, and UNESCO. Disingenuous to the point of laughable assertions and historic distortion; they throw the blood in the water and wait for the sharks to bite. Israel must remain firm on two points: Jerusalem is the capital, and the Temple Mount is Israeli regardless of whose House of God happens to be on it at the moment. The fight for the Mount is also the fight for Jerusalem. Temples rose and fell with the rise and fall of Jerusalem. One cannot exist without the other. This is the time for Israel to control both.