The little king and the big mount

In September 1922 the League of Nations recognized the Hashemite Kingdom of TransJordan, under the British Mandate for Palestine. As a reward for his loyal service to the British against the Ottoman Empire in World War I, the Emir of Transjordan was appointed King of the new state. By the Treaty of London signed between the two states on March 22, 1946 (my birthday), the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan became the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

There were several serious incursions and attacks by Wahahbi Muslims and the Emir Abdullah was able to reign only with the help of British forces and loyal Beduin tribes. Abdullah took the title King of Jordan on December 1, 1948 and became the first ruler of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
He was opposed to Zionism and to the increasing immigration of European Jews into Palestine but he was in strong opposition to the terrorist activities inspired and led by Haj Amin el-Husseini, the British appointed Grand Mufti of Jerusalem.

During the 1947-1948 riots, Golda Meier, representing the Jewish provisional council in Eretz Yisrael, met secretly, disguised as an Arab, with His Majesty, King Abdullah, in efforts to secure Jordan’s neutrality in event of war and to urge the king not to join forces with neighboring Arab armies bent on crushing Jewish independence and vowing to throw the Jews into the Sea.

The king was cordial to Mrs. Meier but was greatly influenced by the British general of the Jordanian Legion, John Glubb Pasha, who promised the king a victory if he would permit his army to join in the attack.

One day after Israel declared independence on May 14, 1948 she was attacked by the military might of six Arab nations. Israel, by a miracle, won the war but lost the Old City of Jerusalem with all its holy places, the eastern part of Jerusalem and the entire west bank of the Jordan River. Jews living in the eastern part of the city and within the Old City were taken captive by the Jordanian Legion.
One day in July 1951 I noticed from a window in my school that many Israeli flags in the western part of Jerusalem were flying at half-staff. An Israeli soldier standing guard at the entrance to the school in East Talpiot explained that King Abdullah of Jordan had been assassinated as he was leaving prayers in the Al-Aqsa mosque. It was on July 20, 1951.

The assassin was an Arab militant and the reason for the assassination of the king was thought to be political rivalry of the Husseini clan for power over all of Palestine. There were also rumors that the king was assassinated because he was thought to be too friendly to the Zionists in the new State of Israel.

The king’s son, Crown Prince Talal, was mentally unfit to assume the throne and was sent to a mental hospital in Switzerland. The crown passed to Abdullah’s grandson, the late King Hussein. Upon his death he was succeeded to the throne on February 7, 1999 by his son who assumed his grandfather’s name and was crowned King Abdullah II.

After defeat in the 1967 Six Day War, the Old City of Jerusalem, the eastern part of the city and the entire west bank of the Jordan River, formerly under Jordanian occupation since 1948, were re-captured by the Israeli army and Jerusalem, no longer a divided city, was re- united as the eternal Capitol of the Jewish people and the State of Israel.

An agreement was reached between General Moshe Dayan and King Hussein whereby Jordan would be granted Custodianship of the Mosque of Omar and the Al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount, known by the Arabs as Haram al Sharif. The Western Wall was in Jewish hands after its loss to Jordan 19 years previously. Jews rejoiced feverishly and flocked by the thousands to touch and to kiss the stones of the sacred Wall, a remnant of the Holy Temple.

As a part of the Dayan-Hussein agreement, Jews and non-Muslims could visit the Temple Mount but were strictly forbidden to pray there. Prayers were permitted only to Muslims and any sign or indication by a Jew moving lips silently or bowing would be considered a violation of the status quo agreement by the Muslim Waqf which has sole control over the holy places on the Temple Mount.

Some years ago when Prime Minister Ariel Sharon visited the Mount, riots broke out throughout East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Many were killed in the rioting which was called an intifada.

Since that time, some extremist Jews have attempted to pray on the Temple Mount which has led to Arab protests and attacks and arrests of both Jews and Arabs by the Israeli police.

The current strife on Temple Mount which has caused some deaths, some arrests, burning, stoning, fire-bombing and intense uncontrolled rioting is a political-religious matter which seems at the moment to have no control. No leader has stepped forward by personal example to end the desecration.

The little King of Jordan who officially controls the big Temple Mount has threatened to break diplomatic relations with Israel, accusing the Israelis for the uprising. But he has not acted as the Custodian of the Mount should act. He should order the Waqf to punish the Arab rioters and stone-throwers. He should bar rioting youth from hiding stones and explosives inside the mosques under penalty of arrest. He should request from Israel that limited Jordanian riot police be permitted to guard the Temple Mount area while leaving the alleys of the Old City to be patrolled and controlled by the Israeli police.

Abdullah II should learn a lesson from Abdullah I. Fanaticism leads only to death and despair. No thinking sane person would want that.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.