The Temple Mount — Haram Al Sharif, towards harmony: What we have forgotten, what we must remember

Understanding the symbiotic relationship between the Temple Mount, the Al Aqsa Mosque, and the Dome of the Rock is pivotal in shedding light on the ideal relationship between Judaism and Islam. In clarifying the contexts in which Jerusalem is holy to both religions, we will discover that this site can truly be a place of prayer for all peoples, while fully acknowledging the aspirations of both Jews and Muslims regarding theology, history, and even how this can be applied politically today.

We will see that the debate over the Temple Mount\Haram Al Sharif need not be a zero sum game in which only one side may lay claim to this sacred place, quite the contrary; at the same time, the holiness of this area to the children of Israel and to the Muslim nation are not equivalent, nor should we expect it to be, given our peoples’ unique roles.

But before we get to facts and figures, Holy Writ and historical evidence, I want to bring you to the meeting that catalyzed this article. In February  2018, the Interfaith Encounter Association hosted a dialogue session at the Abu Awad estate in Gush EtZion, in which both Muslims and Jews presented their views on the Temple Mount/Haram Al Sharif, on which stands the al Aksa Mosque. Al Aksa means “far away” in Arabic…and in First Kings chapter 8 verse 41 concerning the Temple, we have “…if a foreigner who is not of Your people Israel comes from a distant land for the sake of Your name—”

Al Aksa – far away, from a distant land….

But I am getting ahead of myself.

The Temple Mount in Judaism

  1. Its Universal Character – Holy to all children of Abraham

The holiness of the Temple Mount begins at the very beginning – there, Adam and Chava were created and offered sacrifices.

The midrash (legend) of the field of Brotherly Love is said to have been located on this place. Two brothers dwelt here, one with a large family, one who lived alone. After completing the harvest, the one who dwelt alone thought, “my brother has a large family, I have no need for all this wheat, let me bring some to him” At the same time, the brother with a large family mused, “I have so much happiness from my family, let me bring some wheat to my brother who lives alone, at least he can have some pleasure in this world.”  Each one thus put the other first. They met up as each was carrying his sack to the other, and, understanding the intent of the other, they hugged in brotherly love.

There, Abraham built an altar and faced the trial of the Akeidah – the Binding of Isaac. From then on the site was called Har HaMoriah – the place where G-d will be seen/feared.

It was on Har haMoriah that Jacob learned Torah in with Shem and Shem’s grandson Ever, and where Jacob had his prophetic dream of angels ascending and descending a ladder to heaven.

The above illustrates the holiness of the Temple Mount/Har haMoriah, as it applies to humanity. Now we will look at its place as a focal point for the children of Israel.

II As a Focus of Prayer for the children of Israel

The Temple Mount became the focus of prayer for the children of Israel because the Temple housed the aron haBrith (Ark of the Covenant), which initially accompanied the children of Israel’s wanderings in the desert. Upon the revelation of the Torah at Mount Sinai, the Ten Commandments were placed in the  aron haBrith, and the Jewish people prayed towards it. The  aron haBrith symbolized the presence of God on earth.

The Ark of of the Covenant traveled to several places. Then king David brought it to Jerusalem and it was placed on the rock where Isaac was almost sacrificed. The Temple could not be built by king David because he had been a man of war, so his son Solomon supervised the construction. Thus, the Temple Mount became the focal point for prayer for the children of Israel. Sacrifices were offered in the Temple, and Jerusalem became both the royal capital as well as the location of the Sanhedrin, or High Court.

Indeed, Jerusalem has always been the spiritual capital of the children of Israel, with the Temple at its focus – with ample room for the nations of the world to worship there as well. G-d fearers from all nations of the world would visit and worship at the Temple, even those from far away – I Kings 8:41.

Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger, the always smiling and energetic founder of Roots\Judur, quoted scripture regarding the place of Jerusalem and the Temple for the Jewish people (indeed, the Rabbi would have continued quoting had I not cut him off at a pivotal point, and he politely deferred – thank you Rabbi Hanan! We will get to that dynamic point, now back to scripture):

First Kings  chapter 8:

41

וְגַם אֶל־הַנָּכְרִי אֲשֶׁר לֹא־מֵעַמְּךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל הוּא וּבָא מֵאֶרֶץ רְחוֹקָה לְמַעַן שְׁמֶֽךָ׃

“Or if a foreigner who is not of Your people Israel comes from a distant land for the sake of Your name—

42

כִּי יִשְׁמְעוּן אֶת־שִׁמְךָ הַגָּדוֹל וְאֶת־יָֽדְךָ הַֽחֲזָקָה וּֽזְרֹעֲךָ הַנְּטוּיָה וּבָא וְהִתְפַּלֵּל אֶל־הַבַּיִת הַזֶּֽה׃

for they shall hear about Your great name and Your mighty hand and Your outstretched arm—when he comes to pray toward this House,

43

אַתָּה תִּשְׁמַע הַשָּׁמַיִם מְכוֹן שִׁבְתֶּךָ וְעָשִׂיתָ כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר־יִקְרָא אֵלֶיךָ הַנָּכְרִי לְמַעַן יֵדְעוּן כָּל־עַמֵּי הָאָרֶץ אֶת־שְׁמֶךָ לְיִרְאָה אֹֽתְךָ כְּעַמְּךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל וְלָדַעַת כִּי־שִׁמְךָ נִקְרָא עַל־הַבַּיִת הַזֶּה אֲשֶׁר בָּנִֽיתִי׃

oh, hear in Your heavenly abode and grant all that the foreigner asks You for. Thus all the peoples of the earth will know Your name and revere You, as does Your people Israel; and they will recognize that Your name is attached to this House that I have built.

Rabbi Schlesinger went on to quote the prophet Isaiah’s vision of the rebuilt Temple and and end to all war, which you can see in footnote I at the end of this article.

Thus the focal nature of the Temple in Judaism did not detract from its importance to the nations of the world. Quite the contrary! We should be glad that there are other peoples who cherish Jerusalem and the site of the Temple, we want to see scripture fulfilled, don’t we?

Concerning the special role of the Jewish people in the Temple, understand that the nations of the world and the children of Israel have discrete roles – Temple service was exclusive to the male members of the priestly class. And among the priestly class, only the High Priest was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies, and only on one day a year – Yom Kippur.

Discussing the universal nature of the Temple is not saying that the Temple Mount is a free for all, quite the contrary, its very universality demands particularist roles –  the special roles of the High Priest, the priestly class, the Israelites, and the G-d fearers from the nations of the world were strictly defined. Each Jewish tribe had its own gate in which to enter, it was forbidden for a member of one tribe to breach the gate of another. Each tribe had its special place, and each nation has its special role, working in harmony, and this bequeaths a strong sense of belonging and uniqueness.

Journeys

We then looked at the Qur’an about al Aksa in Surah  (chapter) 17, “The Night Journey”:

In the name of God, the Gracious, the Merciful.

  1. Glory to Him who journeyed His servant by night, from the Sacred Mosque, to the Farthest Mosque, whose precincts We have blessed, in order to show him of Our wonders. He is the Listener, the Beholder.
  2. And We gave Moses the Scripture, and made it a guide for the Children of Israel: Take none for protector other than Me.
  3. The descendants of those We carried with Noah. He was an appreciative servant.

Sheikh Khaled Abu Awad, our host and the Palestinian director of Roots, connected Surah 17 and the Prayer of Solomon – I Kings 8:22-52. Al-Aqsa means far-away. Perhaps the Qur’an is referring to I Kings 8:41, the Temple being a house of prayer for “the stranger who comes from a far-away place”?

We all marveled at this “chidush” – this (seemingly) new interpretation, springing from Holy Writ. This speaks to the energy that emerges when people gather with an aim to uncover an intellectual framework for peace, already possessing a nagging feeling that it is already there, embedded in scripture.

Sheikh Khaled Abu Awad had his own journey in coming to the point of hosting such conciliatory meetings. He is co-director of Roots, and his brother, Ali Abu Awad, is co-founder of Roots and founder of Tagryeer – the Palestinian National Non-Violence movement.

The Abu Awads did not just wake up one morning and decide to be leaders in peaceful resistance. Ali had begun using forms of peaceful resistance when in an Israeli jail – he went on a hunger strike in order to be able to see his mother, and it worked. Then their beloved brother Yusuf was killed at an Israeli checkpoint in 2001, and not, apparently, in self defense. Incredibly, this tragedy deepened the Abu Awad’s commitment to peaceful conciliation.

I will also tell you what brought my husband Ben and myself to reach out to Muslims. It was catalysed by Ben surviving a terrorist shooting of a bus. He was physically unscathed, but deeply shaken, and determined to find authentic paths to reconciliation.

It would be easier to stick to facts and figures, scripture and tradition, but I need to give you a picture of the dynamic at work here, at the marvel of people who have survived tragedies, who by some rights should detest the Other, finding common ground in dynamic discussion. Scripture may well be written in stone and calligraphy, but it is people that bring it to life.

Sheikh Khaled Abu Awad is the religious brother, Ali a bit more open, so you will find your address at the Abu Awad estate, whether devout or not, there in Gush Etzion, next time we meet.

Back to the discussion – then Rabbi Yaakov Nagen came up with a compelling parallel to Muhammad’s night journey: the prophet Yechezkel speaks of his own journey, being taken by God from a far away land to see the Temple:

וַיִּשְׁלַח תַּבְנִית יָד וַיִּקָּחֵנִי בְּצִיצִת רֹאשִׁי וַתִּשָּׂא אֹתִי רוּחַ ׀ בֵּֽין־הָאָרֶץ וּבֵין הַשָּׁמַיִם וַתָּבֵא אֹתִי יְרוּשָׁלְַמָה בְּמַרְאוֹת אֱלֹהִים אֶל־פֶּתַח שַׁעַר הַפְּנִימִית הַפּוֹנֶה צָפוֹנָה אֲשֶׁר־שָׁם מוֹשַׁב סֵמֶל הַקִּנְאָה הַמַּקְנֶֽה׃

“He stretched out the form of a hand, and took me by the hair of my head. A spirit lifted me up between heaven and earth and brought me in visions of God to Jerusalem, to the entrance of the inner Gate that faces north; that was the site of the infuriating image that provokes fury.”

Rabbi Nagen is the grand nephew of the illustrious Rabbi Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz, known as the Chazon Ish.  He is Ram of Yeshivat Otniel, Hebron. Perpetually smiling, accepting of all and blind to your faults, Rabbi Nagen commands a wide span – he has a deep understanding of the Haredi path, given his background, matched with his education at Yeshiva University and now leader in the national religious camp. Also a journey.

Journeys are par for the course, for prophets, for us.

The Destruction of the Temple as noted in the Qur’an
The Qur’an declares the homeland of the children of Israel to be the Land of Israel, Surat Al Maeda, 5:20-21:
And [mention, O Muhammad], when Moses said to his people, “O my people, remember the favor of Allah upon you when He appointed among you prophets and made you possessors and gave you that which He had not given anyone among the worlds.
O my people, enter the Holy Land which Allah has assigned to you and do not turn back [from fighting in Allah ‘s cause] and [thus] become losers.”
And in this Land, we had a Temple. We continued our study with teachings from the Qur’an relating to the destruction of the Temple –

  1. And We conveyed to the Children of Israel in the Scripture: You will commit evil on earth twice, and you will rise to a great height.
  2. When the first of the two promises came true, We sent against you servants of Ours, possessing great might, and they ransacked your homes. It was a promise fulfilled.
  3. Then We gave you back your turn against them, and supplied you with wealth and children, and made you more numerous.
  4. If you work righteousness, you work righteousness for yourselves; and if you commit evil, you do so against yourselves. Then, when the second promise comes true, they will make your faces filled with sorrow, and enter the Temple as they entered it the first time, and utterly destroy all that falls into their power.

See too this is also the message in the passage in Yechezkal: 8:6

וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלַי בֶּן־אָדָם הֲרֹאֶה אַתָּה מהם [מָה] [הֵם] עֹשִׂים תּוֹעֵבוֹת גְּדֹלוֹת אֲשֶׁר בֵּֽית־יִשְׂרָאֵל ׀ עֹשִׂים פֹּה לְרָֽחֳקָה מֵעַל מִקְדָּשִׁי וְעוֹד תָּשׁוּב תִּרְאֶה תּוֹעֵבוֹת גְּדֹלֽוֹת׃ (ס)

And He said to me, “Mortal, do you see what they are doing, the terrible abominations that the House of Israel is practicing here, to drive Me far from My Sanctuary? You shall yet see even greater abominations!”

Thus we see the verses both in the Qur’an and in the Torah about the Temple’s fall, let us take a peek at history as well.

The Destruction of the Temple – first under Babylon, then under Rome, the Temple Mount laid waste – until Islam

When the first Temple was destroyed in 586 BCE, the ark was hidden under the Temple Mount. It continued to be the center of prayer for the Jewish people, and a symbol of Jewish unity. The second Temple was rebuilt in 515 BCE and stood until 70 CE, when Israel rebelled against Rome. Three wars were fought, the first and second wars of Jerusalem, the third of Bar Kochba. Rome conquered Israel, renamed the land Palestine, and renamed Jerusalem Aelia. The Temple Mount was purposely left in ruins.

In the year 614 CE, the Persian army set out to conquer Egypt, and en route the Jews helped them conquer Israel. But the Roman Byzantines defeated the Persians, and the Roman Byzantine king, Heraculus, punished the Jews by turning the Temple mount into a latrine, where all the waste was dumped. Under Byzantine Rome, no Jew was allowed to even come within five miles of Jerusalem on pain of death.

So for over 500 years, the Temple Mount suffered every degradation possible, first by pagan Rome, then by Byzantine Rome. This inspired various Jewish splinter groups to rebel, to fight for the Temple Mount again.

Al Quds in Islam

I In Tradition

The word “Jerusalem” or its Arabic equivalent, “Al Quds” – “the Holy” – is not written in the Qur’an.

Back to the meeting – two Jewish participants started to react to this, and I stepped in quick. This is usually used to say that Jerusalem is not so important in Islam. I insisted that this must be understood in context: in many parts of the Qur’an concepts are not explicitly mentioned because it is assumed that one is familiar with previously revealed holy books. I also brandished the essay by Rabbi Joseph Ber Soloveitchik, “Confrontation”, in which he states that we cannot apply the rules used by one religion to another, different faiths are not parallel and cannot be understood by the vantage point of another faith. Rabbi Soloveitchik concludes that this is not a mere gap, but an abyss, an impossibility in fully comprehending the Other.

So by evaluating the place of Jerusalem in Islam with the tools of Islam – assuming previously revealed holy books, and not by the tools of Judaism, ie, how many times it is mentioned in the Tanach – we see an example within the Qur’an itself of its acceptance of other proper faiths, its self-identity of belonging in a symbiotic relationship with previously revealed faiths, a sort of enshrined scriptural tolerance.
Qur’an, Surah al Isra (the Israelites)  17:1 states – Exalted is He who took His Servant by night from al-Masjid al-Haram to al-Masjid al- Aqsa, whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him of Our signs. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Seeing.
This is followed by 17:2 –
And We gave Moses the Scripture and made it a guidance for the Children of Israel that you not take other than Me as Disposer of affairs.”
Back to the meeting,  Rabbi Yaakov Nagen brought up this passage  as an indication as well of the centrality of the Torah as the heart of the Temple.
Here are two hadith (traditions) that declare Al Aqsa to be located in Jerusalem:

“set out deliberately on a journey only to three mosques: this mosque of mine (in Medina), the Sacred Mosque (in Makkah) and the Masjid al Aqsa (in Jerusalem)” (hadith Bukhari and hadith Muslim).

And – “a prayer in the Sacred Mosque (in Makkah) is worth 100, 000 prayers, a prayer in my mosque (in Medina) is worth 1, 000 and a prayer in Jerusalem is worth 500 prayers more than in an any other mosque”. (Bukhari).

From a religious view, the Al Aksa mosque is the third holiest site in Islam for the offering of prayer. Historically, it is important to Islam because of its role in protecting other monotheistic faiths.

I continued, “If Jerusalem was not important to Islam, why would Caliph Umar clean the Temple Mount with his own hands?” I pantomimed to make my point, they looked chagrined. Here is more:

II In History

  1. Caliph Umar – Al Aksa

We discussed Caliph Umar ibn Al-Khattab (584-644 CE), who was a member of the Sahaba – companions of Muhammad, and was the second Caliph in the growing Islamic empire. Caliph Umar conquered Jerusalem in 637 CE. Umar cleaned the Temple Mount with his own hands, setting the example for his soldiers to clean it also. Umar brought 70 Jewish families to dwell in Jerusalem. Thus Umar reversed centuries of Roman degradation.

Umar did not clean the Temple Mount for Muslim worship. He cleaned it for the Jews.

Back to the meeting – Yusuf, a Palestinian Muslim, interjected, well, can the Jews look favorably upon the al Aksa mosque, as part of a fulfillment of Jewish prophecies to restore the Temple?

This is where Rabbi Hanan raised his hand to make a point – he was jumping out of his chair and could have sparked a flame with that infectious energy of his, but I was jumping out of my chair as well and grabbed the floor without raising my hand at all, politeness will have to wait, peace comes first – “of course!” I interjected – Rabbi Hanan sat back in his chair, deferent, still smiling, and I presented the actions of Caliph Umar, above, in cleaning the holy place.

Of course, in the backwash of my enthusiastic expostulation, I wondered yet again if I am breaching ethics of modesty, held by both Judaism and Islam, by even sitting with a group of mostly men, in an effort at conciliation. Oh interrupting a Rabbi is a slight offense compared to this. I have the blessing of my Chassidic Rabbi to participate, true, but is it enough? And the Muslims there may well get flack from their brethren for sitting with Jews.

I glanced at Sheikh Abu Awad in an effort to read his expression, but he had that distracted look that I have sometimes noticed, perhaps still grieving about his brother Yusuf? Perhaps worried about his son, disabled by, well, I did not want to believe that this was true, his son was shot by one of our soldiers and is in rehabilitation.

We are all carrying quite a lot of baggage as we gather.

Back to more facts and figures, they are easier:

The holiness of Jerusalem in Islam is in part because of Islam’s role as protecting other proper monotheistic religions. This echoes the role of Ishmael, the older brother whose role is to provide support for other religions to worship God properly. This protective role is sourced in the book of Genesis 25:9, in which Ishmael and Isaac bury their father Abraham together, with Ishmael deferring to Isaac. Although Ishmael was older and should have gone first, his deference to Isaac reflected his respect for Isaac’s role as Torah learner, and a symbol of protection.

Caliph Umar hired a Yemenite Jewish engineer named Ka’ab al-Ahbar to construct Al Aksa Mosque.(Al-Tabari, The History of al-Tabari, Vol XII).  Al Aqsa was built by Jewish people with the help of Muslims who believed that they were rebuilding Solomon’s Temple.

At this time, the majority of Jews were not Rabbinic, they were Samaritan, Karaite, and Saducean. Umar built a Christian shrine over the rock, where Dome of the Rock is now. In the Southern part of the Temple Mount he built a mosque where Al Aksa is now.

The Exilarch was the leader of all the Jewish sects, including Rabbinic, Karaite, Sadducean, and Samaritan. At the time of Umar, Hemen was the Exilarch. He was more politician than religious leader.

Sabeos was an Armenian historian who lived during Caliph Umar. He claimed the non Rabbinic Jews were more militant and that they claimed the Temple Mount exclusively for Jews. Sabeos claimed the non Rabbinic Jews formed a plot to get revenge on the Christians: they slaughtered a pig and threw its carcass in the mosque and claimed the Christians did it in order to get Caliph Umar to kick the Christians out of Jerusalem. Umar discovered this lie, deposed Hemen the Exilarch, banished him from Jerusalem, and replaced him with the scion of the Davidic house, head of the academies of Babylon, A Rabbinic Jew named Bustanai.

Bustanai made an agreement: Muslims would keep the Temple Mount clean and open to all believers. The Rabbinic Jews would forbid sectarians, radicals and militants from trying to build a Temple.

For connections between Caliph ‘Abd al-Malik, the Dome of the Rock, and Ezekiel’s Temple, see footnote II below.

On Rebuilding the Temple in Jewish Tradition

Do we rebuild, or wait for Messiah?

This question has been pivotal for the children of Israel since the destruction of the Temple.

I Wait for Messiah

The commentator Rashi, twelfth century France, writes, “The final Temple that we are awaiting, is built and complete, and will be revealed and descend from heaven.”

It is written in Zohar, Shemot 32A, that the Holy Temple will be built by G-d Himself.

II We built the first two, let’s build the third

On the other hand, Maimonides, twelfth century Spain and Egypt, writes that the Temple will be built by the Jewish people. He bases this on Exodus 25:8 “And they will make for Me a Sanctuary and I will dwell in their midst.” G-d gave us a commandment to build a Holy Temple for Him, and the obligation rests upon us to complete it.

One way of reconciling the two opinions is as follows: The building, which was built by G-d (the spiritual Holy Temple which we are building every day in our mitzvot, especially when we study the Holy Temple and its laws) will descend from heaven, and the physical Temple is already in place.  (Likutei Sichos Vol. 18, Bein Hameitzarim)

And of that time, it is written: ‘For then I will convert the peoples to a pure tongue that they may all call upon the name of G-d to serve Him with one consent’” (Zephaniah 3:9) and: “On that day G-d shall be one, and His name One“. (Zachariah 14:9)”

Holy Writ, historical facts, and creativity

Towards the end of the meeting, Yehuda Stolov of the Interfaith Encounter Organization entered. He sports grays and browns, a modest knitted kippa, and projects a welcome calm. He is busy, running over ninety simultaneous encounter groups all over the Holy Land. His bearing is a relaxed balance to the passions that Rabbi Hanan and I compete over. He will ground you, and direct you to the group best suited for you with that laid-back insightfulness of his.

To come up at the meeting with the “chidush” – acceptable interpretation, of Al Aksa as the farthest mosque echoing verses in the Tanach was a powerful experience indeed, among people who by some rights should not even be talking to each other, and is yet another example of how much potential there is for conciliation.

Religious people are shaped first and foremost by holy writ and tradition. Engraved in stone, enshrined in tradition, the word of G-d and the vessels in which His word has been passed down are absolute and guide us on the straight path of living. That straight path is brilliantly applied in our daily lives as halacha/sharia – both mean “the way” – the nuances, that are vital to the flexibility needed in order to apply religious law to daily life.

So we have one level – the absolute teachings, a second level –  their applications on our path, and a third level – our personal philosophy, shaped through that lens with which we view the world, a lens which is influenced by our place in history and our life experiences, the potential for creativity within those limits, and powerfully expressed at this encounter.

Applying Theology and History Today

From the Torah view, the children of Ishmael live in the whole world. “His hand is on everything” Genesis 16:12.

If Ishmael is not doing his role properly, then he troubles everyone.

If he is righteous, he will help everyone. He will serve God in a simple way. He will avoid complexity. He will know what is right, and do it with no sophistication, no complex intellectual arguments. In the Torah, Pinchas saw a sin and acted. He killed a man and woman who were brazenly rebelling against Moses. He did not wait for a court to hear their case. This is an example of holy brazenness.

The term “Muslim” used to refer to all believers. Indeed, the word “Muslim” predates Islam as we know it. The word “Muslamai” was used by Onkolos to translate “Kenites” in the five books of Moses. Kenites were righteous non-Jews. (Onkolos translated the five books of Moses into Aramiac, first century CE.) In the Qur’an, there are many verses that define “Muslim” as anyone who believes in G-d, His prophets, believes in the Last Day, and does good deeds.

When Muslims get all upset about something, they are right, but sometimes in the wrong place and at the wrong time. Expressed badly, it leads to terror, to dictatorships. Expressed for the good, it leads to defending the helpless, revenge on the evildoers, fighting for justice.

If Muslims believe that Islam only refers to those who follow the Qur’an, then Muslims have to fight everyone else. But if Muslims, like Caliph Umar, believe that anyone with a prophet and scripture is a believing nation, then Muslims will actually help and protect Jews in their synagogues and Christians in their churches. Then, “infidels” are only , those individuals who are outside civil society.

Why is Jerusalem the third most holy site in Islam? Because it is the first most holy place for Jews. And Muslims are supposed to be the protectors of Jews. Anyone who tries to claim it only for themselves, exclusively, is mistaken.

Since the time of conciliation under Caliph Umar and Bustanei, things have changed. Beginning in the 10th century, 400 years after Muhammed, The Muslim definition of “believer” meant only Muslims who follow the Qur’an – pray five times a day, fast on Ramadan. Muslim commentators stopped including Jews and Christians. This is in opposition to Qur’anic verses:
Surah Al Maeda 5:48:”… To each of you We prescribed a law and a method. Had Allah willed, He would have made you one nation, but [He intended] to test you in what He has given you; so race to [all that is] good. To Allah is your return all together, and He will [then] inform you concerning that over which you used to differ.”
And Surah Al Baqara: “The [Muslim] believers, the Jews, the Christians, and the Sabians- all those who believe in God and the Last Day and do good- will have their rewards with their Lord. They will not fear, nor will they grieve.”
Likewise, the children of Israel could better apply the concepts of righteous gentile as a living concept, including the ger toshav – resident alien, to members of the Arab population who dwell in Judea and Samaria.

Muslims forgot why Jerusalem was important. It is not important to Islam itself, it is important to Islam because Islam is supposed to support other religions. It is the third holy city in Islam because it is the first holy city in Judaism. Muslims forgot to protect the children of Israel.

Rabbinic Jews have forgotten that they were once a minority. If Umar had not selected Bustanai as the new Exilarch and the official representative of Judaism throughout the expanding Islamic empire, Judaism could have devolved into a militant sectarian band of zealots, seeking to restore the sacrificial system, devoid of Rabbinic tradition.

Indeed, when the Muslims fight for the Temple Mount today, they have inherited being a protector. When Rabbinic Jews forbid going to the Temple Mount, they are keeping their part of a forgotten agreement. The agreement was to stop the Jewish zealots who say the Temple Mount is only for Jews.

We are shadow-actors, playing out an agreement that was made 1500 years ago, with little memory of where it began. And we are carrying personal and national baggage as we shadow-act.

The children of Israel must remember that the Temple Mount is a house of prayer for all peoples, and from mount Zion will spread Torah to the whole world. The Muslim nation must remember its protective and welcoming role to all children of Abraham. Both nations must put into action their acceptance of the Other, enshrined in scripture and tradition.

Scripture and history are there for us to listen to, as we have no choice but to breach societal norms (under the guidance of our spiritual leaders) and the baggage of personal experience to reach conclusions that are laying dormant, awaiting us.

Footnotes:

I   Isaiah chapter 2
הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר חָזָה יְשַֽׁעְיָהוּ בֶּן־אָמוֹץ עַל־יְהוּדָה וִירוּשָׁלִָֽם׃

The word that Isaiah son of Amoz prophesied concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

2

וְהָיָה ׀ בְּאַחֲרִית הַיָּמִים נָכוֹן יִֽהְיֶה הַר בֵּית־יְהוָה בְּרֹאשׁ הֶהָרִים וְנִשָּׂא מִגְּבָעוֹת וְנָהֲרוּ אֵלָיו כָּל־הַגּוֹיִֽם׃

In the days to come, The Mount of the LORD’s House Shall stand firm above the mountains And tower above the hills; And all the nations Shall gaze on it with joy.

3

וְֽהָלְכוּ עַמִּים רַבִּים וְאָמְרוּ לְכוּ ׀ וְנַעֲלֶה אֶל־הַר־יְהוָה אֶל־בֵּית אֱלֹהֵי יַעֲקֹב וְיֹרֵנוּ מִדְּרָכָיו וְנֵלְכָה בְּאֹרְחֹתָיו כִּי מִצִּיּוֹן תֵּצֵא תוֹרָה וּדְבַר־יְהוָה מִירוּשָׁלִָֽם׃

And the many peoples shall go and say: “Come, Let us go up to the Mount of the LORD, To the House of the God of Jacob; That He may instruct us in His ways, And that we may walk in His paths.” For instruction shall come forth from Zion, The word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

4

וְשָׁפַט בֵּין הַגּוֹיִם וְהוֹכִיחַ לְעַמִּים רַבִּים וְכִתְּתוּ חַרְבוֹתָם לְאִתִּים וַחֲנִיתֽוֹתֵיהֶם לְמַזְמֵרוֹת לֹא־יִשָּׂא גוֹי אֶל־גּוֹי חֶרֶב וְלֹא־יִלְמְדוּ עוֹד מִלְחָמָֽה׃ (פ)

Thus He will judge among the nations And arbitrate for the many peoples, And they shall beat their swords into plowshares And their spears into pruning hooks: Nation shall not take up Sword against nation; They shall never again know war.

Isaiah 56:7

וַהֲבִיאוֹתִים אֶל־הַר קָדְשִׁי וְשִׂמַּחְתִּים בְּבֵית תְּפִלָּתִי עוֹלֹתֵיהֶם וְזִבְחֵיהֶם לְרָצוֹן עַֽל־מִזְבְּחִי כִּי בֵיתִי בֵּית־תְּפִלָּה יִקָּרֵא לְכָל־הָעַמִּֽים׃

I will bring them to My sacred mount And let them rejoice in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices Shall be welcome on My altar; For My House shall be called A house of prayer for all peoples.”

The Qur’an, in the chapter al-Isra – the children of Israel – which discusses scripture and may be a parallel to its focal point in the aron habrith – Sura 17:2 And We gave Moses the Scripture and made it a guidance for the Children of Israel that you not take other than Me as Disposer of affairs.

II Connections between Caliph ‘Abd al-Malik, the Dome of the Rock, and Ezekiel’s Temple:

Coins printed by the Ummayds reflect the “menorah”.

The Dome of the Rock is the gold domed shrine to the north of the al Aksa mosque. There is evidence that Caliph ‘Abd al-Malik (646 – 705CE) built the Dome of the Rock according to the plan of Ezekiel. “And I saw that the House had a height (govah) round about; the foundations of the cells were the full length of a rod, six cubits was its span” (Ezekiel 41:8) ”Govah” is not just height, but also linguistically related to the back of something, a covering, or dome.

There are other similarities, for instance the Holy of Holies, which was located where the Dome of the Rock is now, is not physically connected to the Temple Sanctuary or inner courtyard, just as in all previous Temples.

Under ‘Abd al-Malik, the Dome of the Rock was opened to the public solely on Mondays and Thursdays; on the other days only the attendants (Levites) entered. These attendants immersed in a bath and purified themselves, changed their clothing, burnt incense and anointed the Rock with all kinds of perfumes. Prayers were held after incense was burnt. Ten gatekeepers were responsible for each gate. The Dome was coated with gold, and the Rock was surrounded by an ebony balustrade, behind which-between the pillars-hung curtains woven with gold. Jews and Christians were employed in different services there: they made glass for the lamps and for goblets, and prepared wicks for the Menorah. They were exempted from the Jizya and passed on these tasks as inheritance. (see AI-Wisiti, pp. 43-44, the tradition of the Jerusalem family of ‘Abd al-Rahaman. from Raja’ and Yazid) (Qubbat al-Sakhra). (Abu-Bakr al-Wasiti, Fada’il Bayt al-Maqdis, pp. 80-81, vol 136).

They used to stand by the Rock and circumambulate it as they used to at the Ka’ba, and slaughter beasts on the day of the feast [i.e., ‘Id al-Adha]. (Sibt b. al-Jawzi’s Mir’at al-Zaman )

So we see in the above, a glimpse of the holiness of the Temple Mount in Islam – the third holiest place for prayer, and the mandate in Islam to support other monotheistic faiths.

About the Author
Rebecca Abrahamson is co-director of AlSadiqin, an organization that researches the common heritage of Islam and Judaism. AlSadiqin strives to conform in every way to sharia and accepted convention, with the conviction that conflict resolution occur in line with scriptural values that Muslims and Jews hold dear. Peace agreements that organically grow out of our scriptures and shared histories are truly the key to lasting peace. Rebecca co-hosted a conference on making the UN Resolutions for a Culture of Peace into law at the Knesset, edited “Divine Diversity: an Orthodox Rabbi Engages with Muslims”, began a column in the Israel National News service entitled Giving Voice to Muslims Who Seek Peace and has written in the same vein for the Jerusalem Post and the Jewish Press. She is married to Ben Abrahamson, who is also active in Muslim-Jewish dialogue. She is a school nurse and is busy with her children and grandchildren.
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