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LAYING CLAIM TO THE TEMPLE MOUNT

 Will the revisionists win out?


Contender Ministries

Posted:  November 07, 2002


The Middle East conflict is at the center of today's media stories, political decision-making, and public debate.  The conflict is the result of deeply held religious beliefs and claims to sovereignty over Jerusalem, the Temple Mount, and Israel itself.  The battle waged by the rest of the world to solve the problems of the Middle East will not be easily won until and unless the facts behind these religious beliefs and historical claims to the Jewish Holy Lands are truly understood and considered.  Judging by the biased media accounts of the conflict and the willingness of the masses to ignore history and facts, a solution at the negotiating table may never be realized.  The next Middle East war may very well be fought over the Temple Mount.

When Israel recaptured Jerusalem in 1967 and reunited the city, they unfortunately did not consolidate the spoils of victory.  In the interest of peace and tolerance and in a misguided effort to extend an olive branch to their Muslim neighbors, the politicians of the time left the Temple Mount in Muslim hands.  While Israel still claims sovereignty over the Temple Mount, the entire site has effectively been placed under Muslim administration and control.  Jewish visitors to the Wailing Wall are frequently the target of stone-throwing Muslims and rioting Palestinians, and Jews are not allowed to set foot on the Temple Mount.  In fact, it was Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount, that led to the currently declared Intifada, or Palestinian uprising in the Middle East.  Since the beginning of these hostilities, a peace settlement has consistently eluded the international community, and has been a source of frustration and conflict for the world's governments.   

The reality is that compromise is impossible.  Most religious Jews would be against sharing the Temple Mount, and such a settlement would be unthinkable to the Palestinians, the Islamic Waqf, and the entire Muslim world.  The re-division of Jerusalem is also rejected by most Israelis for security reasons and religious beliefs, and we will see later that the Palestinians have no plans to share any part of Israel.   

Jewish spiritual ties to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount run deep.  Jews and Christians both believe that  Jerusalem and the Temple Mount were chosen by God (Psalm 132:13-14) and that, as God promised in Isaiah 2:2-3, Jerusalem and the Temple Mount will once again be controlled by the Jewish people.  In fact the Temple must be rebuilt on the Temple Mount in the exact location of the previous two temples before the coming of the Messiah (Zech. 1:16, II Thessalonians 2:4, Revelations 11:1).  For this reason, negotiating away Jerusalem and the Temple Mount in East Jerusalem is no more an option than establishing the state of Israel in the Mediterranean Sea, which happens to be the Arabs preferred settlement. 

On the other side of the issue the Palestinians will tell governments and the world they want only East Jerusalem as their capital.  However, their true goal is to have all of Jerusalem and the entire state of Israel.  Palestinians and Muslims in general reject the historical fact that any Jewish Temple ever existed on the Temple Mount.  Archeological evidence is rejected and dismissed as pre-Islamic and inconclusive.   The Palestinian Authority and Arab world negotiate because they understand that strategic areas will need to be taken first.  They recognize the success of the Romans' tactics in 70 A.D.  The Romans did not proceed directly to conquer Jerusalem.  Instead, leaving Jerusalem for last, they first took Galilee and Judea allowing them to take Jerusalem and be able to hold it.  The goal of the Palestinian Authority is not a two state solution, but a one state solution - minus Israel.  While we may not hear this version on the nightly news, that's not because their motives and vision for the future are a secret.  The logos of all 7 major branches of the PLO show a Palestinian state with land boundaries that include all of the territory west of the Jordan River, including all of Israel.  Yasser Arafat boldly proclaims this position for all to hear.  On September 19, 1993 Arafat told the world,  "Our first goal is the liberation of all occupied territories…and the establishment of a Palestinian State whose capital is Jerusalem.  The agreement we arrived at is not a complete solution and the forerunner to a final settlement, which must be based on complete withdrawal from all occupied Palestinian lands, especially holy Jerusalem."  (As sited in "Let them Speak for Themselves!", Dispatch from Jerusalem Nov/Dec 1993).  When speaking to ambassadors in Stockholm on January 30, 1996, Arafat said, "We Palestinians will take over everything including all of Jerusalem.  We plan to eliminate the State of Israel and establish a Palestinian state." 

The Palestinian Authority and the Arab world justify the elimination of the state of Israel by denying that the Jewish holy sites in Jerusalem ever existed and discrediting any Jewish historical claim to the land.  They argue that Solomon and David are mythological figures and there is no evidence there ever was a Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount.  When confronted with archeological evidence that proves the existence of a Jewish Temple, they counter with an admission that a temple may have existed somewhere in the city of Jerusalem, but deny that it could have existed on the Temple Mount.  By denying that there is any evidence of a Jewish Temple, they try to eliminate any need for further archeological research and are able to keep the temple mount sealed off to any excavation. 

In an attempt to further de-legitimize Judaism and Jewish history, Yasser Arafat publicly claims that the ancient Jewish temple was never situated in Jerusalem or any other part of Israel.  In an interview with the London-based Arab newspaper Al Hayat (Oct. 5, 2002), Arafat falsely claimed that archaeologists "have not found a single stone proving that the Temple of Solomon was there, because historically the Temple was not in Palestine." (translated by MEMRI).   

It's hard to see how a two state solution is possible when one party denies the other party even has the right to exist. 

So, what are the facts about the religious and historical claims to the Holy Lands?  To the Jewish people, Jerusalem is their history, their religion, their home, and their future.  This historical Jewish connection to the Holy Lands is documented in biblical history and is affirmed by other ancient literary sources, as well as Roman, Christian and Pilgrim accounts of history, archeological excavations, and architecture such as the Arch of Titus' Triumph in Rome.  The Arch of Titus' Triumph documents the destruction of the second temple in 70 A.D.  The destruction of these temples is still commemorated today on the Jewish national day of morning, Tisha B'Av

There are many verses in the Bible that place the Jewish people in Israel and the Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount (Mount Moriah) in Jerusalem.  When Isaac goes out into the fields to pray prior to meeting Rebecca for the first time (Genesis 24:63-67), he is standing on Mount Moriah.  Jacob's dream of the ladder to heaven (Genesis 27:10-22) takes place on Mount Moriah.  II Samuel 5 documents the capture of Jerusalem from the Canaanites and the conversion of the city into the political and spiritual capital of the Jewish people.  Archaeologists agree that the original Canaanite city and the City of David were located in what is now the Arab village of Silwan, a few meters south of the modern walls of the Old City. 

According to II Samuel 24:18-25 King David purchased the peak of the Temple Mount (Mount Moriah) for the purpose of building the future Temple.  I Kings 6-8 describes in great detail how David's son, King Solomon, built and dedicated the temple:  "And it came to pass after the 408th year after the Children of Israel left Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, the second month, he began to build the temple of the Lord." 

Even if the site of the first two temples is not in the exact same location as the Dome of the Rock (there are several theories, all involving the Temple Mount area), most archeologists agree that it stood on Mount Moriah.  However, Muslims still claim a right to sovereignty over the entire Temple Mount and everything beneath it. 

 Jews believe that the Temple Mount was consecrated by the Shekinah glory of God, which has never left that spot.  The story of the binding of Isaac (Genesis 22:1-19, II Chronicles 3:1) takes place in the "land of Moriah" on the site of the present-day Temple Mount.  Abraham chose this site specifically because he sensed how God's presence is strongly connected to it. 

The sacredness of the Temple Mount is also well represented in contemporary Jewish practice.  When religious Jews pray three times a day, they always turn toward Jerusalem.  The Muslims face toward Mecca.  Jerusalem is also mentioned in numerous traditional daily prayers and the Passover Seder is closed with the words "Next Year in Jerusalem".  These same words are invoked to conclude the holiest day of the Jewish year, Yom Kippur.  During the Jewish wedding ceremony, the groom breaks a glass as a sign of the mourning to commemorate the destruction of the two temples which stood on Mount Moriah, and then recites part of Psalm 137: "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.  If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest Joy." 

Even Islam recorded that when Muslims first came to Jerusalem they discovered the Rock of Sacrifice that once occupied the Holy of Holies.  Arab geographer Yakut, in 1225 A.D. said "the city of Jerusalem was holy to Jews and Christians, as it has been for 3,000 and 2,000 years respectfully."  The Palestinian Encyclopedia states that "Ever since the destruction of the Temple, the link with Jews and Christians has been severed.  Muslims alone have a right to the Temple." 

Further proof exists in 19th century British surveys that match exactly with the measurements of the temple in the Talmud and as detailed by Josephus, the Jewish historian who lived during the end of the Second Temple period. 

Archeological discovery in areas under the Temple Mount have been thwarted by the Palestinians, and much of the archeological artifacts have been destroyed in an attempt to remove any evidence of a Jewish claim to the Holy Lands.  Many of the underground passages have also been walled up by the Muslims and are guarded to keep the "infidels" and the curious away.  However, despite the continuing destruction of Jewish history in Jerusalem and the temple mount, there are a great number of artifacts that prove the Jewish temple did exist.  For example, they have found the staircase that ascended to the southern end of the temple, the entrance gates to the temple mount, and numerous pieces of artifacts with Hebrew inscriptions identifying the site as Jewish. 

The Islamic connection to Jerusalem began much later in history, during the 7th century CE.  Scholars agree that the founder of Islam, Muhammad, was heavily influenced by Judaism and Christianity.  It was this influence that led Muhammad to first instruct his followers to pray in the direction of Jerusalem.  This was later changed to the direction of Mecca, a city in Saudi Arabia that was converted from a pagan pilgrimage site to the "eternal city", and made the center of the Muslim religion.  Islam also teaches that Mecca is the place where Abraham nearly sacrificed Isaac's brother Ishmael, an altered version of the Biblical account on Mount Moriah. 

Islam claims that the Western Wall, or Wailing Wall, is not a Jewish holy site, but is instead the place where Muhammad tied his steed on his Night Journey from Mecca to Al-Aqsa (Jerusalem), and the exposed piece of bedrock on top of Mount Moriah is the site of Mohammed's ascension to heaven, making it an Islamic holy site.  History, however, does not support this belief as being an original Muslim teaching.  Suleiman the Magnificent, the Islamic Ottoman Turkish Sultan, recognized in the 16th century that the Western Wall is a holy place of the Jewish people.  In fact, he even built an oratory there for the Jews. 

Islam has always claimed to be the last of the revelations from God.  According to Islam, it is superior to Judaism and Christianity, and the teachings of their prophet Muhammad correct the corruption of God's message introduced by Christians and Jews, making Islam the only true religion.  Because the other two monotheistic faiths, Judaism and Christianity, held Jerusalem to be their holiest site, it made sense for Islam to replace Judaism and Christianity in Jerusalem and absorb their identity.  Just as they felt they were commanded by God to replace the doctrines of these religions, they needed to gain superiority over their holy sites in order to establish Islam as the restored truth.   

The Dome of the Rock was built by the Umayyid Caliph Abd al-Malik, the ruler of the Islamic Empire, to compete with the massive Byzantine Christian structures in Jerusalem and to counter the magnificent churches in the area, such as the Church of the Holy Sepulcher that had been built as a tribute to the glory of Christ.  In fact, the present dimensions of the Dome of the Rock are identical to those of the rotunda of the Holy Sepulcher.  As further proof of this intent to establishing the superiority of Islam in Jerusalem, Jews and Christians were stripped of any religious rights and forced to where colored badges to identify their inferior status.  Blue badges were used for Christians and yellow badges for Jews.  The yellow badges were later brought back during the holocaust.   

Historians also speculate that Jerusalem may have been adopted as a holy site of Islam out of need rather than revelation.  The establishment of the Umayyid Islamic Dynasty in 658 corresponds to a period of instability in the Islamic world, characterized by power struggles and assassinations.  One of the Five Pillars of Islam is Hajj -- pilgrimage to Mecca.  In the late 7th century, the Damascus based Umayyid Caliphate lost control of Mecca.  The need to create an alternative Muslim holy site closer to Damascus may have pushed the Umayyid Caliph Abd al-Malik, in 688, to begin construction of the Dome of the Rock on the former site of the Jewish Temple. 

Islam's prophet Muhammad never went to Jerusalem, and the city is never mentioned in the Quran.  The association with Muhammad's night journey was never claimed prior to the building of the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount.  In contrast, the Jewish Bible has many names for Jerusalem including Salem (Shalem), Moriah, Jebuse (Yevuse), Jerusalem (Yerushalayim), and Zion (Tziyon).  The most common term for the city, Yerushalayim, is mentioned 349 times in the Jewish Bible, while Tziyon is mentioned an additional 108 times. 

It wasn't until 1187 A.D., after the Crusaders had been forced out, that there was ever a claim made to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount as the third holiest site in Islam.  From 638 CE until 1917 (with the exception of the Crusader occupation from 1099 to 1187), Jerusalem was controlled by various Islamic dynasties based in Syria, Egypt and Turkey.  However, none of these Islamic dynasties ever made Jerusalem their capital.  Even as late as 1964 the inaugural PLO Covenant did not mention Jerusalem at all.  Only after the city fell back under Jewish control did the updated PLO Covenant of 1968 mention Jerusalem by name. 

It is these Muslim religious beliefs and denials of history that will never allow the Palestinians to compromise their exclusive claim to the Temple Mount. 

Adnan Husseini, A senior Waqf official said "The Mosques on the Temple Mount were built by the order of God…Our sovereignty is not subject to compromise."  He argued that Allah would never allow a mosque to be built on land defiled by a Jewish Temple, therefore a temple could not have existed on the Temple Mount. 

In a quest for Middle East Peace, the United States and other countries propose a two state solution for Israel that would divide Jerusalem, making East Jerusalem the capital of a new Palestinian state.  In addition to the religious differences, and the Palestinian goal of eliminating all of Israel, history shows that a divided Jerusalem will never work. 

From 1949 - 1967, Jerusalem was divided between the Israeli Jews and Jordanian Arabs.  During that time, the animosity of Arabs toward the Jews was fierce.  When the U.N. passed a resolution to divide Jerusalem and have the city administered by the U.N., the Jews accepted the division.  The Arabs however, opposed it on the basis that they felt they were entitled to all of Jerusalem.  Interestingly, the solution provided by the U.N. then is the same proposal the Arabs are supporting in negotiations today. 

In May 1948, the Arab nations launched a war that took back East Jerusalem, bypassing U.N. administration of the city.  For 19 years the city was divided between East and West.  In just one year during this time 9 Israelis were killed and 55 wounded by the sniper fire that was a continuous threat to Jews near the dividing line.  Jews were not allowed to visit the Western wall or any other area of East Jerusalem, including Jewish cemeteries.  With their security threatened constantly, they were forced to erect barriers and barbed-wire fences, creating a prison-like atmosphere in West Jerusalem. 

In 1967, the Jews recaptured Jerusalem.  Upon their return, they found a city that had been destroyed.  Everything Jewish had been removed and looted.  Synagogues had been demolished or used as garbage dumps, and Jewish graves had been unearthed, and the bones scattered over the ground.  The Palestinians knew that, by Jewish law, this kind of desecration would prevent the Jews from being able to use the ground for holy sites, or to build a temple or synagogue on the land.   Consistently, areas handed over to the Palestinians in an effort to bring about peace, have been destroyed in this way, and then used as a base of operations for terrorist plots by those organizations that make up the Palestinian "uprising".  This is the kind of destruction, disrespect, and desecration of their homeland that the Israelis can expect if Jerusalem is once again divided. 

The Palestinians, who even destroyed Jewish road signs when they took over East Jerusalem, will never allow a Jewish Temple to be built on or anywhere near the Temple Mount, or even in Jerusalem for that matter.  There will be a third temple, however.  The Bible makes that clear.  For this reason and all those listed above, a Palestinian state can not be formed without dealing first with the irreconcilable differences of two religions, without leaving behind the revisionist and false accounts of history, and without recognizing the true goals of the Muslim Arabs who claim not just the Temple Mount, and not just Jerusalem, but all of Israel as their land.