The Temple Mount deserves better


Hundreds of Gazans have been allowed to pray on the Temple Mount for Eid al-Adha, a Muslim holiday celebrating Abraham’s “sacrifice of Ishmael.” In a statement the IDF said it had given permits to 500 Gaza residents over the age of sixty to celebrate the three-day holiday.

It comes days after Palestinian youths hurled rocks, fire crackers and cinder-blocks at police officers who were guarding the Temple Mount. The officers were treated at the scene by medical personnel and the rioters proceeded to lock themselves inside the al-Aksa Mosque.

Meanwhile, Israel’s tourism ministry is considering opening a second gate to the Temple Mount for Jewish visitors and tourists. As things stand, there are eleven entrances to the Temple Mount, ten of them open to Muslims. The Mughrabi Gate is the only entrance for Jews and even this point of access is regularly targeted by Arab rioters.

But the requirements and safety of Jewish visitors is not the only problem. For many years the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf – the trust that controls and manages the Temple Mount – has carried out excavation work, drilled into ancient stones and painted over rare Jewish art works.

The Waqf has allowed illegal digging through the use of tractors and thrown away valuable artefacts from the two temples. Luckily, archaeologists have managed to rescue some these artefacts by sifting through the rubbish heaps. Among other things, they have found decorated utensils from the King Solomon era, as well as coins and clay dating back to the second temple.

The actions of the Waqf not only display a disdain for history, they represent a blatant attempt to disconnect the people of Israel from their inheritance by either denying the presence of Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem or destroying evidence of its existence.

Indeed, the throwing away of evidence is a central tenet of Palestinian nationalism, which denies there was ever a Jewish temple in Jerusalem. The phenomenon known as “temple denial” started when Yasser Arafat used the Camp David Summit in 2000 to insist that a Jewish Temple had never existed in Jerusalem. The idea immediately caught on and has become a mainstay of anti-Zionist discourse.

The UN’s cultural agency, UNESCO, has done little to prevent such blatant cultural and historical vandalism. Not only is this shameful, it is a clear violation of its promise to “create the conditions for dialogue among civilizations, cultures and peoples, based upon respect for commonly shared values.”

Judaism regards the Temple Mount as the place where God chose the divine presence to rest. According to the Talmud, it was from the Temple Mount that God gathered the dust used to create Adam.

The tossing of precious Jewish artefacts into a rubbish dump, and the hurling of stones and firecrackers at police, are not signs of respect or reverence. They are signs of contempt. The Temple Mount and the Jewish people who yearn for a truly united Jerusalem deserve better.