The traditional Tisha B’Av walk around the Temple Mount will be held next week on the 9th of the Hebrew month of Av to commemorate the destruction of the two Jewish Temples in Jerusalem. This year, the walk will depart later than usual (11:30pm) so that Muslims worshippers can complete their Ramadan celebrations on the Temple Mount.
The decision has been made by police who cite security concerns. But organizers of the walk have described it as a “disgrace.” Nadia Mataro, co-director of grassroots Zionist organization Women in Green, told Arutz Sheva that “the Arabs ascend the Temple Mount but the Jews can only pray at the Western Wall. In a sovereign state, the Jews’ events will only be held after the Arabs’ events are finished. Why? Why can’t they start their events later, so that we can march earlier?”
Israel should never have relinquished control of the Temple Mount. During the Six-Day War, the Jewish state captured the Temple Mount and East Jerusalem from Jordan. Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol assured that “no harm whatsoever shall come to the places sacred to all religions.” Israel passed the Preservation of the Holy Places Law and agreed to leave administration of the site in the hands of the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, an Islamic trust that has controlled the area since the 12th century.
This was a massive mistake. Yes, it was a magnanimous gesture designed to demonstrate Israel’s goodwill and religious tolerance. But it has allowed the Muslim authorities to rob the Jewish people of their cultural inheritance and delegitimize Israel’s historic right to Jerusalem.
As well as turning a blind eye to vandalism, the Waqf allows illegal digging to take place. Palestinian excavations of Temple Mount have damaged its structural integrity, and valuable artifacts and important historical remnants have literally been thrown away into rubbish dumps.
Among finds uncovered in rubble removed from the Temple Mount are: the imprint of a seal belonging to a priestly Jewish family mentioned in the Tanakh; more than 4,300 coins from various periods, many of which are from the Jewish revolt that preceded the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE; and arrowheads shot by Babylonian invaders 2,500 years ago.
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.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, Jews who visit the Temple Mount are pelted with rocks and hassled by hostile Muslims. At other times, Israeli police have clashed with Arabs rioters after being attacked with stones and firebombs. There is also institutional harassment of Jews. In 2012, a young British Jewish student was accosted by the Waqf who demanded that he remove his “offensive” yarmulke. The student later told reporters that while he has experienced anti-Semitism in England, he “never thought that in Judaism’s holiest site I would be subjugated to such discrimination.”
It is plain to see that Islamic control of the Temple Mount is motivated by politics, not religion. If the site is so important to Muslims, why didn’t a single foreign Arab leader come to pray in the al-Aqsa Mosque during the two decades of Jordanian occupation? And why do Muslims pray with their backsides towards the Temple Mount? And why is Jerusalem not mentioned once in the Koran?
In contrast, the Temple Mount is Judaism’s most holy and revered site. 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 site is also the location of Abraham’s binding of Isaac, and of two Jewish Temples, both of which were destroyed by foreign invaders. Many Israelis believe there should be a third Jewish Temple. In 2010, a public opinion poll conducted by Channel 99 showed that 50 per cent of Israelis want the Temple to be rebuilt.
This is the aim of The Temple Institute, a Jerusalem-based religious organization that has started to restore and construct the sacred vessels for the service of the Holy Temple. According to the institute, “Jewish history has a trajectory, which began when the patriarch Abraham smashed his father’s idols. That trajectory has spanned the millennia, and it is obvious that we are rapidly approaching climactic times, in which the Holy Temple will once again become the focal point for mankind’s spiritual focus.”
It is time for Israel to once again make history and recapture the Temple Mount, thereby rescinding the authority of the Waqf. The symbolic importance of taking control should not be underestimated. It would send a clear message to the Palestinians and to the world that Jerusalem is a Jewish city and will never be divided. Reclaiming the Temple Mount will also make it abundantly clear that the State of Israel is an eternal fact on the ground.