The outrage is very real, and very serious. Its focus is Har Habayit (the Temple Mount).
Palestinian Arabs today claim that Har Habayit is theirs: Theirs to the exclusion of any other claim. But the facts attest to origins of the Mount that are irrefutably Jewish.
As I review the Jewish claim to this sacred site, I ask you to share very broadly. There is so much venomous disinformation circulating that even persons of good will are sometimes misled. It’s time to set the record straight, unequivocally. What follows is exceedingly pertinent to current political turmoil.
It was David, king of Israel, who established Jerusalem as the capital of his kingdom over 3,000 years ago. (There were no Muslims then: Islam is about 1,600 years old.)
Jewish tradition says there are three sites within Israel about which Jewish ownership cannot be challenged because in each case the land was purchased. One of those sites is a threshing floor purchased by King David from Araunah the Jebusite in order to build an altar to the Lord (documented in II Samuel 24 18-25, where it is noted that King David paid 50 silver shekels).
David’s son, Solomon, subsequently built the First Temple on that site in the mid-10th century BCE. It was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. After a period of exile, Jews returned to the Land and built a Second Temple, completed in approximately 516 BCE. The Temple – along with the entire Mount on which it stood – was later expanded considerably by King Herod. The Kotel is a retaining wall of that Mount. This Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. But the location of the Temple, on the Mount, remains Judaism’s holiest site.
The Muslims claim that there is no evidence for what I describe above. But that simply is not the case.
In terms of textual evidence, there are the writings of the Jewish historian Josephus, who lived at the time of the destruction of the Second Temple, and described that Temple.
And there is archeological evidence. Renowned Dutch biblical archeologist Leen Ritmeyer is certain of the Jewish origins of the Temple Mount. In the 1930s, renovation work was done on the Al Aqsa mosque, on the Temple Mount. Beneath it was found the remains of a Byzantine mosaic floor, which may have been the floor of a church. Beneath that was found a mikveh, a Jewish ritual bath. Wrote Ritmeyer, “…this…proves the Jewish origin of the Temple Mount.”
In the Jerusalem Archeological Park today can be seen huge stones that were thrown down from the top of the Temple wall by the Romans.
There are many other archeological artifacts, as well, including a large stone engraved in Greek warning non-Jews not to go any further into the Temple, where only Jews were permitted to enter.
Until recent times, Muslims recognized the Jewish origins of the Mount, as well: A nine-page English-language tourist guide entitled “A Brief Guide to al-Haram al-Sharif [the Temple Mount] was published by the Supreme Moslem Council in 1925. It states that the Temple Mount site “is one of the oldest in the world. Its sanctity dates from the earliest times. Its identity with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute.” (Emphasis added)
We ask what happened to shift Muslim thinking on the matter, and the answer, without a doubt, is the existence of the modern State of Israel.
After the destruction of the Second Temple and then the ultimate failure of a revolt against the Romans, Jews were no longer sovereign and no longer had control of Jerusalem. In the early centuries of the Common Era, Jerusalem was part of the Roman Empire, and then the Byzantine Empire. By the mid-Seventh Century, the Muslim period had begun. With the exception of the Crusader period, one Caliphate followed another: Ummayyad, Fatimid, Seljuk, Mamluk, etc.
In 691 CE Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik ordered the building of the Dome of the Rock as a shrine on the Temple Mount, on the precise location of the Temples. Then he ordered the Al Aqsa Mosque (pictured) to be built on the other side of the Mount in 705 CE.
This mosque is the third holiest site in Islam, after the holy shrine of Ka’bah in Mecca and the mosque in Medina, both in Saudi Arabia. Muslims praying on the Mount face Mecca.
The Ottoman Empire (Turkish, Muslim) ruled the area, from the 16th century until the end of WWI in 1918. Following this, Jerusalem, along with all of Mandate Palestine, was under the jurisdiction of the British. Israel declared independence in 1948, and immediately had to fight a defensive war. The subsequent truce with Jordan left Jerusalem in Jordanian hands (Muslim).
The situation changed significantly in June 1967, with the Six Day War and Israeli liberation of Jerusalem. Cried Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Motta Gur, Har Habayit b’yadenu! “The Temple Mount is in our hands.”
Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan then laid down rules for the Temple Mount that are deeply regretted by many to this day. Whatever his motivation, his judgement was badly skewed, perhaps because he had insufficient understanding of Islamic precepts and intentions.
He declared that Jews would have the right to visit the Mount, but not pray there. He accorded the Muslim Wakf (trust), which is in Jordanian hands, authority to administer the site on a daily basis, while Israel maintained national sovereignty over the Mount. Israeli law was to apply and Israeli police were responsible for security – this was approved by the Israeli High Court.
When Muslims call for maintaining “the status quo” this is what they are referring to. They have in mind in particular prohibition of Jewish prayer. And this is the first of many outrages – that Jews should be prohibited from praying at the holiest site in Judaism; that Israeli law on freedom of religion applies everywhere in Israel except at this holy site when applied to Jews. (The High Court has said Jews can pray on the Mount, with specific security provisos. And some quiet prayer has been taking place of late.)
However, what must be emphasized is that the “status quo” – as established in Dayan’s time – has shifted significantly over the years in other respects. This is something the Muslims, of course, never allude to, and which, to their shame, neither do Israel’s leaders.
It was Dayan’s intention to permit Jews free access to the Mount for visitation. But now hours of visitation for non-Muslims is exceedingly limited with regard to days and hours – with entrance restricted to the Mughrabi Gate, while Muslims come and go at will via several gates.
Similarly, in principle, the laws of the State of Israel apply to the Temple Mount, as the High Court of Israel determined the matter. But in fact, laws regarding planning, construction and antiquities on the Mount have not been enforced with vigor. This is a matter of huge import:
The Wakf has extended prayer areas of the Mount extensively in order to preclude opportunities for Jewish prayer in the future. While in 1967 there was only one mosque on the Mount, today there are five. In addition to the other mosques, the entire Mount is utilized for Muslim prayer. Arab leaders refer to the entire Mount as Al Aqsa. Tens of thousands pray on the Mount during holiday times.
In the course of doing extensive construction without proper Israeli supervision, the Wakf has willfully destroyed archeological evidence of the ancient Jewish presence on the Mount. This was particularly true at a site on the Mount called Solomon’s Stables.
There are very specific reasons why the Temple Mount is such a flashpoint for Israeli-Muslim tensions: It is a mainstream belief – drawn from Sharia (Islamic law) and embraced by many Muslims – that non-Muslims, including Jews, are forbidden from becoming rulers over Muslim territory. For centuries, this was not an issue. The establishment of the modern State of Israel created a religious crisis for many Muslims offended by Jewish rule over an area that had been Muslim. While there are political aspects to the Palestinian Arab fight against Israel, at its core, this is a religious battle. (This is why the PLO will never agree to a “two-state solution” that acknowledges Jewish Israel in the Land.)
It is understood very well by Muslims that if Jews are recognized as having had a presence on the Temple Mount as long ago as the 10th century BCE, then the claim to Jewish rights to the Land stands: it remains clear that Jews were here first. Re-writing history, making the Mount an exclusively Islamic site, shifts the dynamic.
Painting Jews as aggressors further undermines the Jewish position. The Mount is used for purposes of incitement both by Hamas and Fatah (the PA/PLO). Charges are made that Jews are “threatening” Al Aqsa, and violence routinely ensues.
Last Friday morning, April 15, many Jews came to the Kotel to pray before the advent of Pesach at sundown. From above, rocks were pelted down on them by Arabs up on the Temple Mount.
A police contingent then entered the Mount to stop the rock-throwing; they were confronted by an Arab mob that had prepared to do battle: they actively sought confrontation. Some paraded with Hamas or PA flags. Many were masked; they threw rocks and wooden planks and shot fireworks.
Of major significance is the fact that they had stockpiled rocks inside the mosque.
This is hardly the first time this has happened. It was clear indication, as was the behavior of the mob, that intentions were not religious. See here two videos of Arabs throwing rocks and other matter from inside the Mosque, the mosque they claim is sacred. See in particular the third video from the top.
A riot ensued and police ultimately entered the mosque because hundreds of rioters had barricaded themselves in. This action was necessary to protect Jews who sought to visit the Mount before Pesach, as well as Muslims sincerely interested in Ramadan prayers.
The melee was large and violent. In all some 150 people were injured. Some 400 were taken into custody and all but about 100 released.
From Islamic nations, came a blanket condemnation of Israel’s police, who had acted to stop violent behavior and protect worshippers. There was no criticism of the Arab rioters who disturb worship and violate the mosque’s sanctity. Israel was charged with “storming” the mosque and “aggression against unarmed worshippers.” (“worshippers”?) The arrests were said to be a “provocation.” Joining the accusations were our Abraham Accords partners: UAE, Bahrain, Morocco. Turkey leveled criticism, as well.
Most disturbing was the response of the Jordanians. As they have a direct presence on the Mount via the Wakf, they might have acted to cool matters, but they chose to do just the opposite.
Jordanian Prime Minister Bisher Al-Khasawneh was openly inciteful, “I congratulate all Palestinians and all Jordanian Islamic workers who stand as tall as a turret and those who throw stones at pro-Zionists who defile the al-Aqsa Mosque in the security of the Israeli occupation government.”
King Abdullah called on Israel to “cease all illegal and provocative measures” that “violate” the “historical and legal status quo” on the Mount, which he said could “push towards further escalation.”
Both Bennett and Lapid had harsh words for the Jordanian position, and the Foreign Ministry is contemplating further action.
While all of this was on-going, there were several other incidents of Arab violence directed primarily at Jews seeking worship at the Kotel or visitation on the Mount, including:
 On the second day of Pesach, Arabs threw huge rocks at 10 buses bringing Jewish worshippers to the Kotel. Seven people wounded by rocks or shattered glass had to be treated in the hospital.
 Religious Jews wearing tallitot, on their way to prayers at Kotel, were attacked by Arabs. See video:
 Muslim vandals blocked the paths on the Temple Mount utilized by Jewish visitors with rocks, metal poles and ancient artifacts, some dating back to the Second Temple era. These ancient artifacts had apparently been unceremoniously dumped by the Wakf.
 In Haifa on Sunday night, Israeli Arabs demonstrated, calling: “Oh Intifada raise your flames! If the Intifada will start, we will not stand by and watch.” Includes Im Tirtzu video of the demonstration:
On Sunday evening, Defense Minister Gantz announced that as things were now more under control, he was removing restrictions on entrance from PA areas and Gaza. I was concerned that this was appeasement: a “see, I’m being nice, so be good now please” sort of action. The behavior of the Arabs did not merit opening of the closure, as I saw it.
Subsequently, it made news that Hamas had threatened launching of rockets if the rioters arrested on the Mount were not released. It then became clear why Gantz had made this announcement. I have not been able to secure information on whether those arrested were released.
On Monday evening, a rocket was fired from Gaza, which was intercepted by the Iron Dome. It has been attributed to Palestinian Islamic Jihad. But as Israel holds Hamas responsible, later that night there was retaliation against a Hamas site: IAF fighter jets attacked a number of Hamas targets and destroyed a workshop for weapons production. It has been quiet since.
What may be the biggest story with regard to the violence on the Mount concerns the Ra’am party, which is the political arm of the Southern Islamist Movement. On Sunday, a senior spiritual leader of the Southern Islamic Movement, Sheikh Mohammad Salameh Hassan, called on MK Mansour Abbas to leave the coalition because of the violent riots on the Temple Mount. On Facebook, he called on Abbas to “resign immediately from the coalition that is attacking our holy sites in Palestine…Do it for Al Aqsa.”
While a member of Ra’am, MK Mazen Ghanaim wrote to Bennett that if police operations on the Mount continue, he will resign the coalition.
What was clear, however, is that Ra’am head, Mansour Abbas did not want to leave the coalition, in spite of heavy pressure to do so.
The Islamic Council, which provides spiritual advice to the Islamic Movement and to Ra’am, met on Sunday and, taking Abbas’s position into consideration, then instructed Ra’am to suspend all cooperation with the governing coalition for the time being.
At the moment, this has little effect, as the Knesset is in recess until early May. MK Smotrich did seek to call an emergency plenum to act on this Ra’am decision, but that does not appear likely to happen.
Abbas has since indicated that what went on at the Mount crossed a red line for his party. He then advanced conditions for his staying. There were conditions regarding recognition of villages in the Negev, etc. But the major condition that Abbas has stipulated is that the government not permit any Jewish praying on the Mount.
With this, Bennett may be tested. It would be an outrage if he conceded this point to Abbas, but he might because he has on multiple occasions suppressed his values for “peace” in the coalition. On the other hand, he may not be required to make this decision: The Islamic Movement is scheduled to meet with Ra’am to discuss further actions, which may include a decision that Ra’am must leave the coalition.
And so, stay tuned!!
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution