(January 4, 2019 / JNS) Admittedly, reading news about temples can be disconcerting, whether they are ancient or contemporary. Just ask Indiana Jones.
We now know, or rather archaeologists and anthropologists believe, that in Mexico there was a temple of the Flayed Lord, a pre-Hispanic fertility god. He was depicted as a skinned human corpse. Recent excavations of the Popoloca ruins in Puebla State suggest that priests worshipped Xipe Totec, a life-death-rebirth deity, by skinning victims and then donning their skins.
In India today, an ongoing struggle continues to exacerbate the relations between Hindus and Muslims.
At a northern city in that country, Ayodhya, there is a dispute with political, historical and religious baggage. In essence, the argument is over if the site is a mosque, a temple of both. A judicial decision ruled that area be divided into three parts: for the construction of the Ram temple, the Islamic Sunni Waqf Board and a Hindu religious denomination Nirmohi Akhara. That, however, is not the last word. Only last week, politician Mohan Bhagwat asserted that “only a Ram temple will be constructed in Ayodhya.” That was a day
“after Prime Minister Narendra Modi suggested that any decision on an ordinance on the Ram temple could only be taken after the completion of the judicial process.”
In yet another temple, the Sabarimala in the south of India, there’s an internal Hindu problem when protests occurred after a court ruled that women could enter the temple to offer prayers at a place called Kerala; this after a centuries-long ban on the entry of menstruating women into the temple. Police had to employ teargas and water cannon to disperse the protesters outside government buildings since
“traditionalists waving black flags blocked traffic and staged demonstrations … police intervened after clashes between the Bharatiya Janata party and Communist party workers. … Priests ‘purified’ Sabarimala after hearing of the visit and will keep it closed on Thursday as a mark of protest.”
If you’re confused or if this sounds like a niddah matter and that perhaps a mikvah could be of assistance, you need know that the deity is one Lord Ayyappa, who is celibate. It is this celibacy that is cited by Hindu traditionalists as the reason women under 50 should not enter the temple. The fear is that the women could “tempt” the deity. Incidentally,
hundreds of thousands of women in Kerala formed a human chain 380 miles (610km) long across the length of the state to demonstrate their support for gender equality. The “women’s wall” rally was backed by the government.
All of that brought to mind not only the Western Wall Plaza dispute but also something Palestinian Authority leader Mahmud Abbas once said over the official P.A. TV on Sept. 16, 2015:
“We bless you, we bless the Murabitin (those carrying out Ribat, religious conflict/war to protect land claimed to be Islamic), we bless every drop of blood that has been spilled for Jerusalem, which is clean and pure blood, blood spilled for Allah, Allah willing. Every Martyr (Shahid) will reach Paradise, and everyone wounded will be rewarded by Allah.
The Al-Aqsa is ours, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is ours, and they have no right to defile them with their filthy feet. We will not allow them to, and we will do everything in our power to protect Jerusalem.”
In India, we have hundreds of thousands of females Hindus campaigning for their basic religious rights, as they perceive them, in a modernistic framework, i.e., menstruation does not cause one to be impure or better, women know when they are menstruating and they should be allowed into sacred ground (besides, arbitrarily fixing 10 to 50 as active ages would seem silly to halachah-minded Jews; it’s either/or). And there is, at this writing, one dead already in the riots. We have there equal numbers of Muslims who believe that location should not be a temple, but a mosque. In Mexico, that Flayed God temple will probably be open to all to visit eventually. In Cordoba, Spain, Muslims are demanding the right to pray in a Cathedral that was once a mosque. It’s history, in a nutshell:
It was originally a cathedral (Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption) but was conquered by the invading Moors and turned into a mosque in 784 AD by Abd al-Rahman. It was reconquered by 1236 AD by King Ferdinand III of Castile during the Reconquista. The centre of the mosque was converted into a Catholic cathedral.
In Jerusalem, despite the law, Jews and Christians cannot freely access the site except as tourists and visitors. They surely cannot pray anywhere inside the compound, as noted above, because our feet “defile” the site. No one in Europe or—for that matter, almost everywhere else in the world—considers that a problem, one of human rights. The United Nations, UNESCO and company play right along with “Jerusalem denial.” Jews have no history in Jerusalem so they have no historical sites or even archaeology is the narrative these institutions promote.
If the Muslim authorities are unwilling to agree to a compromise, the scenario playing out around the world at mosques and temples does not seem to be very encouraging for us in Jerusalem.
Yisrael Medad is an American-born Israeli journalist and commentator.