The Jewish people desperately need a leader who is willing to clearly explain the history, layout and current state of the Temple Mount to the world. Hamas used non-existent, totally fictitious threats to the Al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount as a rallying cry for outrage and violence.
The latest result is another war in which they have launched more than 3,000 rockets, resulting in death and destruction. We need a leader who will speak the truth, once and for all, and put an end to the lies that inspire killing and mayhem. Here are some bullet points for consideration for the speech:
- Out of respect for Muslim traditions, and in effort to try and be conciliatory to the Arab population after Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six-Day War, Jews allowed the Waqf, a Muslim trustee organization, to manage the Temple Mount.
- Unfortunately, the Waqf has been anything but a trustworthy manager. It allowed more than 400 truckloads of soil on the site, full of artifacts (coins, pottery and more) from the first and second Jewish Temple periods of 2,000-3,000 years ago, to be dug up and dumped in the desert. It also continues to allow the imam who heads worship at Al-Aqsa to spew venomous hatred against Jews.
- The Al-Aqsa mosque was first built by Caliph Al Walid in 705 C.E., in order to commemorate, according to Muslim tradition, the night journey of Muhammed. He departed from the “farthest mosque” on a winged horse-like creature called El Burak. On his journey, he met Jewish and Christian biblical heroes and negotiated with Allah to reduce the Muslim prayer requirements from 50 to five times per day. While most Muslims follow the tradition that this was the site of his departure, there are those who hold that Al-Aqsa was not the site of his departure and that the actual “farthest” mosque was in Saudi Arabia.
- For two periods of a combined 830 years, well before Islam became a religion, two Jewish temples stood on the Temple Mount, on the location where the Dome of the Rock (golden dome) now sits. Archaeological evidence overwhelmingly supports the biblical narrative. In addition, the foundation stone on which, according to Jewish tradition, years earlier, God tested Abraham with the binding of Isaac, is the centerpiece inside the Dome of the Rock, which is more than 200 meters (656 feet) north of the Al-Aqsa mosque.
- Someday, we Jews do hope to see a third temple built on the location of the Dome of the Rock—not Al-Aqsa. When the temple is rebuilt, there is no reason that the Al Aqsa mosque couldn’t share the plaza with it.
- The Dome of the Rock is not a mosque. It is a shrine originally built in 685 C.E. by Caliph Abd al-Malik. The Al Aqsa mosque, not the Dome of the Rock, is where Muslims pray. The site of the original mosque was specifically and deliberately chosen to be south of the Dome of the Rock (the location of the previous Jewish temples), in order for Muslims to face Mecca. In addition, because it is a biblical holy site, it is a Muslim holy site, as Muslims revered Jewish prophets and the Hebrew Bible—their original reason for building the Dome of the Rock.
- The idea that Jews on the Temple Mount are a threat to the Al-Aqsa mosque is a total lie. Both Sephardi and Ashkenazi chief rabbis rule that Jews should not ascend to the Temple Mount, on the grounds that we are not in a pure enough state at this time to do so, as we might encroach on an area of holiness inadvertently. There are also well-respected rabbis who hold that it is permissible to ascend to the site after immersing in a mikveh (ritual bath) and staying away from the area of the Dome of the Rock.
- For those of Jews whose rabbis permit them to ascend the Temple Mount, we need to begin formally allowing individual prayer on the site, in areas away from both the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa. We need to allow prayer books, shawls and phylacteries there as well. It is our holiest site. As we respect Muslims’ rights, Muslims must respect ours.
- Message to King Abdullah of Jordan: The Jewish people appreciate the peace treaty we have with your country and the close relationship in many areas. We know that you are challenged to manage a population that is predominately Palestinian, while you and others in the kingdom are not. But you must cease and desist from using non-existent Israeli threats to the Al-Aqsa mosque as a rallying point for your people.
- Israel goes out of its way to allow freedom for all religions. However, Israel will not tolerate the way in which the Al-Aqsa mosque is used, as it has been recently, to stockpile rocks and weapons to throw at non-Muslims, such as Jewish worshipers at the Western Wall. No weapons can be permitted in the mosque.
While Jews pray for the time of the rebuilding of the Temple to arrive, we should be clear that it was a means to express appreciation, rectify our sins and get closer to God by building a home for Him in this world. The Temple was and will be a temple for all the world.
Jews are no threat to Al-Aqsa and never have been. Abraham, our common patriarch, would not be pleased with your incitement. Cease and desist.
Gary Schiff is a resource consultant connecting Israel and the United States.