Temple Mount Violence Yet Again
There were clashes
on the Jerusalem Temple Mount in the runup to Rosh Hashanah, and I blame
Moshe Dayan. He was the prematurely politically correct Israeli Defense Minister
who, in 1967, couldn’t bear the thought of Jews in charge of the site of King
Solomon’s Temple, the al Aqsa mosque and the rock from which Mohammed rode his
stallion to Paradise and on which Abraham prepared to sacrifice Isaac. The
Israelis had conquered it in the 6-Day War and had raised their flag above the
Al Aqsa Mosque. Dayan ordered it taken down, and informed the Waqf—the
Jordanian Muslim organization that had administered the area under Arab
occupation—that it would remain in charge.
Dayan was a political maverick, to put it
mildly. He insisted on referring to himself as a “Mesopotamiam,” or “Canaanite,”and
his home and garden were a sort of museum of ancient relics (many pilfered from
the Israel Museum and others simply taken illegally in the course of military
campaigns) that predated Judaism itself, a reflection of his religious
So far as I have been able to learn, Dayan had
no authority to issue such an order, he simply did it. And under the
circumstances—he’d become an iconic hero—nobody felt like challenging him.
It was a terrible blunder. Today, the Temple
Mount is the only territory in Israel where freedom of religion is not enforced,
because the Muslim Waqf wants it to be a strictly Islamic zone. Jews, Christians
and agnostics are not allowed to gather there for religious observance of any
sort, and tourist visits are strictly limited. No such strictures are permitted
in synagogues, churches, and such areas as the City of David just outside the
walls of Jerusalem’s Old City.
The Muslims have used their power over the
Temple Mount in an Orwellian
project to “prove”
there was never any Jewish presence there, the better to insist on the
“historic” rights of the Islamic ummah to exercise total control. To that
end, Jewish antiquities have been systematically removed, and bulldozers have
been deployed to erase any evidence of the temples in ancient times. This
enables them to claim that the Temple Mount has “always” been Muslim, even
though its alleged importance is not mentioned in the Koran.
If Dayan had not returned the Temple Mount to
Arab Muslim control, the same freedom of religion that is practiced everywhere
else in Israel would be extended to this important area as well. Israeli
security already provides protection to al Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock, and,
were it not for Dayan’s unfortunate decision, the archeological integrity of
the space could have been preserved.
As things stand today, Israeli soldiers and
police are used to keep non-Muslims from visiting one of the most symbolically
powerful places on earth, the place where Abraham took his son to be sacrificed,
where Jesus expelled the money-changers, and where Mohammed set off on his
heavenly horseback ride. Anyone seeking eventual harmony among the Western
world’s three great monotheistic religions should want the maximum religious
freedom and toleration on the Temple Mount. Moreover, those who care about the
preservation of the archeological remnants of the ancient world should decry the
systematic destruction of the Temple Mount’s rich treasure of physical
documentation of its past.
Ironically, the Temple Mount is the site of
fairly frequent religious conflict as the result of a snap decision by a man who
sought to prevent Israel from exercising “colonial” control, and giving
authority to just one of the three religions. It hasn’t worked well.