It's the site where humanity received the gift of one God. It’s where God’s “shechina”, or presence, dwelt. Even the secular imagination, Jewish or not, has been shaped by the “Holy of Holies,” the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the most sacred site of the Jewish people.
It’s there that King David raised a sanctuary for the Ark of the Covenant and King Solomon and Herod built the Temples. This holy place - not Shenkin Street, Jerusalem’s Rehavia neighborhood, or Herzliya Pituach’s high-tech hub – prompted the Jews’ return to their land after two millennia of dispersion and pogroms.
In theory, Israel currently controls the Temple Mount. In reality, since 1967, when the Israeli army seized the “holy basin” from Jordanian forces, the Jewish state gave up religious freedom for the Jews.
This is one of the darkest chapters in modern Israel’s short history. Immediately after the liberation of Jerusalem, Moshe Dayan handed over the keys of the Temple Mount to the Waqf, the Muslim religious trust that serves as custodian of the site, which includes four minarets and the holiest Jewish site in the world. It was a disastrous decision.
Threatened by Arab countries, Israeli authorities just closed the Mughabri Bridge, preventing Jews and Christians from entering Temple Mount. Historically it should be noted that only under Israeli rule was the site open for everyone, Muslims, Christians and Jews. The Waqf is now attempting to deliberately destroy all archaeological evidence of Jewish claims to this site, while using terror and intimidation to impose its exclusive claim to Temple Mount.
The Waqf has removed every sign of ancient Jewish presence at the site. At the entrance, a Waqf sign says “The Al-Aqsa Mosque courtyard and everything in it is Islamic property.” Today Jews are barred from praying on the Mount and are not even allowed to carry any holy articles with them. With Muslim observers supervising visits, Israeli police have frequently arrested Jews for various violations, such as singing or reciting a prayer even in a whisper.
This week, a Jewish woman was arrested following claims by police and Waqf officials that they noticed she was praying on Temple Mount. Why is it a crime for a Jew to mention God’s name on Temple Mount? And why is the State of Israel complicit in enforcing this anti-Semitic rule?
European autocrats and the global media are also trying to downplay the Jewish connection to the site. Jewish archeologist Gabi Barkai stated that “it’s a lie more terrible than the denial of the Holocaust, yet connected to it.” UN and EU funded textbooks in the Palestinian areas all repeat the canard denying any Jewish legitimacy in the “Noble Sanctuary.”
The World Council of Churches, the largest umbrella for the Protestant Churches, in its “Promised Land” conference in Switzerland denied any Jewish connection with the Mount. Recently, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, head of the Vatican’s Council for Interreligious Dialogue, just asked to place some Israeli holy places around Temple Mount under Vatican or international authority.
“The part of Jerusalem within the wall – with the holy sites of the three religions – is humanity’s heritage”, Tauran said. “The sacred and unique character of the area must be safeguarded and it can only be done with a special, internationally guaranteed statute.”
Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama’s plan also designates the Old City as an “international zone.”
It’s not only Chief Palestinian Justice Sheik Taysir Tamimi who declared the Jewish temples “never existed.” The supposedly more moderate Sari Nusseibeh also claimed that “the historical ties and attachments of the Palestinians precede any Israeli claim to Jerusalem.”
Erasing the cultural Jewish heritage in Israel means erasing the right of Jews to live in their native land. Meanwhile, the Palestinians just planned the targeting of another Jewish holy site, the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. They will ask UNESCO to formally recognize their cultural attachment to the site in February, a move only made possible by their admission to the UN body two months ago.
Lies are obsessive: The Jews, said Arafat, have never been in Jerusalem and the Temple never existed. This canard was repeated since. As Joseph Goebbels famously said, if you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. Next time they will say that the Jews never existed as a people. Israel should mobilize the international community to stop this bulldozing of history.
Giulio Meotti, a journalist with Il Foglio, is the author of the book A New Shoah: The Untold Story of Israel's Victims of Terrorism