A few years ago, while visiting the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, I had a very disturbing conversation with a member of the Islamic Waqf who was escorting me to make sure that I didn't pray on the holy mountain.
I asked him if he could tell me when the al-Aqsa mosque was built. He looked at me with a straight face and responded that it was always there. I hadn't expected that, and of course was surprised and asked again. I thought that maybe he didn't understand my question and meant that the mountain was always there. So I asked again, and made it clear that I meant the mosque located on the southern extension of the Temple Mount that was built by Herod. (Historically, the entire platform that the al-Aqsa mosque is built on didn't even exist during the time of the first Temple.)
It turned out that this “learned” member of the Islamic clergy, whose job is to work on the Temple Mount, actually believed that the structure of the al-Aqsa mosque was just there - from the beginning of time.
This conversation was a great help to me in understanding the Muslim Arab mindset and culture. Facts are not really so important to them. They can be made up or even changed as needed.
New replacement theology
You don't need to take my word for it. Go to YouTube and search for this: "Moses was a Muslim who led Palestinians out of Egypt.” You will see that Islamic clergy are teaching this concept without blinking an eye. They are totally convinced that all of the Israelite heroes of the Bible were actually Muslims.
This is the new replacement theology. The idea is not only Holocaust denial like what is heard from the leaders of the Islamic regime in Iran. They now deny (or co-opt) all the foundational points of Jewish history.
Their strategy is to question or outright deny the most basic historical facts – like claiming that the Jews are not the direct descendants and surviving remnant of the children of Israel who were led out of Egypt by Moses and led into the land under Joshua. If you see the video, you will learn that King David too was a Muslim who defeated the mighty Goliath.
For all whose goal is to bring stability to this region, it is important to understand the rhetoric of those who oppose Israel as part of their religion. Understand that we are dealing with people who celebrate being detached from reality as part of their worship of Allah.
Accept our neighbors
There might be those who fear that this realization would force us to give up all hope of bringing about a deal for lasting peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors. I suggest the opposite. We must realize and accept our neighbors for who they are and recognize their culture as a given.
It is unrealistic, in my opinion, to believe that we can turn the Arabs into a society that truly embraces western concepts and values - like facts and sticking to truth. It makes much more sense to understand that fantasy and stretching the truth are very deeply embedded in the mindset of the Muslim and Arab culture. I do not mean to say this as an insult, but to suggest that we accept it as a fact, take it as it is and move on.
I believe that there is hope for peace in the Middle East - not because the Arabs will love us or are about to become Zionist enthusiasts. There is hope for peace because the Jews are a peace loving people and G-d gave us the brains and physical means to protect our borders and our nation. The Arabs can believe whatever they like - as long as they know that they can't overrun us. If they could they would.
David Ha’ivri is the director of the Shomron Liaison Office. He and his wife Mollie live in Kfar Tapuach, Shomron with their eight children. You can follow him on Twitter @haivri