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Islam Itself Recognizes the Jewish History of Jerusalem

November 6, 2016 | by Nadav Shragai and Israel Hayom and

Ten centuries of Islamic sources confirm Jewish ties to the Temple Mount.

The name Aref al-Aref means very little, if anything, to the Israeli public at large, but last month's resolution by UNESCO, which adopted the Palestinian tangle of lies about the Jews having no ties to the Temple Mount, Jerusalem, or the Western Wall, could bring the late Palestinian historian – who briefly served as the mayor of east Jerusalem – out of obscurity.

Al-Aref was an Arab journalist, politician, and public official in the time of the British Mandate in Palestine. In the final years of Jordanian rule over east Jerusalem, he also served as director of the Rockefeller Archaeological Museum near Damascus Gate. The museum has been moved and is now located in the Israel Antiquities Authority. The British founded the museum during the Mandate, and when Jordan "inherited" it, the Jordanian commissars used tape to cover up the Hebrew script on some of the artifacts on display.

Al-Aref, an avowed Palestinian nationalist, wrote that al-Haram al-Sharif is the same Mount Moriah mentioned in Genesis and that Solomon built the Temple there.

In spite of this, Al-Aref, an avowed Palestinian nationalist, adhered to historical truth and scientific research and wrote in his books that the Temple Mount (al-Haram al-Sharif in Arabic) is the same Mount Moriah mentioned in Genesis, the site of the Jebusite threshing floor that King David bought to build the Temple on it, and that David's son, Solomon, built the Temple in the year 1007 BCE.

According to Al-Aref's writings, remnants of Solomon's Temple are located beneath Al-Aqsa mosque. The place, he wrote, had belonged to Jews for a certain time, and then it returned to Muslim ownership. He even identified the quarry to the right of Damascus Gate as "Solomon's Quarry," although that might be incorrect, and said that David and Solomon took stones from that location to construct the Temple.

Professor Yitzhak Reiter of the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies Institute and the Academic College of Ashkelon, an internationally renowned expert on Islam, says that Al-Aref wrote these things when the Old City of Jerusalem was still part of the Kingdom of Jordan, and that they have scarcely been mentioned in Arab history books since 1967 or in contemporary discourse. Reiter, author of From Jerusalem to Mecca and Back: The Islamic Consolidation of Jerusalem, investigated and discovered that "the story of the Jewish Temple, details of its construction, its traditions, its existence and even details about the destruction of the First Temple by Nebuchadnezzar, were in the past a deeply entrenched motif in all types of Arab Muslim literature."

Archaeologist Professor Dan Bahat, an authority on the history of the Temple Mount and Jerusalem, who is currently working on the Muslim chapter in his book about the history of the Mount, points to a series of early Muslim sources which show that the Muslims themselves, who today deny the existence of the Temple on the Mount and any Jewish ties to Jerusalem, used to treat it very differently.

"In the Quran itself there are sources, such as Surah 2 and Surah 7, which identify the Hutta Gate [called Shaar Haslichot, "Gate of Forgiveness" in Hebrew and the Berkeley Gate in English] as the gate through which 'the children of Israel' would one day enter the Temple Mount. The Berkeley Gate is located under the Mughrabi Bridge, which goes over the women's section of the Western Wall Plaza," Bahat explains.

Bahat also reveals that Jewish sources, mostly from the Cairo geniza, teach us that elderly Jews were the ones who showed the Muslims the edges of the Foundation Stone, a white stone that was covered by trash and sewage. These were the borders that formed the outlines of the Dome of the Rock building on top of the ancient stone.

Bahat says that Muslim writer Ibn Abu Rabiah, who wrote about Jerusalem in the year 913, only about 200 years after the Dome of the Rock was built, testified that the Dome of the Chain [a freestanding dome on the Temple Mount] which today is identified as a Muslim element, was called that because of a legend dating back to the time of King Solomon, which said that a chain was suspended there between Heaven and the Earth. If two litigants approached it, only the honest one could grab hold of the chain. The liar or unjust man could not.

Another revelation from Bahat: The Muslims who knew about the Jewish ties to the Temple Mount and Jerusalem honored the Jews in the first centuries after Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock were built by assigning them the upkeep: sweeping the floors and rugs of the mosque, filling the lamps with oil and cleaning the ritual baths.

"There is plenty of evidence of this. One is from Mujir al-Din of the 15th century, whom Muslims consider one of the greatest authorities on the early Islamic history of Jerusalem," Bahat notes.

Until almost 1967, there were plenty of Palestinian and even Jordanian references that identified the Jewish links to Jerusalem and its holy sites.

Bahat and Reiter reach far back into history, but there is no need to. Until almost 1967, in the 50 years that preceded the war that would change the map of Jerusalem and the region, there were plenty of Palestinian and even Jordanian references that identified the Jewish links to Jerusalem and its holy sites, in complete contrast to what representatives of Jordan, the Palestinians, and the Arab states in international bodies are claiming today.

"[Israel] has neglected to use this public diplomacy tool in challenging the attacks that challenge Jewish ties to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. Maybe it's time to use it," an official in the Foreign Ministry said this week.

Indeed, recent archaeological discoveries – the ancient Muslim inscription from a mosque near Hebron that says that in the early days of Islam, the Dome of the Rock building was called "Bait al-Maqdess" [an Arabicized version of the Hebrew "Beit Hamikdash"], or the discovery of a First Temple-era papyrus that names Jerusalem in early Hebrew script – are archaeological ammunition that can be used to break down the Palestinian lies.

Another public diplomacy path Israel can use is of course the countless quotes from the Bible, the Mishna, the Talmud, the New Testament, and the books of Roman Jewish historian Joseph ben Matityahu, also known as Josephus Flavius, who lived in the first century C.E. and witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple.

Even a photocopy of an ancient manuscript by Persian Quran commentator Tafsir Al-Tabari, which was smuggled out of the University of Cairo library a few years ago by Egyptian nuclear scientist and Zionist Noha Hassid, joins the catalogue of evidence in favor of Israel.

The Al-Tabari document says that "Bait Al-Maqdess [the Temple] was built by Solomon, son of David, and was made of gold, pearls, rubies, and gems – peridot, paved with silver and gold, and had gold pillars." Israeli public diplomacy has taken advantage of only a small amount of the professional literature by people like Reiter, Bahat, attorney Dr. Shmuel Berkowitz (author of "How Terrible is this Place" and "The Wars Over Holy Places"), or the books by former Foreign Ministry Director General Dr. Dore Gold or this author. All these works lay out documentation that proves that a good liar has to remember to whom he told the truth, and when.

Take, for example, the UNESCO classification of Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem as a "mosque," and especially the Turkish support for that decision, do not square with the fact that the Ottoman Turks are the ones who, 185 years ago, issued fermans (mandates or decrees by an Islamic sovereign) that confirm the Jewish ties to Rachel's Tomb and forbid "any person to prevent them [Jews] or oppose them from visiting there."

Jordan's dominant role in the campaign to make decision after decision that cancel and weaken Jewish links to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount is also out of step with the official map Jordan put out in 1965, only two years before the 1967 Six-Day War. The map was drawn by a Jordanian named Abdel Rahman, who worked as an official surveyor, and was approved by the Jordanian government's Tourism Ministry. The map refers to the Temple Mount compound using the standard Muslim name al-Haram al-Sharif, but adds – significantly – that it is located "on Mount Moriah."

The Palestinians and the Muslim Waqf, the body granted authority over all Muslim sites in Jerusalem, will also find it difficult to reconcile their total denial today that the Temple ever existed, calling it "Al-Mazoom" (the pretender, the false), with the content of a brief guidebook about the history of al-Haram al-Sharif-Jerusalem, which the Waqf itself published several editions of in the 1920s and 30s. At that time, the grand mufti of Jerusalem was Hajj Amin al-Husseini, whom many call the father of the Palestinian nationalist movement. He wrote, among other things, that "the identity of the site [the Temple Mount] with the Temple of Solomon is beyond all doubt."

Redrawing the Maps

The fact that the Palestinians moved from total denial of Jewish ties to the Temple Mount to denying any Jewish ties to the Western Wall is also easily repudiated, not only through archaeology and historical sources, but also by using the writings of Muslims themselves.

In recent years, the heads of the Waqf and the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement [now outlawed] have put the Western Wall through a process of Islamization and appropriated it for the Muslim faith. The pinnacle was the baseless claim of Mahmoud Al-Habbash, former Religious Affairs Minister in the Palestinian Authority, that "no one other than the Muslims has ever used the Wall as a place of worship at any time in history, until after the unfortunate Balfour Declaration was issued in 1917."

The results of this trend can be seen in the current Palestinian media. The official PA television station broadcast a documentary program that portrayed Jews praying at the Western Wall as "sinners" and "unclean," and Jewish history as fake. The program made it clear: "We are now drawing up our maps. When the Jews disappear from the picture, like a forgotten chapter from the history of our city, we will rebuild the Mughrabi neighborhood on the Western Wall Plaza."

Attorney Berkowitz, who researched the Muslim claims about the Western Wall, notes that Muslims never prayed on the Western side of the wall. Berkowitz found that the Western Wall isn't even mentioned as a Muslim holy site in any of the official books and tour guides to al-Haram al-Sharif put out by the Waqf in 1914, 1965, or even 1990.

The entries for al-Buraq and al-Haram al-Sharif in the Encyclopaedia of Islam, published in 1917, make no mention of the Western Wall as a holy site, and do not identify the site with the place with al-Buraq, the wondrous steed of the Prophet Muhammad, who according to later Islamic tradition was tethered to the Western Wall at the end of his flight from Mecca to Jerusalem. The Western Wall is even referred to as the "Wailing Wall."

Another book, by our friend Al-Aref, includes the Western Wall in a list of Jewish holy sites and describes it thusly: "The Western Wall is the outer wall of the Temple, which was built by Herod ... and the Jews visit it often, especially at Tisha B'Av, and when they visit they remember the glorious, unforgettable history and begin to weep."

But Berkowitz's most exciting discovery raises the suspicion that the relatively late holiness the Muslims assigned to the Western Wall was "wandering sanctity" to serve a political end. It turns out that until the 11th century C.E., Muslim scholars were divided about where Muhammad's winged horse had been tethered, and indicated various locations throughout the Temple Mount compound. Some said the prophet's horse was tethered south of the Golden Gate on the eastern wall. Others argued for the southern wall, but no one in that period said the horse had been tied to the Western Wall.

In the 11th century, explains Berkowitz, the Muslim residents of Jerusalem and Muslim geographers pointed out a certain place on the outer southern wall as the place where Muhammad's horse was tied, and the double Huldah Gates in the southern wall, now blocked, as the gates through which the Prophet Muhammad entered the compound. Even as late as the 17th century, the spot on the southern wall was still accepted as the place where al-Buraq was tethered.

The earliest Muslim tradition that identified the "place al-Buraq was tethered" with the Jewish prayer site at the Western Wall is from the mid-19th century, when Jewish began bringing ritual object to the Wall and even trying to purchase the Western Wall and the courtyards that surround it from the Waqf.

In Berkowitz's opinion, it's almost certain that the Muslims moved the place where Muhammad supposedly entered the Temple Mount compound and the place he tied al-Buraq to the Western Wall as a response to the activity of the Jews. They even started calling it "al-Buraq." They also built Al-Buraq mosque on the eastern side of the Western Wall, on top of the Berkley Gate, where they display an underground room as the spot where the prophet tied up his horse.

And here is one more important historical tidbit: In the Ottoman Period, the Muslims themselves are the ones who granted Jews fermans (royal decrees) that recognized their right to the Western Wall and their right to pray there. The first ruler to do so was Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in the second half of the 16th century, and after him the Turkish Sultan Abdulmecid [Abdul Majid] I in 1841. Itamar Ben-Avi, son of the reviver of the Hebrew language, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, tells of a ferman that was granted to the Jews in 1868 and transferred to the Council of Jewish Bequests in London, only to disappear mysteriously.

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