JERUSALEM – A top Christian Palestinian leader here yesterday urged Islamic control of the Temple Mount while claiming Israel was threatening the site’s famous Al Aqsa Mosque.
“Regarding threats against the Al Aqsa Mosque from fanatic Jews, what is threatening you is threatening Christians. One who is attacking you is attacking Christians. We are one family and one people, and we belong to the Palestinian national cause,” said Attallah Hanna, archbishop of Sebastia from the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem.
Jerusalem’s Greek Orthodox Church is regarded by Orthodox Christians as one of the most important churches in Christendom. It has 100,000 Christians followers in the Holy Land and is also one of the largest landowners in Israel.
Hanna was speaking to Islamic leaders yesterday gathered at the Al Aqsa Mosque.
He went on to urge the Waqf, the Mount’s Muslim custodians, to “keep fighting and protect Jerusalem.” He thanked them for maintaining the Mount as a sacred Islamic site.
His claim of Jewish threats to the mosque are not grounded in reality. Islamic leaders routinely use non-existent Jewish threats to the Temple Mount to incite followers against Israel.
Hanna himself is closely aligned with the Palestinian cause. He was previously dismissed from his church position after Israel accused him of directly aiding terror organizations. He has held public solidarity meetings with leaders of Hamas and Hezbollah and appears regularly on Palestinian television urging children to engage in suicide attacks.
The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism. The First Jewish Temple was built there by King Solomon in the 10th century B.C. It was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. The Second Temple was rebuilt in 515 B.C. after Jerusalem was freed from Babylonian captivity. That temple was destroyed by the Roman Empire in A.D. 70. Each temple stood for a period of about four centuries.
The Jewish Temple was the center of religious Jewish worship. It housed the Holy of Holies, which contained the Ark of the Covenant and was said to be the area upon which God’s shechina or “presence” dwelt. All Jewish holidays centered on worship at the Temple. The Jewish Temple served as the primary location for the offering of sacrifices and was the main gathering place for the Jewish people.
According to the Talmud, the world was created from the foundation stone of the Temple Mount. The site is believed to be the biblical Mount Moriah, the location where Abraham fulfilled God’s test to see if he would be willing to sacrifice his son Isaac.
Jewish tradition holds Mashiach, or the Jewish Messiah, will return and rebuild the third and final Temple on the Mount in Jerusalem.
The Kotel, or Western Wall, is the one part of the Temple Mount that survived the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans and stands today in Jerusalem.
Throughout all notorious Jewish exiles, thorough documentation shows the Jews never gave up their hope of returning to Jerusalem and re-establishing their Temple. To this day, Jews worldwide pray facing the Western Wall, while Muslims turn their backs away from the Temple Mount and pray toward Mecca.
The Al Aqsa Mosque was constructed around A.D. 709 to serve as a shrine near another shrine, the Dome of the Rock, which was built by an Islamic caliph.
About 100 years ago, the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem became associated with the place Muslims came to believe Muhammad ascended to heaven. Jerusalem, however, is not mentioned in the Quran.
Islamic tradition states Muhammad took a journey in a single night from “a sacred mosque” – believed to be in Mecca in southern Saudi Arabia – to “the farthest mosque,” and from a rock there ascended to heaven to receive revelations from Allah that became part of the Quran.
Palestinians today claim exclusivity over the Temple Mount, and Palestinian leaders routinely deny Jewish historic connection to the site, but historically, Muslims did not claim the Al Aqsa Mosque as their third holiest site and admitted the Jewish Temples existed.
According to research by Israeli author Shmuel Berkovits, Islam previously disregarded Jerusalem. He points out in his book “How Dreadful Is this Place!” that Muhammad was said to loathe Jerusalem and what it stood for. Berkovits wrote that Muhammad made a point of eliminating pagan sites of worship and sanctifying only one place – the Kaaba in Mecca – to signify the unity of God.
As late as the 14th century, Islamic scholar Taqi al-Din Ibn Taymiyya, whose writings influenced the Wahhabi movement in Arabia, ruled that sacred Islamic sites are to be found only in the Arabian Peninsula and that “in Jerusalem, there is not a place one calls sacred, and the same holds true for the tombs of Hebron.”
It wasn’t until the late 19th century – incidentally when Jews started immigrating to Palestine – that some Muslim scholars began claiming Muhammad tied his horse to the Western Wall and associated Muhammad’s purported night journey with the Temple Mount.
A,pa.A guide to the Temple Mount by the Supreme Muslim Council in Jerusalem published in 1925 listed the Mount as the site of Solomon’s Temple. The Temple Institute acquired a copy of the official 1925 “Guide Book to Al-Haram Al-Sharif,” which states on page 4, “Its identity with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute. This, too, is the spot, according to universal belief, on which ‘David built there an altar unto the Lord.'”
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