JERUSALEM – The Jewish Temples never existed and Israel has been working to “invent” a Jewish historical connection to Jerusalem, the chief Palestinian negotiator asserted.
Ahmed Qurei, the Palestinian Authority official leading all peace talks with the Jewish state, made the controversial statements in a small media briefing Wednesday attended by WND as well as by a Palestinian media outlet and an Arab affairs correspondent for a major Israeli newspaper.
But the Israeli publication decided not to print Qurei’s comments, while the Palestinian publication, the Al-Ayam daily newspaper, made news of the remarks.
Qurei said “Israeli occupation authorities are trying to find a so-called Jewish historical connection” between Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, “but all these attempts will fail. The [Temple Mount] is 100 percent Muslim.”
“The world must be mobilized against all these Israeli attempts to change the symbols and signs of Jerusalem,” he said. “There is nothing Jewish about the Al Aqsa Mosque. There was no so-called Jewish Temple. It’s imaginary. Jerusalem is 100 percent Muslim.”
Continued Qurei: “The Arab world is called to interfere to stop the Israeli plans in Jerusalem, to stop the Israeli attempts to create a Jewish character to Jerusalem and the Al Aqsa mosque. Also to the Old City, which is the first step in the war to defend Jerusalem and Al Aqsa.
“They are competing against time in order to create facts on ground in the surrounding the imaginary Temple,” Qurei added.
The chief Palestinian negotiator was reacting to the reopening last month of a long-closed synagogue just 100 meters from the Temple Mount. The holy structure, located in what is now known as the Muslim Quarter, was abandoned in 1938 in the wake of extreme Arab violence targeting Jews. At the time, thousands of Jews lived in the Quarter. The synagogue is closer than any other Jewish house of prayer to the Temple Mount.
Qurei, who is considered moderate by U.S. and Israeli policy, has been leading talks with Israel initiated at last November’s U.S.-sponsored Annapolis Summit, which seeks to create a Palestinian state, at least on paper, before President Bush leaves office. Israel is widely expected to offer the Palestinians near complete control of the West Bank and significant control of undisclosed parts of eastern Jerusalem.
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 over 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 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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