WASHINGTON – With June marking the 50th anniversary of Israel’s reunification of the capital city of Jerusalem along with the Temple Mount, the Israeli government is considering a proposal to create a new foundation responsible for providing “research, information and advocacy” about the Jewish connection to what many consider the holiest site in all of Judaism – the place where the Temple stood until A.D. 70.
The Temple Mount Heritage Foundation was proposed by Culture Minister Miri Regev and Environmental Protection and Jerusalem Minister Ze’ev Elkin, with an annual budget starting at $550,000. It will be based on the government-funded Western Wall Heritage Fund, which administers the site adjacent to the Temple Mount – believed to be the retaining wall for the 35-acre foundation upon which the Temple was built.
The project is getting high praise from Israel advocates for rebuilding the Temple.
Rabbi Yehuda Glick, a target of an assassination attempt in 2014 for his Temple advocacy, said he welcomed the plan for a Temple Mount Heritage Foundation and has personally lobbied for its creation.
“We need to state clearly: The Temple Mount is the foundation of the history of the Jewish people and of the return to the land since the beginning of Zionism,” he said.
Temple Mount activism has become an increasingly prominent issue in the Israeli political debate, even as Arab Palestinians have sought to deny any connection between the site and the Jewish Temple – in some cases, aided by the United Nations.
The foundation proposal makes direct reference to the attacks on the historicity of the Temple Mount.
“In recent years the State of Israel has been facing a delegitimization campaign based on a distortion of facts regarding the history, tradition and culture of the Jewish people,” reads the explanation of the proposal.
“One of the peaks of this trend took place recently with the October 2016 UNESCO decision to attempt to nullify the connection of the Jewish people to the Temple Mount. In light of this trend, the government of Israel sees itself as responsible to prevent this disinformation and distortion of historical truth.”
The controversial UNESCO resolution used only Muslim names for the Jerusalem Old City holy sites and was harshly critical of Israel for what it termed “provocative abuses that violate the sanctity and integrity” of the area.
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Lawmakers from both the right and left of the Israeli political spectrum slammed the decision and accused the U.N.’s cultural arm of anti-Semitism. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the decision “absurd,” while President Reuven Rivlin called it an “embarrassment” for UNESCO.
Today the Temple Mount is administrated by Jordanian Islamic clerical authorities, despite its recapture by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War.
Muslims, however, call it the Noble Sanctuary and believe it is the spot where their prophet, Muhammad, ascended to heaven. Some claim it as the third-holiest site in Islam that houses the Al-Aqsa mosque and Dome of the Rock shrine.
Jews and Christians are discouraged by Israeli authorities from praying on the Temple Mount so as not to enflame tensions with Muslims.
Recently, Regev unveiled the logo to be used in the upcoming celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of reunification of Jerusalem under Israeli authority. The emblem features an Israeli flag flying atop the Old City walls and the Temple Mount and is accompanied by the slogan: “50 years since the liberation of Jerusalem.”
Regev said her insistence on using the word “liberation” and not “reunification” in the logo’s design sought to counter efforts to distort the Jewish connection to Jerusalem. Regev also stressed that part of the image featured “an Israeli flag that has returned to fly above the old city walls, the Western Wall and the Temple Mount.”