Digging out the truth at Temple Mount
My first introduction to Jerusalem in 2006 took place on Tisha Be'av, the fast commemorating the destruction of the First and Second Temples. I stood at the Western Wall, during that time of the Second War in Lebanon, watching thousands of Jewish faithful, from all different walks of life - women and men, soldiers and Hassidim, Sephardim and Ashkenazim - gathered in unity to remember and to mourn. It was like entering the very soul of Israel.
This Tisha Be'av caused me to reflect further on those lost Temples, particularly now that I have spent two years in the country, during which I had occasion to visit the Temple Mount. After passing through two security checks before entering, a different world appeared - one with no visible vestige of Judaism - on that ancient and holiest of Jewish sites.
Christianity hasn't fared any better. In fact, for Christians, the writing is on the wall - literally and figuratively - the wall inside the Dome of the Rock. In Arabic calligraphy dating from the seventh century, the text declares that God has no son; that Jesus was not resurrected (Islam also denies that he was crucified); that Jews and Christians, "the People of the Book," transgress by not embracing Muhammad's revelation; and that Allah's reckoning will come swiftly on those who do not believe.
Christians' attachment to the Temple Mount is based on Jesus' words and deeds as recorded in the Gospels.
It was strange enough for me to discover, therefore, that Jews and Christians are not permitted to read their scriptures or pray aloud there. But it wasn't until learning that during the 2000 Camp David negotiations, PLO chairman Yasser Arafat had denied that any Jewish Temple had ever existed on the Mount that I grasped the depth of the divergence from the Hebrew Scripture, New Testament and historical records that is out there, and not as fringe an idea as one might assume.
SIFTING THROUGH tons of rubble that had been illicitly dug up on the Temple Mount by the Muslim Wakf and stealthily dumped into a landfill, biblical archeologist Dr. Gabriel Barkay, professor at Bar-Ilan University, is in the midst of the project of a lifetime. I put the question of Temple denial to him.
"This denial of the historical, spiritual and archeological connections of the Jews to the Temple Mount is something new," he says. "There was always talk about the temple of Solomon in Jerusalem - called the 'praise of Jerusalem'- in Arabic literature, in Islamic literature. This new idea of Temple denial is due to the Arabic fear of Jewish aspirations connected to the Temple Mount. It is part of something I call the 'cultural intifada.'"
Barkay says the change took place in the 1990s: "In the Washington DC think tanks surrounding president Bill Clinton, it was understood that the Temple Mount was the crux of the problem of the Middle East conflict. These think tanks decided that if there could be 'split sovereignty' on the Temple Mount, then split sovereignty could also be achieved over the entire land of Palestine. So they suggested that in a future agreement, the Temple Mount would be split horizontally.