Photo Credit: Jewish Press
It’s a well-known cliche that Jerusalem is “holy to the three main religions” – and in truth, it is not surprising. After all, the city was first holy to the Jews – and so it was inevitable that the rest of the world would ultimately jump on the bandwagon.
Remember the golden rules “Love your neighbor as yourself” and “Don’t do to others what you don’t want done to you”? They are now axiomatic around the world, but they started off Jewish. (Vayikra 19,18 and Tr. Shabbat 51a, respectively) Same thing with the concept of a weekly day of rest. In fact, the entire concept of monotheism was brought into the world by Judaism and Torah, only to be subsequently adopted by much of the rest of the world.
The holiness of Jerusalem is no different. The original “place chosen by God” and the seat of the first national Jewish government; the site of the Holy of Holies and the object of Jewish longing for nearly 2,000 years – any wonder that the rest of the world ended up jumping on the bandwagon to “discover” Jerusalem’s inherent holiness for themselves?
In the case of Jerusalem, however, parts of the world have gone one step further. The Muslims, specifically, maintain not only that Jerusalem is their third holiest site, and that they will never abandon it, etc. – but also that it has no sanctity or historical significance for Jews. Talk about chutzpah; the sole reason it was ascribed any Muslim holiness is because of its Jewish history, which they now deny!
When non-idol-worshipping religions feel a spiritual connection with Jerusalem, without national-political underpinnings, that’s OK. But when the Muslim-Arab world claims “spiritual” bonds, this is downright dangerous – because they disguise a long-term, nationalist, strategic plot to take full control over Jerusalem and rid its Old City of Jewish presence.
We must not be fooled: Historically, Muslim ties to Jerusalem have always been based on little more than political expediency, disguised as religious fervor. Currently, we are experiencing the fourth wave in Muslims’ aggrandizement of Jerusalem – at our expense – for their own political purposes.
The first time Islam artificially enhanced Jerusalem was during Muhammad’s own lifetime. In a barefaced attempt to win over the Jews living near his hometown of Medina, he announced that prayers would be directed toward Jerusalem. However, like a scorned suitor, as soon as he saw the Jews were not interested in his advances, he turned against them, slaughtering many and directing prayers in a different direction, toward Mecca.
Muhammad’s abandonment of Jerusalem was so total, writes Arab-expert Dr. Mordechai Kedar, that not only did he not mention the city even once in the Koran, but later, when Moslems conquered the Holy Land, they totally ignored Jerusalem and established their capital in Ramle.
Some decades after Muhammad’s death, Islam again felt the political need to aggrandize Jerusalem. Caliph Abdel Malik, who reigned among Umayyad Muslims from 684 to 705, sought a response to the capture of Mecca and Medina by a rival Muslim leader – and so he came up with the idea of renewing Jerusalem as top holy city. To compete with the impressive Christian churches there, he decided to build the Dome of the Rock, precisely on the site of the Beit HaMikdash. Thus, possibly the most recognized Muslim symbolaround the world came about as a result of internal Muslim politics and interests.
Not surprisingly, therefore, for the Shiite Muslims – inheritors of the legacy of those who captured Mecca and Medina and championed today by Iran – Jerusalem was never an important issue.
Even for the others, however, after Jerusalem was no longer needed to buttress the Muslim leaders, its importance to Islam in general once again waned proportionately.
The third Muslim infatuation with Jerusalem occurred during the twelfth century Crusades. Then-Muslim leader Salah a-Din needed to inflame his Muslim warriors against the Christian Crusaders – and again, Jerusalem briefly became the focus of jihad and religious longing. Interestingly enough, the Arabic inscriptions that so impressively adorn the Dome of the Rock, written by Salah a-Din and other Islamic conquerors, make no mention of Jerusalem per se; only the triumphant refurbishing of the dome is described.
For centuries thereafter, Jerusalem remained way in the background for the Muslim world, which focused instead on Mecca and Medina as its holy cities.
Today, the Muslim world once again has taken to claiming Jerusalem as a pinnacle of its religious aspirations – and its political interests this time are simply to rid the Middle East of Israel. As recently as 1964, when the PLO was founded, its original charter did not even mention Jerusalem. Yet now, Hamas and Fatah spokesmen highlight the city’s “sanctity” and deny that our Beit HaMikdash ever stood there – despite historical knowledge and evidence to the contrary.
The Hamas charter states clearly the organization’s goal to destroy Israel is nourished by “religious” zeal, which must constantly be fanned and encouraged in order to attain the ultimate political goal. Let us look carefully at Article 15:
“It is necessary to establish in the minds of all the Muslim generations that the Palestinian issue is a religious issue, and that it must be dealt with as such, for [Palestine] contains Islamic holy places, [namely] the Al-Aqsa mosque, which is inseparably connected, for as long as heaven and earth shall endure, to the holy mosque of Mecca through the Prophet’s nocturnal journey and through his ascension to heaven thence.”
The international community should view the secular Palestinian Authority’s claims to Jerusalem as nothing more than the desire to do away with Israel. As Dr. Kedar wrote several years ago: “Should UN forces be sent to the Middle East just because [the PLO] has decided to recycle the political problems of the Umayyads 1,250 years after the curtain came down on their role in history?”
In short, nothing can justify forcing the Jews to “share” their holy city with an opportunistic usurper, no matter how many times the latter claims its true love for it.
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For updates on the battle to keep Jerusalem, or to take part in bus tours of critical parts of Jerusalem, send an e-mail to email@example.com or visit the Keep Jerusalem-Im Eshkachech website at www.keepjerusalem.org.
Chaim Silberstein is president of Keep Jerusalem-Im Eshkachech and the Jerusalem Capital Development Fund. He was formerly a senior adviser to Israel ‘s minister of tourism. Hillel Fendel is past senior editor at Israel National News/Arutz-7 and an author. Both have lived in Jerusalem and now reside in Beit El.