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February 21, 2017 / 25 Shevat, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Mecca’

Report: Bedouin Tribe, Gush Etzion Council, Cooperate Against PA Environmental Disaster [video]

20 Heshvan 5777 – November 21, 2016

A few weeks ago, it was revealed that the Palestinian Authority was planning to build a cement factory at the heart of a nature preserve in the Judaean Desert. The news came from local Bedouins who had run into surveyors who were measuring the site in preparation for the construction.

According to a report in Kippa, the Bedouins physically blocked the surveyors, who called the PA Police, and only an IDF intervention prevented what would have become a bloodbath.

Following that incident, Moshe Seville, Acting Head of the Gush Etzion Regional Council, and Yossi Levitt, a local agricultural entrepreneur, met with the head of the local Rashaida tribe and listened to his and his people’s concerns regarding the planned factory. The tribesmen warned that it would harm the nature preserve, create massive pollution of the environment and cause illness in the tribe, especially the children.

Seville agreed that the new factory would have an environmental impact that would cause an irreparable damage to the entire area. He even predicted that the spilled waste from the factory would turn the Dead Sea gray.

The Rashaida leaders said they had already contacted their fellow tribesmen in Jordan, and the Hashamite Kingdom has already been acting to prevent the damage to the sea. One tribesman told Seville that he can’t understand how environmental organizations which normally raise hell at the slightest damage to nature preserves have kept mum in this case. He added that for him the Judaean desert is as sacred as Mecca, and he would never accept it destruction for the sake of making money.

According to Seville, the meeting concluded with a resolution to fight together to prevent the looming environmental disaster, and enlist the support of everyone involved, including the defense and the environmental protection ministers, the heads of neighboring councils, and anyone else who is concerned about the future of the Dead Sea, before it’s too late.

Egypt’s President El-Sisi Narrowly Misses Assassination, Twice

20 Heshvan 5777 – November 21, 2016

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi narrowly missed losing his life in two recently thwarted assassination attempts, according to a report Sunday by MENA, the Egyptian state news agency.

The attempts on el-Sisi’s life were planned by operatives from the Da’esh (ISIS) terrorist organization, and were to be carried out during a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, and in Egypt.

Also on the list for murder was the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Muhammad bin Nayef, according to the indictments submitted by the Egyptian state prosecutor to a military tribunal in connection with the plots.

The indictments charged 292 suspects with helping to establish 22 terrorist cells affiliated with the ISIS-linked terror group in the Sinai Peninsula. The operatives charged in the plots received their instructions from senior ISIS figures, according to the Al Ahram news outlet.

British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Converted to Islam Just in Time for Hajj

13 Elul 5776 – September 16, 2016

Simon Collins, 60, is the first British ambassador to Saudi Arabia to attend the Hajj pilgrimage, which is verboten to non-Muslims. This is because Collins has converted to Islam. He joined an estimated 100 thousand Brits who have embraced the religion of Mohammad, including, possibly, the late Sir Winston Churchill.

Inayat Bunglawala, founder of Muslims4UK, a Muslim missionary organization, told the Independent in 2011 that these figures were “not implausible.” He pointed out they mean “that around one in 600 Britons is a convert to the faith,” noting, “Islam is a missionary religion and many Muslim organizations and particularly university students’ Islamic societies have active outreach programs designed to remove popular misconceptions about the faith.”

Collins was pictured wearing the white robes of the pilgrimage. The photo was posted on the twitter account of Saudi Arabian writer and feminist Fawziah Albakr, who wrote in Arabic: “First British ambassador to the Kingdom undertakes the Hajj following his conversion to Islam. Simon Collins with his wife Huda in Mecca. Praise be to God.”

Twitter users who congratulated the Collinses included Saudi Arabia’s Princess Basmah bint Saud, who wrote: “Special congratulations to the ambassador and his wife.”

Collins was posted in Riyadh in 2015, after fleeing Syria where he represented the UK until 2012. Before that Collins was the UK’s ambassador to Qatar, after stints in the UK missions to Bahrain, Tunisia, India, Jordan and Dubai.

Are the Brits easily influenced by outside religions? You bet. In 2014 a letter was discovered by Warren Dockter, a history research fellow at Cambridge University, in which Winston Churchill is being beseeched by his future sister-in-law, Lady Gwendoline Bertie, in August 1907: “Please don’t become converted to Islam; I have noticed in your disposition a tendency to orientalize, Pasha-like tendencies, I really have.”

Lady Gwendoline cautioned: “If you come into contact with Islam your conversion might be effected with greater ease than you might have supposed, call of the blood, don’t you know what I mean, do fight against it.”

Churchill wrote Lady Lytton, also in 2007: “You will think me a pasha. I wish I were.”

Mazal tov.

Cairo: All 29 Egyptian Pilgrims in Mecca Perished of ‘Natural Causes’

11 Elul 5776 – September 14, 2016

Five Egyptians died in Saudi Arabia on Monday and one more on Tuesday, during Hajj pilgrimage, raising the total number of deaths to 29, the Egyptian Health Ministry said in a statement. So far, ministry officials continue to insist all these deaths have happened due to natural causes. The departed Egyptian citizens belong to different groups of pilgrims.

Dr. Khalid Mujahid, the ministry’s spokesman, said that other Egyptian pilgrims have been receiving medical care in several hospitals in Saudi Arabia. He said most of the cases of death were the result of  fatigue.

The health ministry launched an awareness campaign before the Hajj to alert Egyptians as to ways of preventing infectious diseases during the pilgrimage. The ministry also stated that it had reviewed and approved the availability of medicine and essential medical equipment for all the pilgrims.

An estimated 86,000 Egyptian pilgrims traveled to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj, which this year started last Saturday.

Saudi Grand Mufti: Iranians Not Muslim, 1300-Year War Continues Unhindered

5 Elul 5776 – September 7, 2016

The Saudi Grand Mufti Abdul Aziz Al Sheikh has fanned the flames of a 1300-year dispute between Shiites and Sunnis when he announced on Tuesday that the Iranians are the descendants of the Zoroastrians and of fire worshippers. He spoke ahead of the annual hajj, which this year starts on Saturday.

The Grand Mufti used the term “Majuws” to describe the Iranians, a term that literally means “magians,” which he cited from the Quran, Chapter 22, sūrat l-ḥajj (The Pilgrimage): “Indeed, those who have believed and those who were Jews and the Sabeans and the Christians and the Magians and those who associated with Allah – Allah will judge between them on the Day of Resurrection. Indeed Allah is, over all things, Witness.”

“We must understand they are not Muslims, for they are the descendants of Majuws, and their enmity toward Muslims, especially the Sunnis, is very old,” the Saudi Grand Mufti said, and every learned Muslim understood the reference to the pilgrimage, which has been an area of contention between Shiites and Sunnis, and now between Iranians and Saudis, for almost as long as there has been an Islam.

The Grand Mufti responded an Irate speech by Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who called on all Muslims to “fundamentally reconsider the management of the two holy places and the issue of hajj.” In other words, an open call to millions of pilgrims arriving in Mecca for the mid-month festival, to rebel against the Saudi royal family that owns and manages the cities of Mecca and Madīnah.

The Ayatollah attacked the Saudi regime for its failure to prevent last year’s stampede which killed more than 2,400 people, including 464 Iranians, the highest count for any single national group. The Saudis have stated that those figures are inflated and that the real death toll was “only” 769.

The Ayatollah called the Saudi royal family “disgraced and misguided people who think their survival on the throne of oppression is dependent on defending the arrogant powers of the world, on alliances with Zionism and the US, and on fulfilling their demands. And on this path, they do not shy away from any treason.”

He also said that “those who have reduced hajj to a religious-tourist trip and have hidden their enmity and malevolence towards the faithful and revolutionary people of Iran under the name of ‘politicizing hajj,’ are themselves puny Satans who tremble for fear of jeopardizing the interests of the Great Satan, the US.”

So, just for the record, Iran believes there are three Satans: the Great Satan (US), Little Satan (Israel), and Puny Satan (Saudi Arabia).

So far, the Grand Mufti’s enraged response to the Iranian leader has not gone down well even in largely Sunni countries. The Nation, a leading Pakistani newspaper, said in an editorial Wednesday that “for the Grand Mufti Abdulaziz al-Sheikh, to say that Iranians are not Muslims and use offensive words against them, is truly shocking and will haunt many Muslims, especially Shia communities living across the region, for years to come. Saudi Arabia as the custodian of the Ka’aba cannot and must not make such offensive remarks.”

According to AFP, reporting from Riyadh, Iranians will not participate in this year’s pilgrimage to Mecca for the first time in almost 30 years, after talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia on logistics and security had fallen apart. The Saudis claim the Iranians insisted on their right to stage protest demonstrations in the holy city of Mecca. Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef accused Iran of making “efforts to politicize the hajj and convert it into an occasion to violate the teachings of Islam, through shouting slogans and disturbing the security of pilgrims.”

Hamas PM Haniyeh Leaves Gaza on Hajj, With Trips to Qatar, Turkey

3 Elul 5776 – September 5, 2016

Hamas de facto Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh left Gaza on Monday with thousands of others, traveling through the Rafah crossing with Egypt on the Islamic Hajj pilgrimage to the Saudi Arabian holy city of Mecca.

Egypt opened its sole crossing with Gaza for a three-day period to accommodate the Gaza residents who are traveling to Mecca for the annual Hajj.

However, according to the Hamas radio station the Gaza-based head of the terrorist organization is also making a couple of side trips while he is out of the region.

Haniyeh is taking the opportunity while he is abroad to visit Qatar and Turkey. There was no information on when he was expected to return from the trip, nor were there details on his agenda while in Doha and Ankara.

Egypt Opens Rafah-Gaza Crossing for Hajj Pilgrimage to Mecca

27 Av 5776 – August 30, 2016

Cairo has opened the sole land crossing between Egypt and Gaza on its border in the town of Rafah in order to allow Palestinian Authority Arabs to make their way to Saudi Arabia for the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

The border crossing will be open this week from Tuesday through Thursday to facilitate the holy Islamic pilgrimage, Egyptian officials said, according to the Bethlehem-based Ma’an news agency.

Some 2,008 Gaza residents obtained visas to fly to Mecca from the Cairo airport for the ritual.

The crossing was last opened in early July, when 3,099 residents entered Egypt via the Rafah crossing during a five-day open period for “humanitarian purposes.”

The Hajj is an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, in Saudi Arabia, and a religious obligation for all adult Muslims that must be performed at least once in a lifetime by all who are physically and financially capable of undertaking the journey without causing undue hardship to their families during the process.

Muslims from around the world will be traveling on pilgrimage to Mecca for the Hajj, and millions had already arrived at the Grand Mosque by early Monday morning, with many have slept outside on the smooth white marble paving outside the massive house of worship in their simple white garments as prescribed for hajj.

Saudi authorities have warned they will forcefully stop any disruptions among the faithful that might erupt over the civil war raging in Syria, according to The Telegraph.

PA Arab, Saudi, Invent Smart Parasol for Mecca Pilgrimage

18 Av 5776 – August 21, 2016

As the Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) season is approaching, a PA resident and his Saudi partner invented a smart parasol that would help relieve the hardships modern-day pilgrims experience as they go about fulfilling their religious duty — visiting Mecca at least once in their life time.

The parasol is powered by several solar panels (plenty of sunshine in Mecca) that feed a GPS system, a fan, a lamp, and three USB outlets for mobile phone chargers and a computer tablet.

Inventor Manal Dandis, from Hebron, told Aliqtisadi.ps his smart parasol will help the pilgrims to meet basic performance requirements during the Hajj season, especially alleviating the sweltering heat and allowing the pilgrims to access official announcements as well as call home.

“The parasol converts solar energy collected by the solar cells on the surface, and runs a fan to cool the heat, increasing the pilgrims’ stamina and avoiding the risk of sun strokes,” Dandis said.

He explained that these smart parasols will help pilgrims not get lost, and any family participating in the pilgrimage will be able to trace all of its members by networking their parasols, so no one disappears in the madding crowd as so often happens in Mecca.

Dandis said the GPS system, plus the smart phone, can be installed on the parasol and immediately create communication networks for related pilgrims, “making it easy to communicate in between pilgrims and to determine their whereabouts and how to reach them.”

Dandis has obtained a patent for his idea and is looking for an international company or a government agency to launch commercial production of the parasols at a cost the pilgrims could afford.

Iranian Nuclear Scientist Hanged for Spying for US

4 Av 5776 – August 7, 2016

Iran has executed a nuclear scientist convicted of selling top secrets to the US, a judicial spokesman said on Sunday.

“Shahram Amiri was hanged for revealing the country’s top secrets to the enemy,” Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejeie announced according to Mizan news website.

Amiri, 39, an Iranian Kurdish nuclear scientist, disappeared in Saudi Arabia in June 2009 during a pilgrimage to Mecca, and in July 2010 reappeared at the Iran interests section of the Pakistani Embassy in Washington DC, seeking help to return to Tehran. A short while later he appeared at a press conference in Tehran, where he told journalists he had been kidnapped, tortured and offered $5 million to cooperate with the CIA, which he refused.

In 2009, the Iranian government accused the US government of kidnapping Amiri, because, as Iranian government media reported, he was working for Iranian intelligence. After his return to Iran, American sources confirmed he had come to the US with the help of the CIA, but insisted he had not been kidnapped, but, instead, was seeking asylum. According to a 2011 NPR News report, Amiri was recruited by the CIA, but once he was in the US he “got cold feet” and “made his way back to Iran.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, Iranian authorities had threatened to hurt Amiri’s family if he did not return to Iran.

Iranian officials initially celebrated his return to Iran in 2010 but then he dropped from public view until he was arrested in 20111 and reportedly tried for treason. News of his execution surfaced on Saturday, after his mother said she had received his body with rope marks around his neck.

French PM: It Is Urgent to Reconstruct French Islam, Expel the Threats from Within

25 Tammuz 5776 – July 31, 2016

“Through its history and its geography—open as it is to the Mediterranean and Africa, and through its immigration, France maintains very strong ties with Islam,” French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, wrote in a lengthy article in the Journal du Dimanche Sunday. “This is the second-largest religion in our country. Millions of French Muslims live here without necessarily identifying themselves as an Arab-Muslim culture.”

“It is for these very specifically French conditions, in addition to our old Christian roots, the long Jewish presence, the important role of Freemasons, and because our country was the inventor of secularism, that France has become the target of the Islamic State,” Valls argues.

Further down the piece, Valls suggests that “all is not so bad … but all is not well either. This period requires, more than ever, a lucidity of having to face the rise of global Islamism and jihadism with its apocalyptic vision.”

“A terrible poison is spreading,” he cautions. “Slowly, insidiously, against the background of influences from abroad and rising communalism, developed against a model of society which contradicts the Republic and its values. Many Muslims in France are taken hostage by the fundamentalist Salafism, the Muslim Brotherhood, who use their worship as a banner, a weapon against others.”

“It is a mechanism of confinement, intimidation, infantilism, which targets very often, but not only the vulnerable populations. And in the end, it’s a mechanism of radicalization, made up of violence and death, compounded by the Internet and social networks. Because we cannot develop a literal and rigid vision that ignores the diversity and richness of Islam, but [our recognition of Islam’s good values] should not lead to [ignoring some Muslims’] rejection of democracy and their fight against its values,” Valls continues.

He declares that the “fight against radicalization requires an unprecedented mobilization of public authorities in prevention and de-radicalization programs, to support individuals, particularly in suitable structures that will be centers of rehabilitation and good citizenship. We need a general mobilization of all public and civil society as a whole. But beyond that, we envision the [reconstruction] of Islam in France, in which Muslims have a huge responsibility.”

In his conclusion, Valls writes: “We must beware of paternalism, but must have the lucidity to recognize that it is urgent to help Islam in France get rid of those that undermine it from within. For this, it behooves us to build a true pact with Islam in France, giving this foundation a central place. As the fathers of the law of December 9, 1905 [on the Separation of the Church and State], we must invent a balance with Islam in France under which the Republic offers a guarantee of free exercise of religion. If Islam is not helping the Republic to fight against those who undermine public freedoms, it will be increasingly hard for the Republic to guarantee this freedom of worship.”

Valls ends his very aggressive essay with an optimistic note: “The war against terrorism will be won, and it will further strengthen the foundations of our society, so that the poison of radicalization be forever neutralized. This is the challenge facing our generation.”

Those who have warned that radical Islam would eventually lead to the creation of concentration camps across Europe might find an echo of those expectations in Valls’s call for “rehabilitation centers,” which are only a shade away from those infamous Vietnamese “re-education camps” that sprouted after the fall of Saigon.

In renegotiating Islam’s place in a secular France, Valls will also do well to look into early Muslim history, specifically the 10-year truce Muhammad signed at Hudaybiyyah with the tribes of Mecca, a truce he broke two years later, attacking and conquering the poor fools. Indeed, back in 2013, PA Minister of Religious Affairs Al-Habbash, with Mahmoud Abbas listening, compared PA agreements with Israel to that ancient pact that led not to peace but to victory over his peace partners. “This is the example and this is the model to emulate,” Al-Habbash recommended.

Iran Claims 4,000 Muslims Killed in Hajj Stampede [video]

19 Tishri 5776 – October 1, 2015

A Nigerian official told BBC that the death toll in last week’s stampede at the Hajj festival outside Mecca is 1,075 and not 769 as claimed by Saudi Arabia.

Iran claimed that 4,000 Muslims, including 200 Iranians, were killed in the disaster that has embarrassed the kingdom.

The Nigerian official based his report on the number of bodies taken to mortuaries, and officials from other countries also said the death toll was almost 1,100.

The kingdom responded that the higher counts include those who died from together reasons and not in the stampede, but none of the estimates come close to the amount claimed by Iran.

The Islamic Republic has used the stampede as a platform for propaganda against Saudi Arabia, which quietly opposed the P5+1 nuclear agreement with Iran and which has led a strike force to bomb Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei on Wednesday called on Islamic countries to form a fact-finding committee, and said:

Saudi government is not complying with its responsibilities to transfer the bodies of those who have been killed (in Mina stampede)….

The slightest disrespect for tens of thousands of Iranian Hajj pilgrims in Mecca and Medina and any lack of responsibility to transfer the bodies will result in Iran’s crushing and violent reaction.

The leader of one of the world’s grossest offenders of human rights added:

The Islamic Republic of Iran doesn’t practice cruelty but it also doesn’t accept anyone’s oppression and cruelty; therefore, it doesn’t trample on the rights of any human beings and nations, either Muslim or non-Muslim, but if anyone wants to trample Iran and its nation’s rights, he/she will receive a strong response.

Below is a video of the aftermath of the stampede. [Warning: graphic scenes not suited for children.]

Towering Crane Collapses on Mecca’s Grand Mosque

29 Elul 5775 – September 13, 2015

At least 107 people died Friday in Saudi Arabia at the holiest site in Islam, when a towering construction crane collapsed at the Grand Mosque in Mecca.

Authorities estimated the number of injured to be at least 238 as of Saturday.

The crane toppled over during a violent rainstorm, a disaster which came just ahead of the start of the annual hajj pilgrimage which starts later this month.

Islam’s Tenuous Connection to Jerusalem

23 Nisan 5774 – April 23, 2014

Despite 1,300 years of Muslim Arab rule, Jerusalem was never the capital of an Arab entity, nor was it ever mentioned in the Palestine Liberation Organization’s covenant until Israel regained control of East Jerusalem in the Six-Day War of 1967. Overall, the role of Jerusalem in Islam is best understood as the outcome of political exigencies impacting religious belief.

Mohammed, who founded Islam in 622 CE, was born and raised in present-day Saudi Arabia and never set foot in Jerusalem. His connection to the city came years after his death when the Dome of the Rock shrine and the al-Aqsa mosque were built in 688 and 691, respectively, their construction spurred by political and religious rivalries. In 638 CE, the Caliph (or successor to Mohammed) Omar and his invading armies captured Jerusalem from the Byzantine Empire. One reason they wanted to erect a holy structure in Jerusalem was to proclaim Islam’s supremacy over Christianity and its most important shrine, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

More important was the power struggle within Islam itself. The Damascus-based Umayyad Caliphs who controlled Jerusalem wanted to establish an alternative holy site if their rivals blocked access to Mecca. That was important because the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, was (and remains today) one of the Five Pillars of Islam. As a result, they built what became known as the Dome of the Rock shrine and the adjacent mosque.

To enhance the prestige of the ‘substitute Mecca,’ the Jerusalem mosque was named al-Aqsa. It means ‘the furthest mosque’ in Arabic, but has far broader implications, since it is the same phrase used in a key passage of the Quran called “The Night Journey.” In that passage, Mohammed arrives at ‘al-Aqsa’ on a winged steed accompanied by the Archangel Gabriel; from there they ascend into heaven for a divine meeting with Allah, after which Mohammed returns to Mecca. Naming the Jerusalem mosque al-Aqsa was an attempt to say the Dome of the Rock was the very spot from which Mohammed ascended to heaven, thus tying Jerusalem to divine revelation in Islamic belief. The problem however, is that Mohammed died in the year 632, nearly 50 years before the first construction of the al-Aqsa Mosque was completed.

Jerusalem never replaced the importance of Mecca in the Islamic world. When the Umayyad dynasty fell in 750, Jerusalem also fell into near obscurity for 350 years, until the Crusades. During those centuries, many Islamic sites in Jerusalem fell into disrepair and in 1016 the Dome of the Rock collapsed.

Still, for 1,300 years, various Islamic dynasties (Syrian, Egyptian and Turkish) continued to govern Jerusalem as part of their overall control of the Land of Israel, disrupted only by the Crusaders. What is amazing is that over that period, not one Islamic dynasty ever made Jerusalem its capital. By the 19th century, Jerusalem had been so neglected by Islamic rulers that several prominent Western writers who visited Jerusalem were moved to write about it. French writer Gustav Flaubert, for example, found “ruins everywhere” during his visit in 1850 when it was part of the Turkish Empire (1516-1917). Seventeen years later Mark Twain wrote that Jerusalem had “become a pauper village.”

Indeed, Jerusalem’s importance in the Islamic world only appears evident when non-Muslims (including the Crusaders, the British and the Jews) control or capture the city. Only at those points in history did Islamic leaders claim Jerusalem as their third most holy city after Mecca and Medina. That was again the case in 1967, when Israel captured Jordanian-controlled East Jerusalem (and the Old City) during the 1967 Six-Day War. Oddly, the PLO’s National Covenant, written in 1964, never mentioned Jerusalem. Only after Israel regained control of the entire city did the PLO ‘update’ its Covenant to include Jerusalem.

Book Review: Simon Sebag Montefiore’s ‘Jerusalem: The Biography’

14 Heshvan 5774 – October 18, 2013

By Henry Goldblum

At first glance, Simon Sebag Montefiore’s best seller Jerusalem: The Biography is surely impressive. Media critics as well as Henry Kissinger have showered it with praise, and the BBC devoted a timely three-part TV series to the author, providing invaluable publicity. Indeed, the book is not dull by any standards. Drama abounds – be it in chapter headings (take chapter 5, “The Whore of Babylon”) or in the description of events, such as the Moloch ceremonies in the days of King Menasseh, “the sacrifice of children at the roaster…in the Valley of Hinom…as priests beat drums to hide the shrieks of the victims from their parents” (p. 39). The Muslim invasion is depicted in graphic detail, particularly the battle of 636 CE, which took place “amidst the impenetrable gorges of the Yarmuk River” (p. 172) – although the area through which the Yarmuk flows is in fact more of an open plain.

Renouncing Uniqueness

Sebag Montefiore has clearly invested much effort in conveying his vision of Jerusalem – past, present, and future. The result reflects thoughtful study of many sources relating to different features of the city, and the author certainly recognizes its special status. However, in his apparent desire to deal evenhandedly with the various local religions, he fails to make it clear that it is only for Jews and Judaism that Jerusalem is, was, and has always been the sole spiritual center on earth. This omission is unacceptable. The author rightly refers, if only en passant, to Midrash Tanhuma and the writings of Philo of Alexandria as two examples of this basic, constant belief, unlimited by time or circumstance. The intensity of Jerusalem’s sacred status for Judaism is such that later monotheistic faiths have attempted at various times to gain a foothold in the city, despite their having other, holier places (Mecca and Medina, Rome and Bethlehem). Perhaps recognizing the significance of capturing the “chosen status” of Judaism, they have utilized diverse strategies to prop up their variant “histories,” including reinterpreting Muhammad’s miraculous night visit to the “Farthest Mosque” on the outskirts of Mecca to include a stopover in Jerusalem.

It has always been fundamental for the Jew to appreciate this imbalance, and it cannot be overlooked in any attempt to describe Jerusalem. Sebag Montefiore has downgraded this uniquely Jewish aspect of the city; as far as he is concerned, Judaism’s monopoly on Jerusalem is limited to part 1 of his book, extending until the year 70 CE. Parts 2-8 belong primarily to other faiths and peoples, and the final section of the book, dating from 1898, is titled “Zionism,” as if the re-establishment of Jewish sovereignty is a separate chapter in the history of the city rather than the restorationof a violently interrupted continuum. Significantly, he neglects to emphasize thata Jewish majority has dominated the citywhenever circumstances have permitted,including from the early 19th century onwardwithout interruption; nor does he remind thereader that only when Jews have ruled thecity have all other faiths enjoyed full rights ofworship there.

Historically Dubious These omissions are partially explained by the almost complete absence of references to classic Jewish works compiled in the Land of Israel – despite their obvious relevance in terms of place, time, and subject. Thus, the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds are together accorded a mere four quotations; the output of Jewish historians from Graetz to current Israeli scholars not of the revisionist mode is similarly glaringly absent. In contrast, detailed descriptions of events and individuals taken from non-Jewish sources abound – even when their relevance is historically uncertain or unsound – notably the passages on Jesus in chapter 11. The sole reference to Jesus in Josephus (Antiquities, book 17, 63-64), whom Sebag Montefiore cites among other non- Jewish sources as confirmation of his existence as a historic character, is widely regarded as being of dubious authorship (see Emil Schürer’s History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus, vol. 1, p. 428ff.).

The reliability of the author’s statement at the opening of the Islam section is similarly questionable: Muhammad is said to have come “to venerate Jerusalem as one of the noblest of sanctuaries” (p. 169). With all due respect, the Koran never mentions Jerusalem, and by beginning his discussion of Islam with the reinterpretation of the passage regarding “the furthest place of worship,” Sebag Montefiore creates a false impression, especially since in Sura 2, the Prophet commands that prayer be directed exclusively to Mecca. The other quotes on page 168 are all from later Muslim sources. The term “Iliya,” a corruption of the pagan name Aelia Capitolina coined by Hadrian, continued to be used by the Muslim conquerors of Jerusalem for a generation or more following Muhammad’s death, with examples from as late as the end of the 10th century. This is the name of the city appearing on the milestones of Caliph al-Malik, who built the Dome of the Rock in the 690s. The name Al-Quds, “The Sanctuary,“ came into common use only in the 11th century, in the context of the struggle between Crusaders and Saracens for dominion over the Holy Land (see Moshe Gil, The Political History of Jerusalem in the Early Muslim Period, p. 10). The anecdote concerning Caliph Omar’s tour of the Temple Mount (p. 175 in Sebag Montefiore’s book) only reiterates the secondary status of Jerusalem in Islam – the caliph rebukes Kaab, a converted Jew, who suggests praying in the direction of the Temple on the mount rather than toward Mecca. As Bernard Lewis has stated in The Middle East, “Much of the traditional narrative of the early history of Islam must remain problematic, whilst the critical history is at best tentative” (p. 51). Why, then, has Sebag Montefiore adopted Islamic accounts regarding this period so readily? Is he perhaps playing to Muslim sensibilities? All this leads us to an epilogue that looks forward, as might be expected from the previous sections, to a permanent division of the city into two capitals for two states, in accordance with current liberal and revisionist dogma. The hope of witnessing such a chapter in the history of Jerusalem rankles coming from a scion of the illustrious Montefiore family, whose philanthropy was once invested in the furtherance of a quite different destiny for the city.

Admittedly, Jerusalem: The Biography provides an enjoyable ride. A more appropriate destination and a less controversial and dangerous route might be preferable, but that, presumably, would require a change of driver.

Dr. Heny Goldblum is a lawyer and a scholar of history

Visit Behind the News in Israel.

Saudi Man Arrested For Seeking Jewish Wife

28 Tevet 5773 – January 9, 2013

A Saudi Arabian man was arrested near the Grand Mosque in Mecca after local police discovered papers indicating that he was seeking a Jewish bride.

The Jewish Chronicle, citing Al-Hayat news, reported that officials believe the 49 year-old man may have a “mental illness”.

The papers showed the man may have been mentally unstable, and that he was looking for a Jewish woman to marry.  He is still under arrest and may face prosecution and mandatory medical or psychological treatment.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/saudi-man-arrested-for-seeking-jewish-wife/2013/01/09/

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