Jordan is demanding that Israel “return jurisdiction” over part of the Western Wall to the Islamic Waqf controlled by Amman.
The demand followed the decision by the Israeli government last week to set aside the southernmost section of the Wall, known as Robinson’s Arch, as a place for mixed-gender prayer. Jordan refers to the same place as the “Umayyad Palaces.”
Jordan contends that the decision violates the jurisdiction of the Waqf Islamic Authority over Jerusalem’s holy places, an agreement made between the two countries in 1967.
On Saturday, Jordanian Minister of Communications and Media Affairs Muhammad Momani “urged Israel not to meddle with the Umayyad Palaces area and to ensure its return under the jurisdiction of the Jordanian Jerusalem Waqf Department, which is the entity responsible for administering and safeguarding the site,” the Jordan news agency Petra reported in the Jordan Times.
“Israeli occupation forces have recently settled internal differences among followers of different Jewish sects at the expense of the area of the Umayyad Palaces,” Petra said.
“Israeli occupation forces had decided to expand a platform to allow more Jewish worshippers into the area. The violation against the Umayyad Palaces is the latest in a long series of assaults and violations against the site. Occupation forces have carried out several excavation works there, destroying Arab and Islamic heritage,” Petra added on behalf of Jordan’s government.
Israel’s government approved plans last week to expand the Western Wall plaza in order to accommodate the increasing demands for non-Orthodox prayer at the site. A small wooden platform at Robinson’s Arch has already been set up for mixed-gender prayer.
Jordan’s lamentation over Israeli “occupation” is a bit spurious, given the Hashemite tenure itself as custodian over parts of Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria lasted only from 1948 to 1967 – a total of 31 years.
Jerusalem has long since been reunited and whole for a period much longer than that: June 2017 will mark half a century since the restoration of the Temple Mount, the Western Wall and elsewhere in Jerusalem and the Land to the Jewish State of Israel.
However, to be fair, the dismay of the Hashemite Kingdom over the compromise over non-Orthodox prayer allowed by the government is also reflected among some Muslims in Israel and ironically is shared with some observant Jews locally and globally as well.
Mixed-gender prayer has never been allowed at the Western Wall – in fact, historically it was not allowed in either Holy Temple. In Torah law, women are not counted among a minyan (quorum) of men.
Not that this grants validity to the Jordanian claim of authority and hopes to win Waqf control of the site, which is more of a simple attempt at another political territory grab.
The Umayyad Palaces were two buildings which archaeologists say were built by the Umayyads who ruled for a period of 100 years in the late seventh century. They were destroyed in an earthquake and lay buried until they were unearthed by Israeli archaeologists in a 1970s excavation, creating a public history park to educate all.
The Western Wall is part of Judaism’s most sacred site on the planet, the Temple Mount, located alongside. The site is also the third holiest in Islam. The Wall is part of the outer retaining wall of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, its sole material remnant that has survived throughout the centuries. In Islam, it is believed that the prophet Mohammed rose up to Heaven on his mighty steed el-Buraq from a site near the Western Wall.
In Judaism, it is believed that somewhere on the grounds of the Temple Mount lies the site of the “Holy of Holies” of the two Holy Temples of Jerusalem – the inner sanctum where the High Priest (Kohen Gadol) communed with G-d Himself during sacrifices and services. No one other than the Kohen Gadol was ever allowed to enter this place, and to this day countless rabbis forbid Jews to tread upon the Temple Mount grounds for fear of erroneously entering this area.
The Israeli government does not allow Jews to pray within the Temple Mount in accordance with a status quo agreement with the Jordanian Waqf. Within the Temple Mount grounds are built the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, where Muslims are allowed to pray.
Hana Levi Julian