With normalized relations – current and pending – between Israel and Islamic states, we can soon expect a flood of Moslem tourists to Israel. These tourists will certainly want to visit Jerusalem and some of its iconic Islamic symbols, such as the Al Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock. The question is: What will they be told about them?
If we ignore this question, our newly-burgeoning Moslem tourism enterprise will soon become a factory of lies, hate, and enmity. Peace-seeking Moslems from the Gulf will leave as haters of Jews.
So Israel needs to develop a sophisticated system of hasbara for the Islamic public and must present the Islamic connections to Jerusalem in a factual – and palatable – manner.
What are the facts? The most important one is that many Islamic leaders historically have distorted Islam’s ties to Jerusalem for political purposes. Let’s begin with the well-known cliché that Jerusalem is “holy to the three main religions.” How did this come to be given that when King Solomon built the First Temple in Jerusalem, neither Christians nor Moslems existed?
The answer is that Christianity and Islam adopted some of Judaism’s best elements. These include monotheism, the weekly day of rest, the golden rule of “Don’t do to others what you don’t want done to you,” – and Jerusalem.
Amazingly, though, Moslems who hate Israel not only maintain that Jerusalem is theirs; they claim it has no sanctity or historic significance for Jews. Talk about chutzpah! This claim is not only false. It’s downright dangerous because it disguises a long-term nationalist plot to take full control over Jerusalem and rid its Old City of any Jewish presence.
We, and the entire world, must not be fooled: Moslem ties to Jerusalem have always been based on little more than political expediency disguised as religious fervor. Currently, we are experiencing the fourth wave of Moslem aggrandizement of Jerusalem – at our expense.
The first time Islam artificially enhanced Jerusalem’s importance was during Muhammad’s lifetime. In a barefaced attempt to win over the Jews living near his hometown of Medina, Muhammad announced that prayers would be directed towards Jerusalem. But when he saw the Jews weren’t interested in his advances, he turned violently against them, slaughtering 700. He then directed prayers towards 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 sought a response to the capture of Mecca and Medina by a rival Moslem leader, so he revived the idea of Jerusalem as a “top holy city.” To this end, he built the impressive Dome of the Rock on the site of the First and Second Temples.
The third Moslem infatuation with Jerusalem occurred during the 12th-century Crusades. Saladin needed to inflame his Moslem warriors against the Christian Crusaders, so Jerusalem again briefly became the focus of religious longing.
For centuries thereafter, Jerusalem remained way in the background for the Moslem world, which focused instead on Mecca and Medina as its holy cities. Today, though, once again, the Moslem world has taken to claiming Jerusalem as the pinnacle of its religious aspirations. Its interest this time is simply to rid the Middle East of Israel. When the PLO was founded in 1964, its charter didn’t even mention Jerusalem!
The international community must therefore relate to Palestinians’ “religious” claim to Jerusalem as nothing more than a desire to destroy Israel. Nothing can justify forcing the Jewish people to “share” its holy city with an opportunistic usurper, no matter how many times the latter claims its “true love” for it – and Moslem tourists from the Gulf need to hear this.