|For the first time, the Israeli Knesset considered Temple Mount prayer in a debate|
The Temple Mount in Jerusalem - Editorial
[T]he Knesset examined the prohibition against Jews and other non-Muslims entering the Temple Mount area to pray or perform any other outwardly religious act. Though no resolution was passed and no actions were taken, the very fact that the Knesset dared to discuss the issue was enough to rile up the Arab world. The Jordanian Parliament passed a non-binding resolution to expel Israel's ambassador.
Today, Hamas and Palestinian Authority flags are flown over the area. The Israeli flag is not. Muslim authorities have unilaterally undertaken construction and excavation projects.
Jews are prevented from praying on the Temple Mount, the holiest place in the world for the Jewish people. Jews who go up to the Temple Mount on the few days and times designated for non-Muslim visitors are accompanied by a Waqf official and an Israeli policeman. If the visitor displays outward signs of prayer - such as moving of lips or reading from a prayer book - he or she is immediately and forcefully removed, and sometimes even arrested. It is incomprehensible to us why the quiet reciting of prayers incenses Muslims so.
Maintaining the status quo is the official policy of the Prime Minister's Office. Still, the controversy surrounding the Temple Mount is just one of many obstacles that need to be overcome before peace is achieved.
Muslims and Jews Once Prayed Together on Temple Mount
- Khaled Diab
There is historic evidence that Muslims and Jews once prayed together on the Temple Mount. Following the surrender of Jerusalem to the Arab armies in the 7th century, Omar Ibn al-Khattab allowed Jews, who had been expelled by the Christian Byzantines, back into Jerusalem.
"There is strong evidence to suggest that the Jews were not only permitted to return to Jerusalem, but that the Muslims allowed them to worship at their side on the Temple Mount," wrote Francis E. Peters, a professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at New York University. "We know that Omar welcomed the Jews back in Jerusalem, that he and the early caliphs allowed Jewish worship on the Temple Mount," Simon Sebag Montefiore noted.
It is even possible that the caliph allowed the Jews to construct a synagogue on the mount and appointed a Jew as the first governor of Jerusalem, according to the 7th century Armenian historian Sebeos. For a century, Jews had full access to this holiest of sites, until the reign of the dogmatic Umar Ibn Abdel-Aziz.
History can teach us that Jews and Muslims were, for many centuries, friends and allies and that they once stood side by side as brothers in faith on Jerusalem's most hallowed ground.
The writer is a Jerusalem-based Egyptian-Belgian journalist.