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Jews need sacred city of their own

By Jack Wheeler

The claimed cause of the current Palestinian rioting in Jerusalem is Ehud
Barak's failure to grant sovereignty to the Palestinians of the Temple Mount
upon which the Islamic Al Aqsa Mosque is built.

After receiving every concession possible from the Israelis, Yassir Arafat
refused a peace agreement over the issue of Al Aqsa. Why, then, is Al Aqsa
so vitally important to the Palestinians? The Palestinians are Moslems who
proclaim Al Aqsa to be the third holiest site in all Islam after Mecca and
Medina, Mecca being the birthplace of Mohammed and Medina being the nearby
town to which he fled in 622 AD (an event known as the "Hegira" and provides
Year One in the Islamic calendar). How could Al Aqsa possibly be close in
sacredness to these two holy Moslem cities?

Sura (chapter) 17 of the Koran, entitled "The Night Journey", relates that
in a dream or a vision Mohammed was carried by night "from the sacred temple
to the furthermost point, whose precinct we have blessed, that we might show
him our signs." A subsequent legend arose, not told in the Koran, that
Mohammed's mystic night journey was in the company of the Archangel Gabriel,
and they rode on a winged steed called El Burak ("Lightning), which had the
face of a woman and the tail of a peacock. When they reached the
"furthermost point," they encountered Abraham, Jesus and other prophets,
whom Mohammed led in prayers. Gabriel then led Mohammed to a ladder of
golden light, upon which Mohammed ascended through the seven heavens into
the presence of Allah, from whom he received instructions for himself and
his followers. Following his divine meeting, Mohammed was flown back to
Mecca by Gabriel and the winged horse, arriving there before dawn.

Mohammed died in 632 AD. Six years later, Caliph Umar I captured Jerusalem
from the Persians. Seeing the magnificent Church of the Holy Sepulchre built
by Constantine in 335 AD and well aware of how sacred the city was to both
the Christians and the Jews, Umar declared that the city was sacred to the
Moslems as well. Needing a rationale, he searched the Koran and zeroed in on
Sura 17. The "Furthermost Point" of Sura 17, where Mohammed ascended to
heaven, was, Umar decreed, none other than the Jews' holiest of holies,
Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

After David established the kingdom of Israel and Judah with his capital at
Jerusalem, in 957 BC his son Solomon built the First Temple on the
mountaintop rock in the city's center where the Jews believed Abraham almost
sacrificed his son Isaac. Destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC, the Second
Temple was built in 515 BC and rebuilt by Herod, 37-4 BC. Destroyed again by
the Romans in 70 AD, the ruins were chosen by Umar to be a "mashhad," a
Moslem pilgrimage shrine. Umar's successor's built the shrine known as the
Dome of the Rock, "Qubbat As-Sakrah," and adjacent to it, the Al Aqsa
Mosque. Today, Moslems give a formal name to the entire Temple Mount as the
Noble Sanctuary, "Al Haram ash-Sharif," but commonly refer to the whole
complex as Al Aqsa.

The point to focus on in all of this is that the name "Jerusalem" (or "Al
Quds" as Arabs refer to it) is never mentioned in the Koran - not in Sura 17
or anywhere else. The "sacred temple" from which Mohammed dreamed he
departed in his Night Journey is clearly Mecca where he was living. But the
"furthermost point whose precinct we (meaning Allah) have blessed" has no
reality attached to it at all. Umar simply issued an edict, saying in
effect, "Well, if Jerusalem is sacred to the Jews and the Christians, then
it must be sacred to Moslems too - so I have decided that the "furthermost
point" of Mohammed's sacred dream is the Jewish people's holiest site, and
that it is ours now, not the Jews."

So here's a thought experiment. In Deuteronomy 34:6 of the Old Testament,
Moses dies and is buried in a valley in the land of Moab, described as north
of Jericho, but that "no man knoweth of his grave site to this day." So
let's say that an ancient set of parchments are discovered by archaeologists
like the Dead Sea Scrolls. They are found in a cave near Mecca and were
written by the Jews of Kheibar, descendants of two of the 10 "Lost Tribes,"
those of Reuven and Gad, who escaped from Assyrian exile in 721 BC and
settled in Arabia. The parchments tell a story: that the Kheibar Jews found
the sepulchre of Moses and rescued its contents from the Assyrians who were
going to desecrate it. They took Moses' remains with them to Arabia and
interred them where Jehovah instructed, at a site where a "sacred stone from
beyond the earth" lay. There they built a shrine which in time became
revered by all local inhabitants.

The archaeologists pronounce the parchments genuine, which reveal the burial
site of Moses to be Mecca, the "sacred stone" to be a meteorite worshipped
by ancient Arabians, and thus the "Kaaba," the holiest temple in all Islam
at the center of Mecca and which was built at the meteorite site, actually
sits on the grave of the founder of the Jewish religion.

Suppose this really happened. (The 12th century Spanish traveler, Benjamin
of Tudela, met the Jews of Kheibar while traveling through Arabia. And
there was a successful Jewish community in Mecca in Mohammed's time.) What
would be the response of the Islamic world if millions of Jews began
claiming that Mecca was sacred to them now just as it is sacred to the
Moslems, and demanded that they had the right to build a Dome of Moses next
to the Kaaba as a pilgrimage shrine honoring the Founding Patriarch of the
Jewish People?

Obviously it would be a nuclear explosion of outrage and rejection. What
this thought experiment demonstrates is that the negotiating tactic of the
anti-Israel Arabs is the same used by the Soviets: "What's mine is mine and
what's yours should be mine too." Mecca and Medina belong entirely and
completely to the Moslems. Why must they have Jerusalem on top of them?
Moslems have no genuine historical or Koranic claim on the Temple Mount. The
Jews' claim is obviously grounded in thousands of years of history. The
world needs to let the Jews have something sacred of their own. It is time
to recognize the validity of history, the false claim of Islamic holiness to
Jerusalem, and the rightfulness of letting Moslems keep their Kaaba and Jews
their Temple Mount.

(c) 2000 Dr. Jack Wheeler all rights reserved.

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