It's complicated: Who makes what claims to Jerusalem’s Temple site?


Both Jews and Muslims lay religious claim to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount / Noble Sanctuary, which has long been at the center of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. What is the basis of their competing claims?


This uniquely and deeply revered religious site in the eastern sector of Jerusalem’s Old City is called the Temple Mount by Jews and the Haram al-Sharif (“Noble Sanctuary”) by Muslims. Smithsonian magazine says this tract “has seen more momentous historical events than perhaps any other 35 acres in the world,” while The Economist magazine considers it “one of the world’s most explosive bits of real estate.”

That second assertion has been amply underscored in recent months. An expert at the U.S. Institute of Peace tells that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “has developed a religious character that was not as explicit in the past.” This has been the most troublesome period for the holy site since 2000 when Ariel Sharon, campaigning to be Israel’s prime minister, boldly entered the area with a large entourage and sparked the Palestinians’ second intifada.

A pivotal incident occurred October 29, the attempted murder of Yehuda Glick. He’s an activist with the Temple Mount and Land of Israel Faithful, which seeks to upset a delicate status quo and allow Jews to pray on the mount. This movement further vexes Muslims by campaigning for Israel to rebuild a Jewish Temple there as soon as possible. Though that hope is expressed in Judaism’s daily prayers, pious tradition holds that the Temple should only arise after the Messiah comes. (One Protestant faction also dreams of a new Temple, to  accompany Jesus Christ’s Second Coming.)

Such an unlikely project would invite holy war because the Haram is the third holiest place in Islam after Mecca and Medina. It is believed to be the location from which the Prophet Muhammad ascended to the presence of God during his Night Journey. Temple construction would presumably require demolition of existing Muslim buildings there, an exceedingly offensive proposal.

A famous event there some 4,000 years ago unites and divides Jewish and Muslim tradition.

Continue reading "Who makes what claims to Jerusalem’s Temple site?" by Richard Ostling.

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