Mahmoud Abbas, like so many Palestinians, likes to instruct the world on the diabolical plan of the Israelis to take over the Haram al-Sharif– what those credulous Jews call the Temple Mount — and to replace the Al-Aqsa Mosque with a Third Temple, though of course the First and Second Temples, the Palestinians know, never existed. More on Mahmoud Abbas’ fabulations can be found here: “RRefuting Abbas’ UN lies, nearly 4,000,000 Muslims visited the Temple Mount during Ramadan,” by Maurice Hirsch, Palestinian Media Watch, May 17, 2023:
There is no truth to this supposed Israeli plan to raze Al-Aqsa, nor to any of the other claims about Al-Aqsa and the Temple Mount made by the P.A.’s President-For-Life, now entering the nineteenth year of his four-year term. Let’s begin our discussion with the history of the Temple Mount under Jordanian occupation between 1949 and 1967. During that period, for the only time in its 3000-year history, the Temple Mount was off-limits to Jews. They could not visit the Temple Mount, they could not pray at the Western Wall. They were expelled from the Jewish Quarter in the Old City, where the Jordanians blew up 56 of its 57 synagogues. Nearby, at the 3000-year old Jewish Cemetery on the Mount of Olives, the oldest and largest Jewish cemetery in the world, with 150,000 graves, the Jordanians pulled up tens of thousands of tombstones and either pulverized them into gravel to be used for building roads, or used the tombstones to line the floors of Jordanian army latrines.
Since June 7, 1967, when Israel liberated the Temple Mount from the illegal Jordanian occupation (1948-1967), Israel’s governments have guaranteed that the site remain accessible to both Israel’s Muslim population and — subject to security precautions — to many Muslims who live in the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority (PA). This guarantee was once again demonstrated during this year’s month of Ramadan, when nearly four million people visited the site.
Though the Jordanians had kept the Jews out of the Old City, and from visiting the Temple Mount, and did not even allow them to pray at the Western Wall from 1949 to 1967, the first thing the Israelis did after their victory in the Six-Day War was to reassure all the world’s Muslims that there would be no change in their access to the Temple Mount and to Al-Aqsa Mosque. As for Jews, they would now be allowed to visit the Temple Mount, but Defense Minister Moshe Dayan on his own decided that Jews would not be allowed to say prayers openly, or even to mouth prayers silently, on the Temple Mount. Nor could they bring onto the Mount prayer shawls, prayer books, or tefillin.
Jerusalem resident Fadi Mattour: “Praise Allah Master of the Universe, this month [of Ramadan] was very special. It was a wonderful month. The estimates of the [Jordanian] Waqf are that nearly 4 million visitors visited the Al-Aqsa Mosque this month, and this is a very large number.”
[Official PA TV News, April 21, 2023]
The record 4,000,000 visitors was made up of both Palestinians, who were given broad permission to enter Israel to visit the site, and Israeli Muslims. Despite the record numbers of visitors, in his speech yesterday in the United Nations to mark the “Nakba” – the term which means “catastrophe” used by the Palestinians to describe Israel’s creation – PA leader Mahmoud Abbas baselessly charged:
“Israel, ladies and gentlemen, beyond all its crimes against our people since the Nakba… it desecrates the holy Islamic and Christian religious places in Palestine… just as it denies the Palestinians their right to freedom of worship in the Al-Aqsa Mosque – the holy compound of Jerusalem which is the exclusive right of Muslims alone.”
[Mahmoud Abbas, Speech in the UN, May 15, 2023]
The only ones desecrating “holy places “in Palestine ”are the Palestinians. It is they who have firebombed Joseph’s Tomb, tried to destroy Rachel’s Tomb, tried to murder Israelis visiting the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron. It is the Palestinians who use Al-Aqsa Mosque for purposes other than religion, as a place to store rocks, Molotov cocktails, fireworks, and other weapons, in order to hurl them both at Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount, and Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall far below. Using Al-Aqsa as a weapons storehouse is most assuredly a “desecration” of a holy site. And turning the Al-Aqsa compound into a battlefield, where Palestinians attack Jewish visitors, and Israeli police try to halt their violence and maintain order, is another kind of desecration.
No Palestinians, and no Israeli Arabs, have been “denied the right of freedom of worship in the Al-Aqsa Mosque.” Muslims worship freely in the Mosque, and indeed outside, on Temple Mount itself, when an overflow crowd cannot fit into the Mosque. When the Mosque itself is full, many tens of thousands of Muslims pray outside, entirely covering the surface of the Temple Mount.
As many as 250,000 Muslims have prayed at one time on the Temple Mount. And during this year’s Ramadan, a total of four million Muslims prayed at the site, both inside Al-Aqsa and also outside, on the Al-Aqsa compound’s surface. Does this sound like Israel has been denying the Muslims the “right to freedom of worship”?
Only very occasionally, at times of great tension, and the likelihood of violence, in Jerusalem, does Israel limit the number of Muslims, and of Jews, who can ascend to the Temple Mount. This is a security measure imposed temporarily, not an attempt to trench upon the freedom of-religion.
As Palestinian Media Watch has already noted, while the Al-Aqsa Mosque – built in 693 and marked in red in the picture below – is just one small part of the entire Temple Mount – marked in green in the picture below – in recent years, for political purposes, the Palestinians refer to the entire site, including the expansive courtyards and the golden topped Dome of the Rock (built in 691), as the “Al-Aqsa Mosque”.
Now the Palestinians express their fury that Jews are “desecrating Al-Aqsa” when all the Jews are doing is a taking brief walk – no prayers are said or mouthed — on the Temple Mount, walking along its perimeter, following a well-worn path that is nowhere near the Al-Aqsa Mosque itself. But those who hear the Palestinian complaints about Jews “at Al-Aqsa” will likely come away with the mistaken belief that Jews have actually entered the Mosque itself.
While the entire site is indeed holy to Judaism and Islam, a 1924 guide to the Temple Mount, published by the Supreme Muslim Council, clearly states that the Al-Aqsa Mosque is just one entity on the wider Temple Mount – referred to as “Al-Harm Al-Sharif” or “The August Sanctuary” – whose “identity with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute.”
In 1924, the Supreme Muslim Council recognized that the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Al-Aqsa Compound are distinct. The Mosque stood inside, and was not coterminous with, the Al-Aqsa Compound. Furthermore, the same guide to the Temple Mount recognizes that the Temple Mount was where Solomon’s Temple stood, but long after that truth-telling guidebook appeared in 1924, the Palestinian Arabs have been denying that there ever was a Jewish Temple, or Temples, on what the Jews call – I wonder why? – the Temple Mount.
While permitting Muslim prayer on the site, as a rule, and despite the fact that no positive decision was taken by the authorized ministerial committee, Jewish prayer on the site has been mostly prohibited.
It is amazing and infuriating that the Israeli government continues to prevent Jews from praying, even silently, on top of the holiest site in Judaism, all in order to please the Muslims. Moshe Dayan made a grievous error in June 1967 when, acting alone, he set down the rule that Jews would not be allowed to pray on the Temple Mount. In June 1967, as the Arabs were reeling from their defeat in the Six-Day War, he could have announced that “from now on Jews will have the access to the Temple Mount that they were for so long denied by Jordan and will have the same freedom to pray that is enjoyed by Muslims on the Temple Mount.” At that point, the Arabs would have been unable to prevent this long overdue extension of religious freedom for Jews wanting to pray on the Temple Mount. Furthermore, in June 1967, before anti-Israel propaganda had yet managed to blanket the globe, many countries would have seen nothing wrong with allowing Jews to pray at the holiest site in Judaism.
Since 1967, Israel has made no substantial structural changes on the site. On the other hand, the Waqf — the Jordanian organization that controls and manages the current Islamic edifices on the site — illegally dug out a large area (some 600 square yards (500 square meters) known as “Solomon’s Stables” and turned it, in 1996, into another covered prayer area which they named the El-Marwani Mosque.
The Palestinians, including Mahmoud Abbas, keep insisting that the Israelis have been physically changing the Temple Mount. There is no truth to this. It is the Palestinians who have done what they accuse the Israelis of doing, by excavating a giant hole in the surface of the Temple Mount, some 600 square yards, and removing hundreds of tons of earth that was then thrown in a dump. Those hundreds of tons of earth contained thousands of Jewish artifacts from the time of the First and Second Temples, and horrified Israeli archeologists, when they got wind of what the Palestinians had done, rushed to collect the mounds of earth they had thrown away, and to sift carefully through the rescued rubble , finding all sorts of Jewish artifacts — oil lamps, knives, pottery, utensils, coins, Menorah candlesticks — still intact, and many more artifacts that had been smashed to smithereens during the excavation carried out by the Palestinians.
Who has done damage to the Temple Mount’s past – Israelis who are determined to preserve archaeological evidence of that long past, or the Palestinians, who are eager to destroy the physical evidence of a Jewish presence on the Temple Mount?
You know the answer to that.