This week the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) announced it is postponing a vote that would put Jerusalem’s Temple Mount firmly in the hands of the Muslim.
Whether Israel would actually implement UNESCO’s recommendations is anther issue. But if the motion passed it undoubtedly would embolden the Muslims in their attempts to control the site.
The vote is part of a Palestinian-Jordanian initiative that would declare the Temple Mount a “Muslim-only” site. The vote would see the Temple Mount returned to its status before the 1967 Six Day war.
Prior to the Israel Arab conflict, the Jordan Waqf that operates the two Muslim buildings on the site — the al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock — controlled every aspect of the Temple Mount including who could visit the site.
But perhaps the most disturbing part of the motion is that it would deny any historical Jewish connection to the Temple Mount. The original motion also referred to Israel as an “occupying force.”
When Israel protested the motion later revisions tried to tone down the rhetoric but still continued to erase Judaism’s connection to the Temple Mount. This even included a revision submitted by the European Union.
Currently, Israel controls the mount and access. It allows Jews to visit the site, but will not allow them to pray on the Mount so not to offend the Muslims. There are strict rules in place including forbidding Jews from even bobbing or bowing their heads while visiting the Temple Mount.
Because of this, the Jews pray at the Wailing Wall below believed to be the wall of the second Temple.
However, over the years Muslims have aggressively opposed any non-Muslim having access to the Temple Mount, even to the point of violence. If UNESCO passes its resolution, many believe it will result in increased Muslim opposition.
Ironically UNESCO intended to vote on the resolution at their annual World Heritage Committee meeting to be held in Istanbul, Turkey starting July 23, 2016. But it postponed the meeting until October because of the recent coup attempt in that Muslim country.
However, this week the UNESCO’s director-general, Inna Bokova, issued a statement acknowledging that three major religions — Jewish, Christian and Muslims — have claim to the site.
The Jewish connection to the Temple Mount goes back thousands of years. There have been two versions of the temple built on the site, the first one constructed by King Solomon and destroyed by the Babylonian King, Nebuchadnezzar, in 586 BC and later partially restored.
King Herod built the second temple, that was obliterated by the Romans in 70 AD. This is the one Jesus visited and prophesied would be destroyed (Matthew 24:1-2).
The Christian connection to the site goes back to the early church in the Book of Acts who initially held services in the porticoes of the Second Temple before its destruction in 70 AD (Acts 5:12-16).
Meanwhile, the Muslim faith is only a few hundred years old. The prophet Muhammad (570 AD to 632 AD) is the founder of Islam.
Muslims built the Dome of the Rock in 691 AD. Both the Jews and Muslims believe a rock at the site marks the spot where Abraham intended to sacrifice his son, until God provided a ram as a sacrifice (Genesis 22).
But they differ on which son. The Bible says Abraham was going to sacrifice his son Isaac, the Muslims believe it was Ishmael.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque was constructed in 705 AD. But the older Christian and Jewish connection to Dome of the Rock showed up in an interesting incident that happened after an earthquake hit Jeursalem in 1927.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque was severely damaged. As it was being rebuilt, British archaeologist Robert Hamilton had an opportunity to partially excavate the land beneath the Mosque.
He was given permission by Muslim Waqf to do so with the stipulation that he could not publicly report what he found without the permission of the Waqf.
Hamilton found both Christian and Jewish relics beneath the mosque. This included a mosaic common to Byzantine Churches and Jewish mikveh (ritual pool) dated to the Second Temple period. It would have been used by the Jews to cleanse themselves before entering the temple.
Since these discoveries showed the Jews and even Christians had an older claim to the site than the Muslims, the Waqf would not allow Hamilton to publicize those findings. However, his discoveries, photos and artifacts from that excavation were documented and stored in the archives of the Rockefeller Museum.
Though UNESCO’s director general had acknowledged a Jewish connection to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, there is no certainty how the October vote will go as the agency has routinely passed resolutions opposing Israel’s legitimate claims to the site.
This included one passed in April where it stated going forward the UN agency would no longer refer to site as the Temple Mount, but rather as either the Al-Aqsa Mosque or Al Haram Al Sharif.
- UNESCO head: Jerusalem is sacred to all three monotheistic faiths: Times of Israel
- UNESCO director admits ancient Jewish connection to Jerusalem: Breaking Israel News
- Second Temple-era mikveh discovered under Al-Aqsa mosque: Israel Hayom
- UNESCO plans to declare Temple Mount Holy to ‘Muslims Only’: Breaking Israel News