[ Ed. note – What if it turned out there really was a Jewish temple in Jerusalem at one time, but that it did not stand where most people now think it did? A year ago I published an article entitled Wailing at the Wrong Wall: Misunderstandings About Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, which explored that very question–namely that the temple stood at a different location from what is today referred to as the “Temple Mount.”
Now it seems that UNESCO has reached similar conclusions–much to the irritation of the Israelis. Below are two articles, one, from YNet, on the UNESCO vote which took place yesterday, and the second, from Middle East Monitor, on an Israeli archaeologist, Meir Ben-Dov, who also has signed onto the “it-wasn’t-on-the-Temple-Mount” theory. The MEMO article is kind of short, although both may leave a lot of unanswered questions in your mind, and for that I strongly recommend you go back and read my Wailing at the Wrong Wall post of a year ago, as it will supply some background information as to how and why certain archaeologists reached the conclusions they did.
Well, if the temple wasn’t on the Temple Mount, then where was it? The main theory seems to be that it was situated 600 feet to the south on Mount Ophel, near the Spring of Siloam, and that Mount Ophel in reality was the actual “temple mount,” as it were. Six hundred feet is not a great distance, and it may seem like a matter of almost trivial insignificance, but in reality the implications are huge.
Jews for centuries have been convinced that the Temple was located on the Temple Mount–a site that is referred to by Muslims as the Haram al Sharif–and there is a strong movement in Israel today to build a so-called “Third Temple” there. Home to the Al Aqsa Mosque, the Haram al Sharif is regarded by Muslims, however, as the third holiest site in Islam. Needless to say, tampering with the status quo risks igniting a major religious war–one that would make previous religious wars look like a minor squabble on a children’s playground. But this hasn’t stopped many Israelis, including some in the Knessett, from fantasizing about a new temple. Moreover, the action by UNESCO, as you will note from the YNet article below, has aroused considerable anger in Israel–anger which, to a degree, is even bleated out in the headline over the piece.
It should also be noted that skirmishes and disruptions on the Temple Mount, brought on by Jews going up to the site ostensibly to “pray,” was one of the triggering factors to the current intifada which began a year ago. Also worth noting is that the UNESCO vote has provided graphic evidence, were any more needed, of the power of pro-Israel lobbies in Western countries. Both the YNet article below, as well as a Haaretz article here, mention extensive Israeli efforts to kill the measure, and the Haaretz piece even states bluntly that “due to Israeli efforts, no European country backed the motion.” Personally, though, I think the Israelis may be fighting a losing battle here. The archaeological evidence seems pretty substantial and there are websites, such as this one here, that are already designating Mount Ophel as “the temple mount.” ]
UNESCO Fails to Acknowledge Jewish Ties to Temple Mount
By Itamar Eichner
The United Nation Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) passed a draft resolution on Thursday that failed to acknowledge the Jewish people’s ties to the Temple Mount, raising ire in Israel.
The proposal “strongly condemns the Israeli escalating aggressions and illegal measures against the Waqf Department and its personnel, and against the freedom of worship and Muslims’ access to their Holy Site Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al Sharif, and requests Israel, the Occupying Power, to respect the historic Status Quo and to immediately stop these measures.”
It omits the Jewish name for the holy site—the Temple Mount—and instead refers to it only by its Muslim name—Al-Haram Al Sharif.
The Palestinians have demanded that an international delegation experts be sent to the holy sites to examine what they have described as the destruction of historical and archeological heritage by Israel. They allege that this has been carried out in a variety of manners, including the building of the Jerusalem light rail and archeological excavations.
The Palestinians are seeking, inter alia, to appoint a UNESCO permanent observer in Jerusalem and to appoint a series of condemnations of Israeli activities, such as the alleged demolition of a school in Kfar Adumim. Israel claims that it was a dilapidated caravan that was destroyed and “not a school.”
The draft resolution, submitted by Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, and Sudan, will be referred to UNESCO’s executive board for formal approval next week.
Twenty-four countries voted in favor of the proposal: Algeria, Bangladesh, Brazil, Chad, China, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, Mauritius, Mexico, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan and Vietnam.
Six countries voted against it: Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, The Netherlands, United Kingdom and United States.
While 26 countries abstained from the vote: Albania, Argentina, Cameroon, El Salvador, France, Ghana, Greece, Guinea, Haiti, India, Italy, Ivory Coast, Japan, Kenya, Nepal, Paraguay, Saint Vincent and Nevis, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda and Ukraine.
Israeli Archaeologist Denies Jewish Ties to Al-Aqsa Mosque
An Israeli archaeological expert has asserted that there is no relation between the Western Wall of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and an ancient Jewish temple, Al Jazeera reported today. This will likely serve to undermine Israeli excavations of the site.
Meir Ben-Dov, an Israeli archaeological expert who is author of many books about Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, further asserted that the Wailing Wall, the Jewish name for the Western Wall, has no sacred significance in the Jewish faith.
In related news, UNESCO members are expected to vote on a resolution that denies Jewish links to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Western Wall, known as the Buraq Wall to Muslims, agencies reported on Thursday.
Israeli newspaper Haaretz said that the resolution is expected to pass by a large majority, referring this to the inability of Israeli lobbying to persuade UNESCO members not to support the resolution.
“Israel has made efforts to block the resolution or at least soften it, but succeeded only in swaying the positions of a few member states,” Haaretz stated.
The Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar and Sudan pushed the draft resolution forward that declares that Jerusalem is holy for all the three Abrahamic religions of Islam, Christianity and Judaism.
The draft also includes a section that stresses that the Al-Aqsa Mosque is sacred only for the Muslims, referring to it as Al-Haram Al-Sharif, or the Sacred Sanctuary.
In April, UNESCO’s executive board ratified a similar resolution, which was supported by a number of European countries, including France.
However, after a “harsh” telephone call between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and French President Francois Hollande, France promised not to support any such resolution in the future.