UPDATES 10 am Israel time, Tuesday, May 20 2014:
**Palestinian terrorism continues to rage throughout Judea and Samaria with incidents occurring at Bethany and Gush Etzion. In the early morning hours, an IDF force came under fire from Palestinian terrorists in Jenin. One soldier was “moderately wounded” by shrapnel from an IED.
In a very disturbing development today, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz announced that due to budget cuts, there will be no training of miluim (reservists) in the coming year. Also, a number of significant weapons systems have been placed on hold.
The chickens are unfortunately coming home to roost. Benny Gantz who has been roundly criticized in this blog during his tenure in office as a “do-nothing” leader has been remarkably ineffective in arguing for the needs of the IDF.
**There is good news and bad news out of the European Union today.
First, the good news is that the Baroness Buffoon Catherine Ashton, the European Union Foreign Minister, is leaving her post in October. She has held her position since 2009 when, with absolutely no foreign policy experience, she was bizarrely chosen to be the E.U.’s foreign policy chief.
Her tenure, primarily focused on the Iran nuclear weapons development program, has been an unmitigated disaster. The Iranians have played her like the fool she is–continually adding centrifuges and building facilities while Ashton provided them cover by claiming progress was being made.
The bad news is that whoever the E.U. chooses to replace her will be equally as bad and possessed of the same mindset as illustrated this morning by E.U. Ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen. Speaking in Jerusalem, Faaborg-Andersen blathered: “I don’t see a reason for the peace talks stopping in order to send a message that there’s a difference between Fatah and Hamas.”
As the clueless Faaborg-Andersen inadvertently pointed out, there is no difference between Fatah and Hamas. They are both committed to the destruction of Israel.
**Interesting poll results were published today by the University of Haifa and the Israel Democracy Institute. The poll is part of a study entitled “The Index of Arab-Jewish Relations in Israel” obviously focused on Israeli-Arabs and features a comparison between opinions expressed in 2013 and 2012. Some of the findings:
—43% of Israeli-Arabs would prefer to be called “Israeli-Arabs” than “Palestinians” compared to 33% in 2012.
—53% of Israeli-Arabs recognize Israel’s right to exist compared to 47% in 2012
—64% of Israeli Arabs think that Israel is a good place to live compared to 59% in 2012
As the index points out, Israeli-Arabs have ironically begun to identify more with Israel as small groups within the Israeli-Arab community have sought to drive a wedge between the community and Israel.
We are nearing the end of our series on the Har Habayit (known in English as the Temple Mount).
Your humble servant left you yesterday in the year 690 CE at the moment that the Dome of “the Rock” was built over the Jewish Foundation Stone which had been the center of Jewish religious experience for 1,640 years since Solomon’s construction of the First Temple over it in 950 BCE.
For all of those years, Jews had come to their holiest site to pray and to give sacrifices–acts which had even continued intermittently after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. Prayer and sacrifice had even continued after the Muslim conquest as Muslim Ummayyad rulers had even permitted a building to be erected at the site.
But in 690 CE, the Dome was built by Caliph Abed al-Malik who sought to expand his power by establishing a new pilgrimage destination for Muslim pilgrims (an attempt which ultimately failed as Mecca assumed dominance). It was at this point that the story of Mohammed’s dream visit on his horse to heaven was concocted complete with the horse’s hoofprint in the Foundation Stone.
As we noted yesterday, Al-Malik used a Christian engineer who closely modeled the Islamic structure after several Christian churches in the immediate area. In fact, the building design is in every way Christian.
This is where we pick up the thread of history today.
So once the Dome of “the Rock” was finished, what do you think that Al-Malik did next? One would assume that he would have brought in Muslim clerics and theologians to sanctify the site to Allah.
In fact, just the opposite happened.
According to Islamic tradition, when the Dome was finished, five Jewish families (presumably those descended from the priests of the First and Second Temples) were tasked with cleaning and purifying the Dome. They were also put in charge of preparing and maintaining the wicks for the lamps inside the building.
But one of the earliest Islamic scholars (and one still highly respected today), Al-Wasiti, writing sometime between 1000 and 1050 CE, records in his book “Praises of Jerusalem” that Jews were doing much more than lighting candles in the Dome.
Al-Wasiti writes that among the “Solomonic” rituals performed in the Dome were anointing the “Rock” (Foundation Stone) with special unguents (to understand why read Exodus 40: 9-16) and burning incense inside the Dome to the point that the inside rotunda of Dome could not be seen. Al-Wasiti notes that when the doors to the Dome were opened after such burning, the smell of incense wafted out over the upper markets of the city.
But there is more. Much more. Al-Wasiti notes that the main religious activities at the Dome took place on Mondays and Thursdays which just happen to be the days in Judaism which are especially sacred for performing religious rituals. Al-Wasiti even goes so far as to quote a prayer that was uttered in the Dome–though he does not know what the translation of the prayer actually is.
What prayer did Al-Wasiti hear inside the Dome of “the Rock”?
Baruch atta Adonay. (Blessed art thou, the Lord”).
So what are we to make of all of this?
Some historians and archaeologists have surmised that the Dome was not only built as a Muslim shrine, but as a place of prayer for Jews and Muslims. One Jewish midrash composed around 850 CE even praises Al-Malik as the builder of the “House of the Lord”.
Whatever the case, Jews practiced their faith in the Dome of the Rock for several centuries after its construction–and even in another synagogue that was apparently built on the Temple Mount.
Solomon ben Jeroham, a Karaite living in Jerusalem between 940 and 960 CE (a Karaite synagogue was built in Jerusalem in the early 9th century), records that Jews prayed on the Temple Mount and that “the courtyards of the Temple were turned over to them and they prayed there.”
It is at this point in the year 960 CE that we will stop our journey for today. A momentous decade for Jerusalem is upon us as the Arab armies of the Fatimid dynasty will soon conquer the Ummayads.
But once again, think about the fact that for 1,910 years the Foundation Stone has remained the holiest place in Judaism and that Jews still practice their faith there in the place known as the Holy of Holies. Throughout the centuries of Jewish, Babylonian, Persian, Roman, Byzantine, and Arab rule, nothing has been able to stop the Jews from climbing the Har HaBayit and praying to their God.