Palestinian argument about Jewish connection to Western Wall

The Palestinian Deputy Minister of Information, Mutawakkel Taha (a poet who was formerly head of the Palestinian writers union) has apparently published a 5-page document in Arabic on his Ministry’s website presenting an unreformed position arguing Muslim “ownership” of the site.

It was not immediately possible to find this document, or determine what, exactly, it says.

(There is, at the moment, no Palestinian Minister of Information, and the current Palestinian Authority government spokesman Ghassan Khatib is apparently in overall charge of the Information Ministry, though the lines of authority are confusing, and could be considered in flux.)

This position described in the Israeli press as being laid out in this document has been enunciated before by the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, and by his negotiator Yasser Abed Rabbo (now Executive Secretary of the PLO, and head of Palestinian Television), and also by Palestinian officials who have held posts at the Waqf (Islamic trust foundation) that “owns” the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock which are the two religious buildings that now exist on the mosque esplanade that Muslims call the Haram ash-Sharif.

The same site is known to Jews as the Temple Mount — because it is believed that the Second and possibly also the First Jewish Temple were built on the esplanade. So far, archeological excavations have found evidence of the Second Temple, but nothing so far from the earlier First Temple.

Some Israelis and Jews are angry that Muslim renovations under the Al-Aqsa Mosque were conducted with disregard for Jewish interests in finding remains that might help clear up the history of the site.

Both Jewish temples were destroyed (the First Temple was destroyed in 586 BC, and the Second Temple was destroyed in 70 AD), centuries before the arrival of Islam.

The Western Wall was built, or expanded, by Herod, to contain an enlarged site for the Second Jewish Temple. Since its destruction, only this Western Wall remains public, and it has been a site of Jewish longing and prayer throughout the centuries (with, it is true, various restrictions at different times). Some of the stones in the lower portion of the Western Wall might have been placed there during the time of the First Temple.

Since the advent of Islam in the latter part of the 6th century AD, the two mosques were built — no Jewish structure was destroyed for their construction. These two buildings have been in continuous use for Muslim prayer for 1400 years.

Muslims now fear that messianic Jewish groups want to destroy these mosques to rebuilt the Jewish Temple.

Tonight, the Israeli Government Press Office sent around this statement attributable to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu: “The Palestinian Authority Information Ministry’s denial of the link between the Jewish People and the Western Wall is reprehensible and scandalous. The Western Wall has been the Jewish People’s most sacred place for almost 2,000 years, since the destruction of the Second Temple … When the Palestinian Authority denies the link between the Jewish People and the Western Wall, it calls into serious question its intentions of reaching a peace agreement, the foundations of which are coexistence and mutual recognition. The Government of Israel expects Palestinian Authority leaders to disavow and condemn the aforesaid document, refrain from distorting historical facts and encourage the creation of a bridge to peace that will lead to an historic reconciliation between the two peoples”.

Fervent adherents of both Islam and Judaism have made all kinds of outrageous statements denying each other’s claims. Very few (if any) calls are being made to acknowledge the legitimacy of both sets of claims.

The Western Wall is considered a historic site with religious signifcance. Prayers are performed there, but it is not a synagogue, and in fact there is no synagogue along the Western Wall.

Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock are places of worship, with historic significance.

This is a moment when outside help would be useful…

UPDATE: At the end of November, the U.S. commented that the report by Mutawwakal Taha is “factually incorrect, insensitive, and highly provocative”. While that may be true, this U.S. comment is not — NOT— what is needed. Nor is it helpful…

After weeks of tensions and provocations – and predictions of trouble today – Israeli police enter Al-Aqsa Mosque COMPOUND

Tensions — and provocations — have risen for weeks.

Jordanian intervention recently defused a days-long sit-in by Muslims who heeded an earlier call, during the recent Jewish holidays, to come to defend Al-Aqsa against a reported call by Jewish settlers for their faithful to come to pray inside Al-Aqsa.  A group of about 200 Palestinians slept and prayed inside, while Israeli forces threatened to arrest them when they came outside.  Then, agreement was reached, and those inside departed quietly.

Today, after yet another call for the Muslim faithful to come to protect the Al-Aqsa Mosque, next to the Dome of the Rock on the mosque plateau known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif, the third most sacred site in Islam, the situation appears to be blowing up.

For days, it has been reported that preparations were being made (on both sides) in advance of a demonstration that was supposedly planned by Israeli “far-right extremists” to take place at Al-Aqsa on Sunday.

The feeling that there is incitement and provocation is inescapable — from elements on both sides.

Continue reading After weeks of tensions and provocations – and predictions of trouble today – Israeli police enter Al-Aqsa Mosque COMPOUND

What all the effort and longing is all about — Al-Aqsa and Dome of the Rock on the first Friday in Ramadan

With many thanks to a contributor who wishes to remain anonymous, here are some photos taken at Friday noon and evening prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque (where, if there are large numbers, only the men will pray) and the Dome of The Rock (ususally reserved for women), on the Haram as-Sharif mosque esplanade in the Old City of East Jerusalem.

The first picture shows the Sabil water fountain outside Al-Aqsa Mosque, the next shows people leaving Al-Aqsa after the main Friday prayer, the following five pictures are views of the Dome of the Rock; and the last is Al-Aqsa itself, on Friday night.

First Friday in Ramadan - Al-Aqsa Mosque - noon prayers

The First Friday of Ramadan - people leaving Al-Aqsa Mosque after main Friday prayer

First Friday in Ramadan - Dome of the Rock - evening prayers and crescent moon

First Friday in Ramadan - Dome of the Rock - evening prayers

First Friday in Ramadan - women praying at the Dome of the Rock - 5 Sept 08

First Friday in Ramadan - Dome of the Rock at night - 5 Sept 08

First Friday in Ramadan - Al-Aqsa Mosque at night - 5 Sept 08

Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem – Eid prayers this morning – for the feast of the sacrifice

This morning, the big holiday or Eid prayers were held under under the rain at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. This Eid is the big holiday for Muslims, and it commemorates the sacrifice that Abraham was fortunately stopped from carrying out with his son as the sacrificial offering — so he substituted a sheep, instead. So, to commemorate, Muslims worldwide will traditionally sacrifice a lamb or goat or cow today — and then will prepare a special holiday meal for their families, while giving much of the meat away to the poor.

This feast falls towards the end of the Hajj, or pilgrimage, to Mecca, attended, reportedly, by some three million faithful this year — it is a duty that Muslims should perform, if they are able to do so, at least once in their lifetimes.

Dome of the Rock - Eid al-Adha -

Thanks to Ghaleb, our man on the spot, for the lovely photos.

Eid prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound

Al-Aqsa Mosque – Eid morning

More photos — with acknowledgement and many thanks to him — from Ghaleb Mashni, our “reporter on the spot” at Al-Aqsa Mosque for holiday prayers on the first day of Eid al-Fitr, after the end of the sacred month of Ramadan.

After prayers, in the streets of the Old City of East Jerusalem, trays of Kaak (a delicious, somewhat chewy white bread covered with sesame seeds) for sale, still hot from the oven.

Kaak al-Eid outside Al-Aqsa Mosque


Worshippers milling around on the grounds of the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex — the Dome of the Rock is in the background, shining in the rays of the morning sun on Friday, the first day of Eid, after the end of Ramadan 07. What looks like a Palestinian Authority banner is hung over the arches — apparently wishing the Palestinian faithful a happy holiday.

Worshippers before Eid Prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque


The entrance to Al-Aqsa Mosque itself, on Friday morning, the first day of Eid. Who put up that portrait of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat?

Al-Aqsa Mosque - Eid morning


Families walking through the streets of the Old City in East Jerusalem, on their way to holiday prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque on the first day of Eid.

Families walking through the narrow streets of the Old City of Jerusalem on Friday morning.