In his first official communication with new US President George W. Bush on Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak declared that handing over the Temple Mount to the Palestinians would be an act of "betrayal."
"The Temple Mount is the cradle of Jewish history," Barak wrote in a letter to Bush. "And there is no way that I would sign a document transferring sovereignty over the Temple Mount to the hands of the Palestinians. For Israel this would constitute a betrayal of her Holy of Holies." The statements stand in sharp contrast to persistent press reports that the Barak government has recently offered the Palestinians control over the Muslim shrines on the Temple Mount and other parts of the Old City in Jerusalem.
In a related development, despite incessant claims by Islamic Waqf officials that there is no historic Jewish connection to the Temple Mount, a booklet about the site published by the supreme Muslim body in Jerusalem in 1930, during the British Mandate, states categorically that the Mount's identification with the First Jewish Temple is "beyond dispute."
In the 70-year-old English-language guide for tourists, entitled "A Brief Guide to al-Haram al-Sharif," Muslim officials stated: "The site is one of the oldest in the world. Its sanctity dates from the earliest times. Its identity with the site of Solomon's Temple is beyond dispute. This, too, is the spot, according to universal belief, on which David built there an altar unto the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings." A footnote refers the reader to II Samuel 24:25.
The focus of the booklet is inevitably the reported Muslim connection to the site, but Judaism's unequivocal connection appears more than once. Describing the area of Solomon's Stables, which Islamic Waqf officials converted into a new mosque in 1996, the guide states: "...little is known for certain about the early history of the chamber itself. It dates probably as far back as the construction of Solomon's Temple... According to Josephus, it was in existence and was used as a place of refuge by the Jews at the time of the conquest of Jerusalem by Titus in the year 70 A.D."
The guide also refers to a small chamber in the vast subterranean structure, "which was believed in medieval times to have been associated with Jesus Christ's infancy, a belief that was prevalent long before the advent of the Crusaders."
But now that Israel has sovereignty over the Temple Mount, the Waqf has been pressing a different stance. Earlier this week, Jerusalem Mufti Ekrima Sabri insisted, "There is not [even] the smallest indication of the existence of a Jewish temple on this place in the past. In the whole city, there is not even a single stone indicating Jewish history."
Nonetheless, it is still possible to find the rare Muslim cleric who can accept Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem. One such sheikh is Prof. Abdul Hadi Palazzi, imam of Italy's Islamic community, who has recently voiced support for the right of the Jewish people to the Temple Mount, so long as Muslim rights of access and worship are guaranteed.
Used with Permission from International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.