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On Jerusalem & the Temple Mount
Israel - Middle East
Friday, January 10, 2014
Alf Cengia

Jerusalem and the Temple Mount are of paramount importance to three of the world's most prominent faiths - Islam, Judaism and Christianity. As circumstances would have it both locations are also smack in the center of one of the world's most historically volatile zones.

Jerusalem is Judaism's holiest city and the Temple Mount is its holiest site. The name Jerusalem appears in the Old Testament some 677 times while the word Zion appears around 153 times (NKJ translation). Prior to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and The Dome of the Rock, which are currently situated on the Temple Mount, there have been two Israelitish Temples. Both have since been destroyed.

The First Temple was built by King Solomon and destroyed some four hundred years later by the Babylonians (circa 586 B.C.). After 70 years of the Babylonian exile, the prophets Nehemiah and Ezra were granted permission to lead a number of Israelites back to Israel, and a Second Temple was built on exactly the same site on the Temple Mount.

Although the Second Temple was not as grand as King Solomon's Temple, Herod made substantial modifications and expansions to it.  It was still considered to be magnificent and, consequently, it is sometimes referred to as "Herod's Temple". But it suffered the same fate as its predecessor. In 70 A.D., after the failure of the Jewish revolt, the Romans destroyed the Second Temple.

The Yiddish play The Dybbuk contains, in part, the following words from a Hassidic Rabbi:

"God's world is great and holy. The holiest land in the world is the land of Israel. In the land of Israel the holiest city is Jerusalem. In Jerusalem the holiest place was the Temple, and in the Temple the holiest spot was the Holy of Holies...."

The Jewish Virtual Library notes that: "To this day, traditional Jews pray three times a day for the Temple's restoration."

In contrast to the Old Testament, Jerusalem is not referred to in the Qur'an. Yet Jerusalem is regarded as Islam's third most holy city, after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia. This is because Muhammad (circa 570-632 A.D.) is said to have undertaken a miraculous one-night journey (610 A.D.) to the farthest Mosque (Al-Aqsa) in Jerusalem, and then to heaven. The identification of the Al-Aqsa Mosque as one of Muhammad's destinations is reliant upon the interpretation of the Hadiths.

As one Palestinian Muslim has noted, "Palestinians must control Arab Jerusalem and Muslim religious sites." Moreover, he wrote:

"Clear focus by Palestinian and Arab Islamists on Jerusalem began to take place after the Israeli occupation of the eastern part of the city in 1967." (Emphasis mine)

The "occupation" which the writer referred to was the 1967 re-capture of old Jerusalem by Israel during its miraculous six-day-war victory, after an unprovoked attack by Arab League Nations (Syria, Egypt, Jordan and Iraq). Before the attack, Egypt's Nasser stated that the aim of the conflict was the "destruction of the State of Israel".

Iraqi President Abdul Rahman Aref said at the time that:

"The existence of Israel is an error which must be rectified. This is our opportunity to wipe out the ignominy which has been with us since 1948. Our goal is clear - to wipe Israel off the map."

The Old City of Jerusalem had been under Jordanian control for 19 years. During that time Old Jerusalem had been "cleansed" of Jews and its synagogues destroyed. Even the Temple Mount area - with its Islamic Mosque - was in a high state of disrepair. Paratroopers prayerfully made their way the Mount, scaled the Dome of the Rock and unfurled the Israeli flag.

When secular Defense Minister Moshe Dayan arrived he ordered the flag to be removed. He then promptly - and ironically, given the situation - handed the entire Temple Mount back to Jordan to be administered by its Muslim religious trust, the Waqf. When asked why he did this, he responded that he didn't want a Third Temple to be built.

Let's just review this event. Israel suffered an unprovoked attack by its Arab League neighbors. The motivation for the attack was Israel's very existence. Jordan lost claimed holy ground during this attack, and yet Israel graciously handed it back. Would this have occurred if the roles were reversed?

As it stands, Jews are not welcome on the Temple Mount. Any praying other than to Allah is strictly forbidden. The Waqf has even surreptitiously removed archeological discoveries that support a previous Jewish occupation.

The Christian response to Jerusalem is varied.

For most Christians the city and surrounding areas are sacred because it was the Holy City of Jesus Christ and His disciples. Some, perhaps in fear of Islamists, and some because an aversion to a strong Jewish influence in Jerusalem, have pushed the idea that it should become an international inter-faith city.

Other Christians have an aversion to Zionism. They deny that a Third Jewish Temple is prophetically valid, or that it should be even allowed from a purely Jewish desire. These Christians operate out of a presupposition that the church is now the true spiritual Israel - of course, that's when they're not arguing that Jesus is the True Israel.

Others have strong anti-Israel and anti-Dispensational temperaments. One of these is E.L.C.A. Minister Barbara Rossing (Rapture Exposed) who wrote glowingly of the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount:

 "The Dome of the Rock is a beautifully proportioned octagonal building, with graceful columned arches covered by turquoise and blue tiles, crowned by a golden dome. Take off your shoes to go inside, and a sense of tranquility and peace surrounds you...." (p 59)

That "sense of tranquility" would immediately evaporate if caught praying to Jehovah, the Holy Spirit, or invoking the name of Jesus Christ there. Part of the inscription in the Dome states:

"O People of the Book! Do not exaggerate in your religion nor utter aught concerning God save the truth. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a Messenger of God, and His Word which He conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from Him. So believe in God and His messengers, and say not 'Three' - Cease!"

There are several obstacles to a Third Jewish Temple.

While I detect a steadily growing interest and movement for a new Temple; in large part Israel is still aloof to the idea. Even if that were to change, there is the problem of where to build it. Most Jewish scholars insist that it must be built on the same site as the previous Temples. That site is understood to be occupied by the Dome of the Rock. 

Yet even if it was discovered that the Dome was not on the Old Temple site, Muslims would still resist any Jewish Temple anywhere near the Temple Mount. In fact one Palestinian report claimed that the Western Wall (Wailing Wall) had no real significance for the Jews!

While space prevents further elaboration, a plain understanding of the Bible demands a future Third Temple. The only way I can see that scenario occurring is with an Israel in sufficiently prominent and confident position.

Could a growing post-secular, pre-Messianic Israel become buoyed and thankful to God by some remarkable victory over its enemies following an attack? Could that attack be spurred by a desire for its newly acquired natural resources? Current events in the Middle East may eventually provide that scenario.

I suspect the desire for a Third Temple is slowly kindling in the heart of Israel today. Though mostly dormant, it is embedded in its psyche. 1967 wasn't God's time - but perhaps soon?

Ecumenical Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Israel, Jordan and "Palestine" in May 2014. He drew attention to what he called an "ecumenism of blood" when he said:

“Those who kill Christians don't ask for your identity card to see which Church you were baptized in.”

He is right. Moreover, those who kill Christians also want to kill the Jews. Much talking will not change that desire. These people do not want a diverse ecumenism thrust upon them. They do not want to share Palestine, Jerusalem or the Temple Mount with anyone, let alone Jews.

"And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it." Zec 12:3

About Alf Cengia

Last week: On Junky Cars & Middle East Peace

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