Proposed Future of Temple Mount
January 27, 2007
Last week at a conference on 3rd party involvement in the Middle East peace process, Professor Ginat stressed the importance of defining the future management of holy places in Jerusalem after a two state solution is brokered.
Jerusalem and specifically the Temple Mount has long been the center of controversy between the Muslims and the Jewish people. Today the Jewish people are seldom allowed on the Temple Mount, and those who dare set foot on the Mount are denied the right to pray or even read prayers or scriptures in the Temple Mount area.
Since Jerusalem's reunification in the Six Day War of 1967, Israel has held territorial control of all of Jerusalem. Israel relinquished management of all holy places back to their perspective religions as a unilateral gesture of good will. The Temple Mount was no exception and the management of Judaism's most holy site was turned over to the Waqf (Muslim Trust) on June 17, 1967. Former mayor of Jerusalem Teddy Kollek said concerning Israel's decision, "This was a new, extremely generous, status quo, which the Muslims never properly appreciated. …, this was an immense concession which Israel had taken upon itself unilaterally. The holiest site in Judaism, where the foundations of both Temples are buried, the symbol of Jewish independence and destruction, was to continue to be run by a Muslim religious authority - and furthermore, Jews were to be forbidden to pray there."
According to Professor Ginat the situation may soon change. As a result of dialogue with members from Jordan, Palestinian Authority, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, concessions may be soon coming in allowing the Jewish people a place to pray on the Temple Mount. "Our proposal includes a section where the Jewish people could pray on the Temple Mount close to the wall, the western wall, in the eastern side of the wall (inside the Temple Mount complex). We could enter where tourists enter today and take to the north and someplace there would be assigned a place for Jews to pray without any building, a synagogue or any other building. A Muslim committee will decide how many people could come, but it has to be at least ten because of the ‘Minion' of Judaism. The area would be closed to the Jews on Fridays (the Muslim holy day) and on Muslim holidays."
He goes on to explain that the decision was unanimous with one abstention. Professor Ginat said, "I spoke about this issue to Muslim leaders in different countries and they didn't see anything wrong with it. Some of them met here (in Jerusalem) with the chief rabbis."
Implementation of the plan would depend upon a neutral 3rd party yet to be named to handle security and access to the Temple Mount.
Many religious Jews even today will not even set foot on the Temple Mount for fear of desecrating the Holy of Holies (A section of the Temple where the Ark of the Covenant once stood). Orthodox rabbis stand at the entrance of the Temple Mount imploring Jewish people to refrain from entering the complex for fear of stepping on this sacred ground.
Professor Ginat explains that the southern half of the Temple Mount complex was erected by Herod the Great around 30 BC while the second Temple was standing. The southern half of the Temple Mount is then completely safe for the Jewish people to tread upon without fear of desecrating the holy site.
This unanimous proposal indicates that Israel and her surrounding Arab neighbors are concerned with a solution to this delicate issue. Professor Ginat was hopeful for a solution and commented, "We welcome the issue of a solution to the Temple Mount. The Temple Mount issue is not very difficult as other subjects to solve…" For the moment though, the future of Jerusalem and Judaism's most holy site, The Temple Mount, is yet to be decided.