CHARLOTTE, NC, July 7, 2017 – There is arguably no site in religion that symbolizes the complexities of modern day faith more than the Temple Mount in Old Jerusalem. Christians, Jews and Muslims alike regard the site as a critical aspect of their beliefs and, as such, no other place in the world receives such a concentration of conflict.
The Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism, regards it as the place where God’s divine presence is manifested more than any other.
Muslims call the site the Noble Sanctuary or Haram al-Sharif, which contains the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Regarded as the third most important site in Islam behind Mecca and Medina, the mosque is said to be the place where Muhammad was transported from the Sacred Mosque in Mecca to al-Aqsa during what is known as “the Night Journey.
Here Muhammad led other prophets in prayer before ascending to the heavens and speaking to God afterward. Observance of Muhammad’s “Ascension” is one of the most significant events in Islam.
With that simplified background, it is easy to see where conflicts can erupt even without adding the dimension of Christianity which adds a third element to an already complex equation.
It should come as no surprise then when two Israeli policemen were murdered at the Temple Mount by Israeli-Arab terrorists on Friday that chaos erupted in the center of the ancient city causing the holy site to be shut down temporarily.
By Sunday Israel had partially reopened the Temple Mount complex allowing only Muslim residents to enter. But, as always, there was more to the controversy.
Metal detectors were installed for additional security and that brought about protests outside the entrances. A scattering of worshipers entered the building but most chose to send their message by protesting outside. Normally there are thousands of visitors on any given day.
Normally there are thousands of visitors on any given day.
Though the Temple Mount has been controlled by all three major religions throughout its history, it is currently operated by Muslims who have managed the grounds since 1187.
An Islamic waqf, which literally means “to stop, contain, or to preserve,” is in charge of the daily operations of the location. In shari’ah, a Waqf “is a voluntary, permanent, irrevocable dedication of a portion of one’s wealth – in cash or kind – to Allah.”
Before Friday there were eleven entrance gates; ten of which were reserved for Muslims and one for non-Muslims. Israeli police had guard posts in the vicinity of each gate.
Shortly after the Six-Day War in 1967, a meeting was held at al-Aqsa between Moshe Dayan and Muslim religious authorities of Jerusalem. According to the agreement, Jews were given the right to visit the Temple Mount unobstructed and free of charge so long as they respected Muslims’ religious feelings and acted decently.
They were not allowed to pray however, and that decision was strictly enforced.
After the attack on Friday, the site was shut down until Sunday. However, when the Temple Mount reopened, Waqf officials protested the metal detectors and security measures enacted, refusing to enter.
Police claimed that Waqf officials were not required to pass through the new security checks, but the presence of the electronic security became a major source of controversy.
The situation intensified Monday morning when police allowed a group of Jews onto the Temple Mount when there were no Muslim (Waqf) officials or Islamic present. This meant that those who previously harassed Jews, were for the first time year, not there. Jews were able to enter the holy site without conflict.
Reports said there were no cries of “Allahu Ahkbar” and police appeared to be less fearful of riots or violence by Muslims because none were present. In addition, it was also said that law enforcement personnel seemed considerably less concerned with what the Jews were doing during their visit.
Some Jewish observers see this as a major turning point at the site. They believe it to be transition which could have important ramifications over time.
Whether or not Waqf officials will retake their positions or the metal detectors will be removed or some other incident will further complicate the situation remains to be seen.
Old Jerusalem has been and will be in the future, a place where the three opposing religions converge, and where there will always be the struggle to allow each religion to worship according to their personal beliefs.
About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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