Rabbi Avi Shafran
Among the casualties of the ongoing Arab uprising against Israel has been
something very dear to all cultivated people, and to cultivated Jews in
Whether out of cowardice or something darker, a number of journalists have
lately come to refer to Jerusalem's Temple Mount by its Islamic name,
despite the fact that the site was where Solomon's temple stood more than a
thousand years before Islam's founder's grandparents were even glints in
their own parents' eyes.
It is not only the antiquity of the Mount's connection to the Jewish people
that is trenchant here, but its intensity as well. Even after the Temple
and its successor had been destroyed by foreign armies, Jews the world over
continued - and continue - to venerate the significance of the site, praying
in its direction and (at least the Orthodox among us) for the Temple's
restoration by the hand of God.
The Islamic bond to the Mount is of much more recent appearance and fairly
newfound intensity. Over the many years Jerusalem was in Arab hands, no
major Arab leader ever saw fit to even visit her, much less proclaim her a
central spot in the collective Arab heart.
Yet much of the press feels compelled to treat the Mount's Jewish roots and
Islamic ones as equally deep and equally real. A recent example was The New
York Times' correspondent Joel Greenberg's characterization of the site as
that "of the First and Second Temples of the ancient Jews, sacred to Muslims
as the Noble Sanctuary, where Muhammad ascended to Heaven."
A subtle but astounding indignity lies in that clumsy attempt at political
That Jewish Holy Temples stood on the spot in question is historical fact,
part of the unbroken millennia-old historical tradition of the Jewish people
and corroborated by historians ancient and modern alike. To equate that
historical truth with a fanciful myth is simply beyond bizarre.
The founder of Islam may or may not have traveled to heaven, or elsewhere,
from Jerusalem; but there is certainly no historical evidence that he ever
left the Arabian Peninsula, nothing but sectarian legend behind the claim
that he did. Why then is Mr. Greenberg speaking of the existence of the
Temples and the "night flight" in, so to speak, the same breath?
That Arab and Islamic leaders and writers, sadly, have demonstrated utter
contempt for inconvenient facts of history is well documented. They
regularly deny the fact of the Holocaust, and assert that Jews murder
non-Jews to gather their blood for Passover matzos (a recent such accusation
appeared only recently in Al-Ahram, Egypt's leading newspaper and a
government organ). It should not surprise anyone that they are now trying
to deny the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount. In fact, that assault on
history is taking place not only in word but in deed: The Waqf, the Islamic
authority that oversees the mosques currently on the Mount, has been
reported by archaeologists to be systematically excavating and destroying
relics on the Temple Mount, presumably in an attempt to obscure signs of its
But for reporters to join that effort, however good their intentions or
subtle their words, is beyond justification and beyond comprehension.
Journalism, after all, is supposed to be about presenting objective truths,
not abetting malevolent lies.
Jewish tradition teaches that the highest response to personal adversity is
the determination to better oneself, and that the highest response to
national adversity is a similar determination on a national scale.
As we Jews regard the intensifying assault by our enemies on our history,
and its widening acceptance by the larger world, we might do well to ponder
whether it may be a message to us that we have not been paying sufficient
attention to that history ourselves.
Because our illustrious past, after all, contains not only a historical
account of the second and first Temple eras but of the very ground-zero of
the Jewish people, God's revelation to us at Sinai. Might not our
determined reconnection to that event, our re-embrace of its mandate for our
priorities and our lives, be the way to end the ongoing assault on our
AM ECHAD RESOURCES
Rabbi Avi Shafran serves as director of public affairs for Agudath Israel
of America and as American director of Am Echad