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The Objective Truth?

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 particular: History.

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 correctness.

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 Jewish character.

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 history?


AM ECHAD RESOURCES

Rabbi Avi Shafran serves as director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America and as American director of Am Echad


 






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