The Temple Mount (for the Muslims, Haram al-Sharif) is the holiest site in Judaism, the place where both the First and Second Temples were built and then destroyed, the first in 586 B.C. by the Babylonians, and the second by the Romans in 70 A.D.
It is also the third holiest site in Islam, after the Ka’ in Mecca and the Prophet’s Mosque (al-Masjid an-Nabawi) in Medina. But to hear NPR and the BBC report on the site, the “Haram al-Sharif is the third sacred site in Islam, also known to Israelis as the Temple Mount.” “Temple Mount” is very much an afterthought. it’s not so much its real name as it is how “the Israeli Jews” refer to it.
Now Jordan has decided to rip off its mask of seeming moderation and insists that Jews have no legitimate claim to any part of the Temple Mount. More on this Jordanian claim can be found here: “Jordan’s Foreign Ministry reiterates that the Temple Mount – and the Kotel – must be Judenrein,” Elder of Ziyon, April 9, 2023:
The Jordanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement today saying that the holiest site in Judaism must never have Jews.
The Ministry condemned the “storming of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque / Al-Haram Al-Sharif.” which it says “constitutes a violation of the historical and legal status quo existing in the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque and a violation of the sanctity of the holy places.”
The so-called “storming” of the Al-Aqsa Mosque by Israeli police was nothing of the sort. The Israeli police tried at great length to reason with the Muslims who had barricaded themselves inside the Mosque, hoping to spend the night there in order to emerge bright and early the next morning, armed with rocks, bottles, and fireworks, intending to hurl them at Jewish visitors on the Mount, and on Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall far below. The Israeli police finally concluded they had no choice but to forcibly enter the Mosque, in order to seize the would-be perpetrators and prevent their planned attack on Israeli Jews the next morning. The rioters inside threw rocks and bottles at the police, who responded by using batons to subdue the rioters, then collaring and dragging them out of Al-Aqsa.
The “violation of the historical and legal status “ of Al-Aqsa, that Israel is accused of having committed, was carried out by the Palestinians themselves. It was they who turned what is supposed to be a house of worship –“the third holiest site in Islam — into a storehouse for weapons, including rocks, bottles, and fireworks. It was they, the Palestinians themselves, who treated Al-Aqsa not just as a place to stockpile weapons, but as a fortress inside of which they threw rocks at Jewish police and visitors, and armed themselves with rocks to take with them when they finally exited, to continue to battle with the police throughout the Al-Aqsa compound. .
The official spokesman for the ministry, Ambassador Sinan Al-Majali, stressed that Al-Aqsa Mosque, with its entire area of 144 dunums [36 acres], is “a place of worship for Muslims only.”
When did the Temple Mount become a “place of worship for Muslims only”? Not during the nearly three thousand years — since 1000 B.C. — since Jews worshiped there, at a time when not a single Muslim had yet arrived in Jerusalem, because Islam itself had not yet been invented. Not during all the years since then,, when under Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Crusader, Ottoman, and British rulers, Jews continued to worship on the Temple Mount and at the Western Wall. In the entire history of Jerusalem, there was only one brief interval when Jews were forbidden from worshipping on the Temple Mount, and from praying at the Western Wall. That was during the 19 years of rule by Jordan, from 1949 to 1967. And the only reason Jews now observe a “status quo” by which they are held to refrain from praying openly, or even silently mouthing prayers, is because in June 1967, Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, without consulting anyone, established that rule, most foolishly, and it has been enforced by Israeli police ever since.
It is absurd, and intolerable, for the Jordanian Minister to declare that the Temple Mount is “for Muslims only.” There were Jews, not Muslims, who worshipped at the First Temple, that had been built by Jewish workmen beginning circa 1000 B.C., completing the enormous structure in 957 B.C. There were Jews, not Muslims, in Jerusalem who witnessed the. building of the First Temple, and oher Jews who witnessed the destruction of that same First Temple by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. There were Jews, not Muslims, who built the Second Temple by 516 B.C. And it was Jews, not Muslims, who witnessed the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 A.D. Not a single Muslim existed anywhere in the world until the 3rd decade of the 7th century.
Majali [the Jordanian minister] added “the Israeli government bears responsibility for the escalation in Jerusalem and in all the occupied Palestinian territories, and for the deterioration that will worsen, if it does not stop these incursions into Al-Aqsa.”
What are the boundaries of Al Aqsa? Well, they include the Kotel. The Jordanian government considers the Kotel to be a part of Al Aqsa Mosque, and therefore they are saying that Jews have no right to be there, either, except perhaps for very limited times when the Ottoman Empire allowed Jews to visit since 1852, which they consider the beginning of the “status quo.”
The “Kotel” is the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism. It is the last remnant of the original retaining wall which surrounded the Second Temple, which was built over 2,600 years ago. The Al-Aqsa Mosque was built much later, in 1035, on top of the Temple Mount, where in 70 A.D. the Second Temple had been destroyed. But recently, the Muslims have been referring to the entirety of the Temple Mount as “Al-Aqsa,” that is, conflating the mosque with the mosque compound, as a way to subtly lay claim to the entire 36-acre compound.
The Jordanian government may consider the Western Wall (Kotel) to be “part of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.” But no historian would agree. The Al-Aqsa Mosque sits on the northwest part of the Temple Mount, at a considerable remove from the Western Wall. That Wall was never considered part of either the Al-Aqsa Mosque or of the more expansive Al-Aqsa compound, either by Jews or by anyone else, until the day before yesterday, when the Muslims made their astonishing claim. And the people in Amman know this perfectly well.