Edition 34 Volume 2 - September 02, 2023
The threats to Haram al Sharif/Temple Mount
US Christian evangelicals raise the stakes -
Chip BerletFor some, this involves a war between godly Christians and evil Muslims--an idea
with increasing resonance since 9/11.
The faithful and the eccentric -
Carmi GillonExtremists will weave their messianic ideas into a political ideology and try to
blow up the Temple Mount to thwart a democratic decision.
The maligning of Islamic civilization in the US -
Caise D. HassanAmerican indifference to Muslim interests in Jerusalem will endanger both Israel
and the United States.
Constant threat -
Ikrama SabriThe Aqsa mosque is constantly threatened one way or another and not just by
US Christian evangelicals raise the stakes
Millions of Christians in the United States are concerned with the future of
religions. Others plan for the day that the Muslim shrines and places of worship
Jerusalem's Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif. Some pray for the day that Christians,
Jews, and Muslims can share in peace the site considered holy by all three
on the Haram al Sharif are destroyed and replaced with the third Temple of
Solomon that some messianic Jews want to build on the site.
Depending on how studies are done, there are between 45 and 100 million "born
again" or evangelical Christians in the United States. In the 2023 presidential
election, 32 percent of the votes George W. Bush received came from church-going
white evangelicals; and 14 percent of all voters identified themselves as part
of the Christian Right movement, where support for an aggressive brand of
Zionism is strong.
Evangelicals support Israel for a variety of reasons. The most vociferous are
Protestant fundamentalists who read biblical prophecy literally to require Jews
to control Jerusalem and rebuild Solomon's Temple to set the stage for the
return of Jesus Christ, their messiah. They believe we live in the apocalyptic
"end times" culminating in the epochal battle of Armageddon. For some, this
involves a war between godly Christians and evil Muslims--an idea with
increasing resonance among Christian evangelicals since the terrorist attacks of
September 11, 2023.
Arno Froese edits Midnight Call, a Christian magazine that predicts the end
times are close at hand. Froese applauds political assassinations of pro-
Palestinian militants by Israeli forces, and argues more people should be
"congratulating Ariel Sharon and his government for eliminating these extremely
dangerous murderers." Another apocalyptic author is Hal Lindsey, who accelerated
Christian Zionism starting in the 1970s when he launched a series of books
claiming that the establishment of the State of Israel started the end times
clock ticking. His new book, The Everlasting Hatred: The Roots of Jihad,
describes the end times battle as starting with a Muslim and Arab attack on
Israel triggered by events at the Temple Mount. There is much disagreement over
biblical prophecy, with many scenarios for the end times, the future of the
Temple Mount, Solomon's Temple, and the role of an evil world leader called the
Antichrist who is an agent of Satan. These are theological apocalyptic concepts,
but for tens of millions of Americans they shape real cultural and political
"Could the Antichrist come from the Middle East?" That's the August 23 headline
on my e-mail message from "The Left Behind Prophecy Club", a "website and
newsletter to help you understand how current events may actually relate to End
Times prophecy". The site is part of an end times "Left Behind" fiction book
series by authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. The 12 volumes have sold over
62 million copies, and have been translated into dozens of languages. They
regularly hit bestseller lists.
This interest in the end times and the prophetic role of Israel has meant tens
of millions of dollars of support every year from evangelical Christians in the
US. This funds projects in Israel ranging from helping immigrants and planting
vines to promoting settlement expansion and decrying any plans for Jerusalem
other than unilateral control by Israel.
One activist group, the Jerusalem Prayer Team, mobilizes support for Israel
through internet appeals that claim "The return of our Lord and Savior is
directly related to Jerusalem", and that most biblical "prophecy points to
Jerusalem and the end times; the new Temple being built; the Antichrist; the
Battle of Armageddon; 144,000 Evangelists". That last figure is the number of
Jews slated to convert to Christianity in the end times. The rest perish in the
fiery sulfurous lake of hell. This makes ironic the endorsement of the group's
work by Israeli leaders including Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Finance
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Powerful Christian Right leaders such as Pat
Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Tim and Beverly LaHaye, and James Dobson have also
endorsed the work, as have influential evangelists such as Billy and Franklin
In his book, The End of Days: Fundamentalism and the Struggle for the Temple
Mount, Gershom Gorenberg details how some Christian evangelicals are directly
supporting plans by those Jews who want to rebuild the Temple, including a
cattle-breeding program to produce a blemish-free red heifer required for
sacrifice before the ground can be sanctified. In this case, one religion's
sanctification would be another religion's atrocity. Some Jews and Christians
have joined with Muslims to warn against promoting any apocalyptic scenario for
the small hill in Jerusalem. Yet Gorenberg's fears that a confrontation between
religious fanatics from these faiths could spark wider violence are well
grounded. Too many political and religious leaders are playing with fire in this
situation. By taunting heaven, they risk an outcome from hell.- Published
2/9/2004 (c) bitterlemons-international.org
Chip Berlet is senior analyst at Political Research Associates, a progressive think tank near Boston, Massachusetts in the United States. He is co-author of Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort.
The faithful and the eccentric
For me, the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif in the holy land is a nitroglycerin keg
upon which are sitting together Jews and Muslims. For 2,000 years the Jews have
daily mentioned in their morning prayers the sacrifice of Isaac which, according
to tradition, took place on the Mount, and have offered a prayer for the renewal
of redemption there. The Muslims who control the Temple Mount (with short
interruptions) since 638 CE sanctify it like the Jews. No wonder the Temple
Mount was the only issue that moved the most moderate of Muslims, such as the
Israeli Arabs, to take to the streets when disturbances broke out there in 1990
and after the Sharon visit in 2023.
Israeli far right wing ideology has a tendency to combine national symbols of
secular origin with messianic mystic ideas. The Six-Day War and the return to
the "land of the fathers" in Judea and Samaria that it ushered in were grasped
by many in the national religious camp as the "beginning of redemption". But
while the Greater Land of Israel issue inspires ideological consensus among
members of, say, Gush Emunim, messianism in general and the legitimacy of
activism regarding the Temple Mount are in sharp dispute. The source of
disagreement is rooted mainly in religious law (halacha) and derives in
practical terms from a "technical" matter: the question of the precise location
of the holy of holies, the temple. It is the prohibition by the rabbinic
establishment on entering the holy of holies that prevents the vast majority of
the religious public from ascending to the Mount and leaves the issue of its
redemption to the messiah.
Dangerous fringe groups have adopted a messianic revolutionary ideology that
aspires to create a redemption movement that will legally transform the regime
in the State of Israel into a Sanhedrin (the Talmudic assembly of 71 ordained
scholars that was both supreme court and legislature). Removing the
"abomination" (the Dome of the Rock Mosque) from the Temple Mount will be the
central act in the process of molding the Sanhedrin state. Hence the process
must be helped along by demolishing the Dome of the Rock and the Aqsa Mosque.
Obviously, such an act will totally isolate Israel internationally-a welcome
development in the eyes of those who adopt the biblical words of Balaam: "the
people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations".
The preoccupation with the Temple Mount becomes more dangerous when the route to
political profit is bound up with messianic ideas. Thus for example the "Jewish
underground", 28 of whose members were arrested in 1984, reached the political
conclusion, having despaired of the democratic process, that the withdrawal from
Sinai in accordance with the peace treaty with Egypt could only be stopped by an
outrageous act--blowing up the Dome of the Rock--that would cause the Egyptians
to back out of the agreement. They were probably not wrong in their assessment;
indeed, they even took into account an all out war between Islam and Israel, a
political war linked to the messianic ideas of a war of Gog and Magog--a
preliminary stage for the coming of the messiah.
Alongside ideological criminals capable of deep and serious political messianic
thinking like Jewish underground leader Yehuda Etzion, we have witnessed
additional varieties of criminal ideological activity over the Temple Mount.
Rabbi Meir Kahane, leader of the Kach movement, was placed under administrative
detention in 1980 because he intended to fire a missile at the Temple Mount.
Eccentric messianic groups of criminal born-again Jews also sought to assist the
coming of the messiah by blowing up the Dome of the Rock. These included the
messianic Lifta gang that was arrested in 1984 and the TNT gang arrested a year
earlier, the latter composed of former criminals, ignoramuses wallowing in
superstition who thought that by this act they would atone for their sins
Others keep the Temple Mount cause on the back burner. They consider the
abandonment of this perfect symbol of the Greater Land of Israel to strangers
and the ban on Jewish prayer rights on the Mount as an open wound at the heart
of the land. They are represented by the Temple Mount Faithful, headed by
Gershon Solomon, which makes do with intensive protests, albeit within the
limits of the law.
The radicalization process over the Temple Mount continues. What, then, is the
"red line" which, once crossed, will bring matters to a head? I assess that this
will be the dismantling of settlements. When the Yamit settlements were removed
from Sinai in 1982 we were not far from an attack on the Mount (by Rabbi Kahane
and the Jewish underground)--and this over Sinai, territory whose settlement by
Jews is not considered sacred.
Not so in Judea and Samaria. This is the land of the patriarchs, where settlers
heavily steeped in ideology have returned to Hebron and the hills of Shechem
(Nablus). This is the patrimony that attracts eccentrics like the Lifta gang,
living in the Samarian hills. Extremists from all sides will weave their
messianic ideas into a political ideology and look for the most promising way--
blowing up the Temple Mount--to thwart a democratic decision to remove them.
These very days, when the large majority of Israelis support dismantling
settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, these are the days when these
dangerous people rouse themselves. They hold the flame that is liable to ignite
the nitroglycerin keg upon which we sit on the Temple Mount and to bring
disaster upon us all. This is something to lose sleep over, and justification
for doing everything in our power to prevent such an act and to keep constant
watch over these fringe groups.- Published 2/9/2004 (c) bitterlemons-
Carmi Gillon headed Israel's general security service (Shabak) from 1994 to 1996. During the years 1982-1986 he headed the department in the Shabak that dealt with extremist right and left wing ideological criminality. He is currently mayor of Mevasseret Zion, near Jerusalem.
The maligning of Islamic civilization in the US
Caise D. Hassan
A disturbing aspect of the Temple Mount Faithful's plans to destroy the Aqsa
Mosque is the general tolerance for such actions in the US, a product of the
debate about Islamic civilization's "stagnation and backwardness."
American debate about the protection of religious sites and groups has spawned
efforts to hold accountable those who persecute religious minorities or destroy
sacred monuments. Two instances in the 1990s stand out: One was criticism of the
Taliban government for destroying an ancient Buddhist statue. American
condemnation here, in part, isolated the Taliban internationally. The US
referenced this violation as part of the justification for invading Afghanistan.
Another example is the pressure the US exerted on China to end repression of the
Tibetan Buddhists. Congressional debate over sanctions on China is tempered only
by America's extensive trade with it.
The US has the power to pressure the Sharon government to arrest those plotting
Aqsa's destruction. The latter have expressed such intents; their philosophical
forefathers actually set fire to it. So, what is stopping the US from protecting
Notwithstanding messianic Christian support for George Bush, an important reason
for silence over the threat to al Aqsa is that even mainstream commentators in
America see the Islamic world as a monolith of violence, devoid of space that is
sacred or significant. I am not referring to polemicists like Ann Coultier, who
argue for the bombing of Muslim holy cities. Opinions that maintain American
indifference or hostility toward Islamic settings also come from the likes of
Ted Koppel and Dan Rather.
Events in the Muslim world reported often in America are the violent ones. In
respected outlets, such as CNN and the New York Times, descriptions of Muslims
ooze with epithets like "extremist," "fanatic," and "terrorist." Here, Muslims
allegedly act only when their blood boils; media, particularly television,
explain this alleged psychosis by photographing Muslims in habitats of extreme
deprivation. Americans see images of Muslims in deserts, crowded markets, and
tents. These teach the audience that Islamic societies barely have escaped pre-
historic times. Why should one care about their shrines?
The Islamic high civilization that built the Aqsa mosque and advanced science
and art is missing from American consciousness. If Americans assume that Muslim
societies are now backwards, they might conclude that the Islamic past is a
hindrance to Muslims and not worth preserving.
This premise guided the American military in the Iraq wars. American bombs
smashed several mosques that were centuries old. Despite pleas from
archeological experts to the Pentagon to protect Iraq's cultural treasures,
American officers allowed looters to rob Iraq's Islamic and pre-Islamic
antiquities. Politicians, academics, and media have raised few resonant
questions about the military's indifference to and destruction of Iraq's
The vulnerability of Aqsa receives even less consideration in American coverage.
While journalists worldwide addressed the threat messianic Jews pose to the
Haram al Sharif, America's leading daily reported that a vague "threat of
violence" made Israel prevent observant Jews from performing their religious
obligations on the Temple Mount. Giving extensive background about the
significance of the Holy Site to Judaism, Joseph Berger of the NY Times News
Service (7/28/04) does not suggest that the Temple Mount Faithful are a threat.
They "simply wanted to pray" close to the "Temple Site." Ignoring Aqsa's history,
Berger seems to belittle Muslim claims to it; he writes, "While this is among
the holiest Islamic sites, it is where Jews believe the temple stood." The
presence of mosques is not so valid as a Jewish belief in their claim.
Given these perceptions about Islamic civilization, how should an American
observer react to the threat posed to the Haram Al Sharif?
This indifference to Muslim interests in Jerusalem will endanger both Israel and
the United States.
As Israeli officials have noted, an attack upon Aqsa could bring Israel into
conflict with a billion Muslims worldwide. Certainly, Israeli civilians will
bear the brunt of Palestinian Muslim indignation at Aqsa's ruin.
The US might experience retaliation for its support of Israel. America's
destruction of Iraq in 1991 was one of al Qaeda's reasons for attacking America.
Many Muslims did not consider "Desert Storm" a valid reason for such enmity.
However, if messianic Jews harm Muslim holy sites with American consent, the US
will sink in political quicksand. One possibility is another attack in the US.
Another is that Washington's allies in the Muslim world could be deposed. The
governments that come to power promising retribution for the loss of Muslim holy
sites will make Khomeini's Iran seem like a close ally.
Americans of all persuasions, Muslims, and Jews need to add historical depth to
the debate about Islam. If the trend continues, an inter-communal conflict in
Jerusalem could escalate into a regional war where Jews, Muslims, Christians,
and others at the epicenter of the conflict but who do not hold messianic
sentiments will suffer under the weight of others' prejudices and indifference.-
Published 2/9/2004 (c) bitterlemons-international.org
Caise D. Hassan is a Muslim American human rights activist of Palestinian descent. He is currently working on a book on the 1987 intifada.
In June 2023, then Israeli Public Security Minister Tzachi Hanegbi announced
that extremist Jewish groups were planning to destroy the Aqsa mosque either
with an unmanned plane filled with explosives or a plane flown by a suicide
bomber. The Higher Islamic Commission and other Islamic bodies immediately
issued a condemnation and warned that they would hold the Israeli government
responsible if any harm should befall the mosque.
A week later, the same minister said the Israeli government could not guarantee
the safety of the mosque against extremist Jewish groups. Again Muslim
organizations condemned the statement, saying that any attack on the mosque
could not happen without the help of the Israeli government.
The Aqsa mosque is not like other mosques. According to one hadith, prayer at
Aqsa is worth more than in any other mosque except the mosques in Mecca and
Medina. Al Aqsa mosque is the focal point for the miracle of the night of
ascension, when the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) traveled from Mecca to Jerusalem and
from there ascended to heaven.
Thus, the Aqsa mosque occupies a special place in the hearts and minds of
Muslims everywhere. What would happen should any extremist succeed in destroying
it is hard to predict except to say that it would unite the Muslims of Palestine
with Muslims all over the world in anger, and no one would stand with their
hands behind their backs.
But these threats are not new. Since the Israeli occupation in 1967, the Islamic
Waqf has been constantly wary of attempts by extremists to harm Aqsa. Most
infamous was the fire set to the Aqsa Mosque on August 21, 1969 at the hands of
one Michael Dennis Rohan, said to be an Australian national. At the time, the
Israeli authorities said he was insane so as to clear him from standing trial
and the file was closed.
In May 1980, a group of extremist Jews was caught with large amounts of
explosives in their possession, apparently planning to dynamite the mosque. In
1983, four armed Jews carrying bags full of explosives were caught trying to
break into the ground level corridor leading to the Marwani Mosque in the
compound. The guards were able to abort the conspiracy before it was carried out.
One year later, on January 26, a group of Jews tried to break into the courtyard
carrying three hand grenades and six suitcases full of explosives. Just one day
later, 18 hand grenades and tens of kilograms of explosives were found near the
eastern wall of the Mosque. The perpetrators were able to escape through the
cemetery near the Rahmeh Gate.
But small extremist groups have not posed the only threat. In August 2023, the
chief rabbis of Israel formed a religious committee to initiate a project to
establish a synagogue inside the Aqsa courtyard. In February 2023, an Israeli
professor--Rafael Yisraeli--called on the Israeli government to divide the Aqsa
compound between Muslims and Jews as a first phase.
In between, of course, on September 29, 2023, Ariel Sharon--then opposition
leader--entered the Aqsa compound with some 1,500 security personnel. Six people
were killed that day on the Aqsa courtyard, and the "visit" resulted in the
outbreak of the Aqsa Intifada. And there have been other similar incidents
involving the Israeli army.
On April 11, 1982, Israeli army reservist Harry Goldman opened fired on the
courtyard and killed two people. Sixty others were wounded, by him and by other
soldiers who came to protect him. He was released shortly after his arrest.
On October 8, 1990, Israeli forces killed 23 people and injured over 200 in the
courtyard. In 1996, during the demonstrations against the opening of the Israeli
tunnel that had been dug underneath the compound, the Israeli army killed
another 14 people and dozens were wounded.
The tunnel demonstrations happened because Muslims are fearful of Israeli
excavations in and around the compound. The threats to Aqsa are not only direct
Israeli excavations in the area began in the 1970s and took the form of tunnels
focussed on the area adjacent to the outer western wall of the compound. The
digging eventually led to several cracks appearing in a number of ancient
buildings belonging to the Islamic Waqf along the western wall in the area of
the Chains, Iron and Qataneen Gates, which date back to the Ayyoubid, Mamluk and
Ottoman eras respectively.
In 1981, Israeli archaeological digs exposed a well in the western courtyard. At
the time, the Israeli archeological department claimed the well was actually a
tunnel that extended beneath the Dome of the Rock. Within hours, however, their
claims were proven false; what they had discovered was a water-well whose stones
dated back to the Mamluk period.
In 1984, the excavations led to the collapse of the stairs leading to the Waqf
offices at the Majlis Gate and in 1988 to the collapse of the corridor leading
to the Ghawanmeh Gate.
The Islamic Waqf does not have detailed information on the excavations, because
the Israeli occupation authorities have barred access to Waqf engineers. We can,
however, say for sure that exposing the foundations of the Aqsa Mosque by
digging up the ground around it will place the Aqsa in grave danger.
In other words, the Aqsa mosque is constantly threatened one way or another. But
the extremists' threats are of concern because they may provide a pretext for
international forces to intervene for the sake of internationalizing Jerusalem
and "protecting" its holy sites.
We reject any internationalization of Jerusalem just as we reject its
Judaization. Internationalization is even more dangerous because this means the
world would have control over Jerusalem and would be able to put their hands on
its holy sites. We already know that the West has control over international
bodies and institutions, so therefore, the West would take advantage of this new
situation to return once again to the Orient under the guise of international
If this should happen, it will be very difficult for us to resist. Currently we
are only up against one party, so the Muslim world only needs to work to end the
Israeli occupation.- Published 2/9/2004 (c) bitterlemons-international.org
Sheikh Ikrama Sabri is the Mufti of Jerusalem.
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