Jerusalem’s Temple Mount epitomizes everything that makes the need for interfaith understanding--REAL interfaith understanding and not obequiousness masquerading as such--absolutely imperative. It is also a microcosm for the entire Middle East conflict. Called haram al-Sharif by Arabs and har ha-bayt by Jews, the Temple Mount represents the single greatest opportunity for Middle East peace, as well as being a potential symbol of interfaith cooperation of monumental proportions. Instead, Arabs—not Israelis—have politicized it into an anti-Israeli cudgel for extremism. The effort began with those who most adamantly reject any Jewish State and soon became an article of Arab faith. It infiltrated and has been supported by virtually every one of their social and political institutions, ever fearful of deviating from the orthodoxy of hate that informs their societies, and is enforced by their autocratic leaders and secret police. This form of revisionist history--at least as destructive as that carried out by Stalinists and all other despots--that has become generally accepted in most of the Muslim world and among many elites in non-Muslim nations, as well. Let us be clear, however, that the conflict is not due to Islam but to its politicization by internationalist ideologies.
Ever since Israel reclaimed the Temple Mount and the Old City of Jerusalem in 1967, that nation has been committed to protecting Muslim prayer at the site, even to the exclusion of Jewish prayer. That is a difficult truth for Jews wishing even to utter a prayer of thanks to God at their religion’s holiest site. The reality is that Israel—not the Palestinian Authority, not Jordan, not Saudi Arabia, and certainly not the radicals issuing their genocidal threats and falsehoods from Iran—has been the great defender of Al Aqsa and Muslim rights since 1967. One would expect this to be cause for building the greatest interfaith coalition that the Middle East, and perhaps the world, has ever seen. In fact, I have participated in an ongoing dialogue with fundamentalist Muslims who see common cause with believing Jews in defending our two faiths against attack. Perhaps if Jews and Muslims, Arabs and Israelis could find common ground here, it would be the cornerstone for true peace in the Middle East. Imagine: the Jewish State defending Muslim rights; Muslims and Jews together sharing this most holy religious site! But principles of religious exclusivity and the overall war against the Jews prevents it.
People wishing to contribute articles for this site should contact Dr. Richard Benkin, who has researched the matter and written about it extensively. The site also contains articles and web site links on the subject, including Benkin’s six part series on the Mount, published in Choudhury’s Weekly Blitz—the first such series in the Muslim world.