Border Police officers patrol Temple Mount.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Although the current Temple Mount debate focuses on Jewish and Muslim worship, the holy site also has religious significance to Christians. Who practices their religion on the Temple Mount is a very different question to who can stake religious claim to the holy site.
Last week Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Jordan’s King Abdullah and US Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss the recent incidents of terror provoked by the Temple Mount debate.
“Following Thursday's talks" Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh told reporters, "firm commitments were made to maintain the decades-old status quo that allows only Muslims to pray at Al-Aqsa.”
For Christians, as for Jews, the “status quo” which forbids them to pray on the Temple Mount, is rooted in the notion that no Jewish Temple ever existed on the Temple Mount in the first place.
In 2000, during the controversial Camp David Accords, late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat declared that there never was a Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount. Since then, Islamists have declared that the Jewish people have no claim to the Temple Mount or Israel at all.
Meanwhile, although Christians are inclined to keep a low profile on the Temple Mount, they visit frequently. Christians arrive to the Temple with Bibles tucked into backpacks, only to have the holy book confiscated at the checkpoint. Countless other believers have been expelled when the slightest gesture indicated reverence or veneration.
Well before Muhammad was born, Christians actively prayed and worshiped on the Temple Mount. In the early 6th Century, a Byzantine basilica was built where the Al-Aqsa Mosque is situated today. This is documented not only by Christian historians, but also by modern archeologists.
Archaeologist Gabriel Barkay has been sifting through masses of lost Temple Mount archaeological findings. In the late 1990s, the Islamic custodians of the Nobel Sanctuary illegally dug out masses of soil, and all the treasures it contained, from under the Al-Aqsa Mosque in an attempt to enlarge an underground sanctuary.
Dr. Barkay told The Jerusalem Post
that he has found “abundant material from the early Christian days.”
“We have fragments of capitals from church buildings,” Barkay explained. “We have remnants of chancel screens that separated the presbytery from the nave of the church. We have large bronze weights for weighing gold coins from the Christian era.”
“We have to rethink” Bakay continued, “What was the role of the Temple Mount in the time of early Christianity? Was it really a garbage heap? Or is that biased history? I think that history was ideological.”
Ideology certainly plays a major role in today’s historical revisionism. And “Temple Denial” is thoroughly political – a weapon used to attack the legitimacy of the Jewish State.
As for Christians, this denial also refutes their connection to the holy site. In a recent speech, Israel’s former Ambassador to the US Michael Oren, made a thought-provoking statement:
“Temple Denial,” he said, “is also denial of the Gospels.”
Like Judaism, Christian belief is rooted in the Hebrew Scriptures. But Christians also rely on the New Testament Gospels, where they are taught that the infant Jesus was presented to the Lord and blessed – in the Jewish Temple. He was found listening, learning and inquiring of the teachers of Torah before he was a teenager in the Jewish Temple as well.
Christ returned numerous times to that Temple and taught there. On one occasion he upended the tables of crooked money changers; on another, he participated in the water celebration at the end of Sukkot. He sorrowfully predicted the Temple’s destruction. Its curtain was ripped in half at the time of his crucifixion.
The prohibition of Jewish and Christian prayer and worship on the holy site, reveals at least one great blessing: the common ground on which we Jews and Christians stand.sign up to our newsletter