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Temple Mount Controversy: The Riddle of the Rock

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Christine Darg

By Christine Darg, Jerusalem Channel

Since the Six Day War, when Jerusalem was unified under Jewish sovereignty, the defense minister at the time, Moshe Dayan, decided to relinquish control of the traditional Temple Mount back to the Muslims in order “to keep the peace.” Was that a wise decision in hindsight?

After centuries of not controlling the holy site, should Israel have relinquished sovereignty over the territory she had prayed for so long to regain?

And one of the most intriguing questions is this: was the Dome of the Rock originally built by a Muslim caliph as a house of prayer for the Jews, and if so, what are the implications? Should the traditional Temple Mount be a shared space for all the children of Abraham?

Ever since Gen. Moshe Dayan as Israel’s Defense Minister made the fateful decision in 1967 to let the Arabs keep control of the Temple Mount, non-Muslim visitors to Judaism’s holiest site have had to be inconveniently watched or accompanied by officials from the Islamic authority called the Waqf, and these overbearing officials have definitely cramped worshipers’ style: no formal praying, only praying on the sly, (for example, talking to God on a cellphone) so as not to antagonize their minders.

There are metal detectors at the areas where typically Jews and Christians enter to visit the holy site, but previously Israel had acquiesced and removed metal detectors for Muslims to mollify the Waqf and its Jordanian overseers.

Yet due to terrorism, metal detectors are a necessary part of life. You can hardly stay in a hotel in major cities without going through one; even Disneyland has metal detectors. These structures that we pass through every day have become memorial arches to terrorists.

The lack of metal detectors enabled three terrorists to enter the Temple Mount with guns and murder two Israeli police officers there. The officers who were killed were Druse, not Jews.

Who are the Druse? We need to know who these Biblical people, the Druse, are. They are the descendants of Jethro of Midian, the father-in-law of Moses. Jethro is the Druse’s spiritual founder and chief prophet. The Druse are peace-loving, loyal to the countries where they live. Therefore the minority community of the Israeli Druse serve proudly in the Israeli Defense Forces and the police. We personally know many Druse, including members of the Israeli Parliament. One Druse Member of Knesset, Majalli Wahabi, rose so high in Israeli life that he became the acting president of the Jewish state in 2007. Majalli is proof positive that Israel is not an apartheid state. In fact, Arabs occupy senior positions on the Israeli police force, in the Knesset as well as the judiciary.  South Africans who lived under apartheid could only dream of obtaining such positions. Salim Joubran is a Christian Arab who holds a permanent seat on the Israeli Supreme Court. Joubran is the second Arab judge to hold a supreme court appointment. Ishmael Khaldi, a Bedouin, is a diplomat in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Ayoob Kara, is a Druse member of Knesset and cabinet minister. And here’s something extraordinary: an Arab judge, George Karra, sentenced the former Israeli president– Moshe Katsav– to prison. Think of that! And these are just a few examples of minorities who hold prominent positions in Israel.

But because of the murders of the two Druse policemen on the traditional Temple Mount, Israel had no choice but to reinstate more stringent security measures.  The Waqf officials see the Jerusalem holy site as exclusively Islamic because it contains a mosque (the silver-colored dome), and a shrine, (the golden Dome of the Rock). Muslims call the traditional Temple Mount the Haram Al-Sharif, meaning Noble Sanctuary, but they no longer recognize Israel’s historical right to that real estate.

Opposition to metal detectors is bizarre since the security apparatus is designed to protect all who enter, without discrimination. This is collective protection, not collective punishment. It was for this very same reason—to prevent terror—that Saudi officials installed security measures at the entrance to the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the holiest site for Muslims. Religious sites around the world – from Mecca to Rome – come with extensive security measures. At Mecca, for example, there are 5,000 CCTV cameras, and more than 100,000 people are employed to provide security during the Hajj annual pilgrimage. However, it’s not really about metal detectors. Israeli columnist Kalman Liebskind echoed the opinion of many when writing that “only a fool would believe that the issue is metal detectors … it is about sovereignty.” Liebskind said Palestinians are unwilling to go through these devices because “such checks proclaim that these are our security measures, this is our Mount. And it is for this reason why our government must not blink. For a blink would be another proof that we are not really sure whether this place is ours.”

As we watch the news unfold, I meditate continually on the relevance of Psalm 2. This psalm is God’s commentary on the whole controversy over Zion.

1 Why do the nations rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?

2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed (the Lord’s Messiah). They say

3 Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.

4 He that sits in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.

and vex them in his sore displeasure.

6 Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.

7 I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.

8 Ask of me, and I shall give thee the nations for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.

9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.

10 Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: and judges of the earth.

11 Serve the Lord with fear ….

12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish from the way. . . . Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

All of this controversy revolves around contested real estate, but this week I came across an article that I want to share with you by David Mark headlined TEMPLE MOUNT SOLUTION: History Shows that Islam Shared the Dome of the Rock with the Jews. The Dome of the Rock was built in 691 by the Umayaad Caliph named Abd Al-Malik but it was never treated as a mosque until the later Islamic period. Research shows that the Dome of the Rock folds in on itself in veneration, not of Mecca, but the rock below—this rock bears great significance for Jews because they believe it to be the site of Abraham’s binding of his son Isaac. The edifice has four pillars on which the dome rests, interspersed with 12 columns circling the rock. The pillars reportedly represent the four camps of the Israelites in the wilderness while the 12 columns represent the 12 tribes of Israel.

I found David Mark’s article so intriguing that I did some more digging and came across another article entitled “The Riddle of the Dome of the Rock: Was it Built as a Jewish Place of Prayer.” This article was based upon information in a book published in Hebrew by Ya’akov Ofir. Research conducted by Ofir claims that the Dome of the Rock was built for the Jews as a house of prayer in 691 by their ally Abd al- Malik. Al-Malik was the caliph of Damascus who controlled the land of Israel in those days. According to Ofir and others, al-Malik was actually a follower of the Jewish faith and ordered his citizens to pray with their faces towards Jerusalem, not Mecca, and to make pilgrimages to Jerusalem instead of Mecca. Ofir maintained that the Dome of the Rock was never built as a mosque and the character of the building is not typical of a mosque although it is one of the oldest in Islamic architecture. It emulated and rivaled Christian architecture of the time.

The original dome collapsed in an earthquake in 1015 but was rebuilt within a decade. After the Crusaders captured Jerusalem in 1099 the Dome of the Rock became a church. The Knights Templar claimed the Dome was the site of the Temple of Solomon and they called it the Templum Domini, Temple of God. When Jerusalem was captured by Saladin, the Dome of the Rock was reconsecrated as a Muslim shrine. The cross on top was replaced by a crescent. However, according to Ya’akov Ofir’s research, the shrine was originally a Jewish house of prayer. After the Abbasid kingdom defeated the Umayyad kingdom, the memory of the “last house of prayer” for the Jews was erased and the name of the pro-Jewish Caliph, Abd al-Malik, was removed and replaced with the name of the Abbasid ruler.

Abd Al-Malik was reportedly called “The Righteous” by the Jews but was slandered as an unbeliever (kaffir) by the Islamic historians. And what of Ofir’s conclusion that the Dome of the Rock was originally a Jewish building? David Mark wrote that Al-Malik attempted to mimic the former Jewish Temples.

Accordingly, the dome represents a navel in keeping with the Jewish idea that the sacred rock is the navel of the world.  Birds carved on the windows reportedly represent the cherubim. The capitals of the pillars are reminiscent of the tops of palm trees, another Jewish motif. On the walls inside the Dome and also at the southern entrance there are palm, grape and fig designs, three of the seven species mentioned in the Torah as being native to the Holy Land. Ofir also detailed other items that point to Jewish origins in his Hebrew book, “The Riddle of the Dome of the Rock.”

In 691, Abd el-Malik reportedly gave the Jews the right to manage the Temple Mount. He allowed them to light candles in the Dome of the Rock. He, in effect, returned the Temple Mount to the Jews. But the Abbasids who defeated the Umayyads revoked rights from the Jews and prohibited them from entering the Temple Mount.

Ofir’s theory is strengthened by the testimony of Jews who visited the Temple Mount in the early times of the Arab occupation of Jerusalem. They reportedly told of the existence of a Jewish house of prayer on what is believed to be the traditional Temple Mount. A testimony by the famous Karaite, Ben Yerucham, was that “after the Ishmaelites occupied Jerusalem they gave permission to Israel to enter the Temple Mount to live there. They gave them the courtyards of the house of G-d and they prayed there for many years … [but] later they were evicted.”

Maimonides, the famous rabbi known as the Rambam, wrote that in 1165 he visited Jerusalem and the traditional Temple Mount to pray in the “great, holy house on the place of the Holy of Holies.” Could these historical references be proof of Ofir’s theory?

Despite the more recent history and animosities between Arabs and Israelis, apparently there is historical evidence that the Umayyads were friendly to the Jews and that the Umayyad dynasty invited the Jews to pray on the holy site. With all of this history in mind, David Mark postulates that a possible solution to the tensions involving the Temple Mount would be to use early Islamic history as a moral guide. He wrote that it would seem appropriate that the house of prayer (known today as the Dome of the Rock) that Al-Malik built for the Jews could serve both the Jews and their half brothers.

Understanding that the Dome of the Rock was meant to be a shared space for prayer by the children of Abraham until the arrival of the Messiah would be a peaceful step toward coexistence, according to David Mark. In such an ideal world, would there be no need for metal detectors or police? However, such security measures are installed at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron for both Jews and Muslims.

“The children of Yitzhak and Yishmael could once again co-exist together,” David Mark wrote, both presumably using the Dome of the Rock.

Is it so far-fetched to believe that Jews and Muslims could share the Temple Mount? Many Bible-believing Jews and evangelical Christians who study and watch Bible prophecy would see such a move at this point in time as troublesome and prophetic. However, I found a fascinating statement in David Mark’s article that the Jewish sages taught Ishmael “will return to the proper path at the end.”

There is also the possibility that God may surprise everybody concerned with an amazing archaeological find in the City of David that could solve the whole issue of having to share the traditional Temple Mount, and that possibility would be the discovery that the Jewish temples were located in the ancient City of David, using the nearby Gihon Spring, instead of the traditional Temple Mount. We discuss that possibility in our video archives.

The End-time scenario will inevitably play out according to Bible prophecy, and it is our duty as watchmen and intercessors to watch this space and pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

You might ask, why….Why all this continuing controversy over a place the Muslims call the Noble Sanctuary, the Jews call the Temple Mount and the Bible calls Zion? The Word of God gives its own answer in Isaiah 34: 8, “For the Lord has a day of vengeance, a year of recompences, for the controversy of Zion.”

Because of God’s longsuffering and mercy, finally the long-delayed day of retribution will come…. at last. This would be the day of punishment from the hand of God for the persistent hostility against the Jews and the city He has chosen as his personal address on earth.

The rebirth of the nation of Israel in our time is surely unique in history. The Jewish nation has been destroyed twice but also regathered and resurrected twice. The first time of restoration and regathering was after the Babylonian captivity. In 586 BC, the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the Jewish nation, Jerusalem and the first temple built by King Solomon. This destruction resulted in nearly all the Jews being taken captive to Babylon. But God kept the Jews and the Sabbath kept them separated. They remained in Babylon for 70 years and then were allowed to return to rebuild Jerusalem and their second temple.

The Romans, some 650 years later in 70 AD, again destroyed Jerusalem and the second temple. Once again the Jewish people were defeated, they were put to the sword and dispersed, this time into all the world. Why didn’t the people of Israel cease to be a nation after such devastation? How could they have survived? Again, the Sabbath and their traditions kept them but ultimately it was God who caused them to survive and to return. The nation was literally reborn in 1948. Amazingly, and this is unique in history, even the Hebrew language was revived and the indigenous Israelis today speak Hebrew with a Middle Eastern accent, not a European accent. Israelis even have shekels once again as the name of their currency! We are living in a time when Bible prophecy is unfolding before our eyes! As the Day of the Lord and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ grow nearer, it is clear from the Bible that the world focus will be on Israel and Jerusalem. But the God of Israel says that he will weigh the nations and their litmus test will be how they either bless or curse his people Israel, and his city Jerusalem.

Let’s consider the amazing prophetic timeline we’ve been living through especially in this time as I speak.

1897 was considered the beginning of modern Zionism. That’s when the first Zionist Congress was held in Basil, Switzerland. It’s been exactly 120 years since the beginning of the Zionist movement.

From the Balfour Declaration declaring British approval of a Jewish homeland it’s been 100 years.

Jerusalem’s Jubilee Logo

From the uniting of Jerusalem as the Jewish capital it’s exactly 50 years. And you know one of the principles of the Jubilee Year is that property reverts to its rightful owners!

Things are looking up for Israel, yet sentiments are similar to how people were thinking before both World Wars–tragically today there is still the disease of anti-Semitism, with the United Nations and the European Union continually condemning Israel for building up the Holy Land.

Increasingly the nations are grasping for Jerusalem and demanding that the holy city be divided and made the capital of a Palestinian State. God has other blueprints. He declares in Zechariah 12 that he has made Jerusalem an immoveable rock and all who attempt to meddle with his city and try to move it will be severely injured by it. As we watch end-time prophecy coming to pass, God vows that he will be vindicated in the sight of all the nations. Why? So that, as Psalm 83:18 declares, “men may know that thou, whose name alone is YHVH, art the most high over all the earth.”

Psalm 83 implores God, not to remain silent:

2 See how your enemies growl,

how your foes rear their heads.

3 With cunning they conspire against your people;

they plot against those you cherish, saying

4 “Come, let us destroy them as a nation,

so that the name of Israel is remembered no more.”

5 With one mind they plot together;

they form an alliance against you—

6 the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites,

of Moab and the Hagrites,

7 Byblos, Ammon and Amalek,

Philistia, with the people of Tyre.

9[The psalmist implores] Do to them as you did to Midian,

as you did at the river Kishon to Sisera and Jabin,

[they were the enemies of Israel who were defeated by the prophetess Deborah and Barak]

12 [they] said, “Let us take possession of the pasturelands of God.”

Then the psalmist says to God,

13 Make them like tumbleweed,  like chaff before the wind.

14 As fire consumes the forest

or a flame sets the mountains ablaze,

15 so pursue them with your tempest

and terrify them with your storm.

16 Cover their faces with shame, Lord, [why?]

so they will seek your name. [This teaches that harsh judgments are actually the mercy of God, to bring people to themselves, to snap them out of deception, to enable them to turn and to repent.]

18 Let them know that you, whose name is the Lord—

that you alone are the Most High over all the earth.

The same sentiment is expressed in Ezekiel 38– God is going to tell the world know who he is concerning the controversy over Zion. Verse 16 says to Israel’s enemies, “You shall come up against my people of Israel, as a cloud to cover the land; it shall be in the latter days; I will bring you against my land, that the nations may know me, when I shall be sanctified in you, before their eyes.” Yes, Abba Father, glorify you own name.

The commentaries teach that the salvation of Israel is founded upon the sanctification of God’s name during the time of this Ezekiel War. The nations will learn beyond a shadow of a doubt that YHVH is the Lord.

When God says in Ezekiel, “I will bring you against my land,” he is saying that no invasion of Israel happens except by Divine permission, it’s all under Divine control. Then God says, “My fury shall come up in my face; for in my jealousy and in the fire of my wrath have I spoken.”  The aggressors against Israel are described in the Bible has having great pride and confidence but all the more greater will be their downfall and humiliation by the God of Israel. They oppose Israel arrogantly but will be defeated in dishonor and disgrace. They will come in great numbers; but will be reduced to a remnant. They terrorize but will be defeated with much contempt and scorn by the Almighty. Then the God of Israel is glorified, magnified and sanctified in the eyes of many nations; by saving his own people, he confounds the selfish plans of his enemies.

Let all terrorists read Psalm 2, for “he who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision.”

Let us pray Psalm 33: 10- 12:

The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect.

The counsel of the Lord stands forever,

The plans of His heart to all generations.

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,

The people He has chosen as His own inheritance.

In the meantime what shall we do as we see prophetic history coming to a culmination?

I encourage you to keep looking up but also doing the exploits of the Lord; for He is coming soon and now is the time to complete the works of the Lord!

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