Jerusalem: Historical Illiteracy And Political Exploitation.


( Photo via Facebook)

While handing me Karen Armstrong’s bookA History of Jerusalem,” my Jordanian colleague said, “Start from the eighth chapter, the earlier chapters are irrelevant.” Like many Arabs, my colleague has never been interested in the early history of the holy city. He said, “Why should we be? The modern history is more relevant to the city.”

 The perpetual turmoil in the city comes from all sides choosing to have a selective memory. Arabs want to ignore the city’s ancient history, which is largely a Jewish history. This Arab indifference is equally matched by Jewish bias against the Arab and Muslim history of the city. In other words, both choose to consider ____ and twist ____ half the story of the holy site and ignore the other half. Historical illiteracy does not help in any political fight; in fact it only creates strife.

This mindset on both sides of selectivity and indifference fuels the current tension regarding sanctuary at the Al-Aqsa mosque versus the right of Jews to pray inside the Temple Mount. Ironically, both sides cover and report the recent tension in the Temple Mount in a similar, selective way. Israeli media reported on October 29th how a prominent U.S.-born right-wing activist, who campaigned for greater Jewish access to the Temple Mount was seriously wounded in a Jerusalem shooting. Meanwhile Arabic and Turkish media stressed later clashes on November 5th between Israeli police, settlers and Palestinians at the al-Aqsa mosque.

 Tracing a logical, accurate sequence of events in any news related to Jerusalem is always a difficult task. Nonetheless, the basic story here is that Jewish religious groups see the compound as their holy site, and want to lift the ban forbidding Jewish prayer inside. In contrast, Palestinian inhabitants see this group as invaders who want to disrupt the sanctuary of the holy Muslim site. This is a recipe for an explosive environment that can flare up at any time.

 The Arab and Muslim responses to Israeli ambitions towards the Temple Mount is rather alarming. It is mainly emotional, and lacks a clear strategy or future plan for any type of resolution. It is understandable how images of the Quran thrown on the floor of the Al-Aqsa Mosque have angered many. It is also understandable that it triggered widespread condemnation from Muslim countries, including Turkey. President Erdogan described the Israeli actions as barbaric, a response that may appeal to the Turkish’s president domestic audience, but will hardly trouble Israel. Jordan’s recall of its envoy to Israel was more effective and forced Netanyahu to work harder to calm the situation within Israel. There is an urgent need, however, for a broader approach to the religious as well as the political side of the dispute.

First, it is rather pointless for Arabs and Muslims to deny the ancient history of the Temple Mount. It is not up to us to decide where Jews should have their holy site. If Jews view the Temple Mount compound as holy to them, so be it. Acknowledging the religious importance of the site to the Jews would be a smart move, as it will strip right-wing Israelis from their fundamental portrayal of Arabs as thieves of history.

 In addition, although Muslims label the Western wall of the Temple Mount as the “Buraq wall,” where the Prophet Mohamed landed during his night visit to the city, there is no need to ignore the ancient history of the wall. Jews believe it is the remaining part of their destroyed Temple. The Prophet did not build the wall, it existed before him, and there are many reliable historical sources that prove how Jews used to pray at that site, even after the destruction of the Temple, and well before the rise of Islam.

 On the other hand, Israelis needs to remember that their ancient history was not a perfect example of religious tolerance. Following their return from exile in Babylon, Jews excluded foreign wives and children from the membership of Israel, a harsh reminder how the holy city was in many occasions, a city of intolerance, just as in her current, modern time.

 Second, acknowledging history does not necessarily mean conceding to demands for prayers at the holy site. Arabs should highlight to the world their part of the story. The Romans destroyed the second Temple hundreds of years before the Arab conquest of the city ___ a fact that Arabs should continue to elaborate and emphasize to the world after showing empathy and sympathy to Jewish claim. Christian rulers, whether in the Byzantine or crusader era, were much more unkind to the Jews than Muslims. According to the Jewish virtual library, the whole Temple Mount area was badly desecrated and was only cleared and restored after Muslim conquest.

 Third, while it is smart to acknowledge the ancient Jewish history of the compound, it is also crucial to highlight the current misery of Jerusalem and the failure to achieve peace. East Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount, has technically been occupied land since 1967. Israel bars Palestinians below the age of 50 from praying in al-Aqsa. Security barriers in the West Bank prevent more Palestinians from reaching the holy compound. How can Israelis expect Palestinians to be more understanding while they live under such occupation? Arabs should remind the world how under their rule, the great Jewish scholar Maimonides visited the Temple Mount in 1165. That was an era of harmony and peace, unlike today’s tension and injustice. Israel must understand that the political deadlock compounds tension and does not leave any room for religious tolerance. Peace would strip radicals on both sides from abusing religion for political gains.

 As such, I did not follow my colleague’s advice, and started reading the book as it should be read, from page one. It was an eye-opener. As Armstrong poignantly pointed out, “the history of Jerusalem reminds us that nothing ___ not even mortal hatred ___ is permanent.”

About nervana111

Doctor, blogger and Commentator on Middle East issues. The only practising doctor who write in Middle Eastern politics in UK.
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16 Responses to Jerusalem: Historical Illiteracy And Political Exploitation.

  1. Greg says:

    So Jews right to pray on Temple Mount ceased to exist when the Temple was distroyed by Romans? Do they have it now or not?


  2. Reblogged this on Mark Geoffrey Kirshner and commented:
    by Dr Nervana Mahmoud ( @Nervan_1 )


  3. zjb says:

    Reblogged this on jewish philosophy place and commented:
    A must read by Nervana Mahmoud about Jews, Muslim, and Jerusalem


  4. zjb says:

    Greg, the standard Jewish view used to be and pretty much remains that Jews no longer go up to the Temple Mount after the Romans destroyed the site, The traditional view was that since no one knows where the Holy of Holies once stood, that Jews avoid the entire space. That was the consensus in Israel up until fairly recently. When Israel conquered East Jerusalem, Moshe Dayan immediately handed authority over the Temple Mount to the Muslim Waqf. That status quo worked pretty well to preserve the peace. There’s also the established legal principle that saving human life trumps just about every religious action, which is the recent view expressed by the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel.


  5. frank says:

    You say, “. . . 1165. That was an era of harmony and peace, unlike today’s tension and injustice”.

    Read Maimonides and you’ll find just the opposite. Your history knowledge IS sorely lacking. Which is why you still have illusions of “peace” sprinkled in your words.

    See by what term Maimonides describes their “prophet”; See how sage had to run from country to country; See how his brother was killed; How he wrote his great writings under the most oppressive times.

    The real problem is you want to equate the Muslim to the Jew. Not only will the Arab deny you such a “modern” idea, but certainly the Jew should – because we have that land as ours and only ours by none other than God, since the Canaanites abused their privilege of keeping it. Read the first verse of Torah, and understand that verse as Rashi explains it!

    It is you who lives a recent history and seeks to even the field. It behooves you as a Jew, however, to first know your history – starting with that of 5,775 years ago.


    • nervana111 says:

      You clearly have a selective memory that is full of hate to non-jews. Yes, Maimononides was explelled from Spain, but he settled in Egypt, which was also a Muslim country!
      And you clearly did not bother to read my post properly, because it was about reading all the ancient history. I guess your hatred prevent your brain from reading properly. As for God, you clearly mix history with faith. I doubt God send you a direct message confirming that he want to keep the city under the cutrent Israeli leadership!


      • frank says:

        Hate? He who sees hate in others probably bears that emotion in herself.

        Just pick any sentence you make and see how perverse it is; I’ll choose this one:
        “This mindset on both sides of selectivity and indifference”. You want us to believe there is “indifference” among our enemies. That which you call “indifference” is simply a period during which they think how to hatch the next pogrom.

        Are you trying also to say that they want peace with us, right? That’s why no Arab government will allow Jewish residents in their midst, and that’s why the holocaust among these countries, they tell their kids, was a hoax perpetrated by the very victims of that mist horrible atrocity.

        Keep dreaming young lady, only before you wax eloquent over your enemies, study them; Or, better yet, before you trash your Jewish peers, study their tradition a whole lot more too.

        You read hate into my words, but you’re looking into a mirror. I speak of facts on the ground. I did not emote at all.


  6. nervana111 says:

    I am an arab and want peace with you . My mother is an Arab and wanted peace too.. in fact my entire family cheered for Sadat who made peace with you. I guess we are not good enough for your selective eye that choose only to see hatred.


    • zjb says:

      And I am a Jew who wants peace with you. I was a young teenager, but I still remember the tremendous excitement I felt in 1977 when Sadat went to Jerusalem.


    • frank says:

      (I too was happy when Sadat and Begin shook hands. I was young and naive.)

      Again you accuse me of hate. What I really hate is that Arabs cannot stand up and praise Israel for all she did for Arabs who lived in her borders. As a visitor med student in Israel over 30 years ago, I stayed in Jerusalem’s Hadassah. I shared a dormitory with dozens of Arabs. I didn’t even know their nationalities. I only found out when suddenly I was in a midst of a show of vile hatred. Mind you I was just visiting, minding my own business doing a 2-month stint in pulmonology. But boy did they show their hate. Later I learned all these students were granted a free education.

      I mention only this one incident to make a point. Arabs NEVER want peace with Jews in the Jewish country of Israel. Nor do you.

      Israel never was without Jews, and,moreover, had been a virtual wasteland before the Jews turned it into a flourishing country. There never was a “Palestine” country. There is Israel and all who then came there as she blossomed.

      I can keep pouring facts into your lap but it won’t help because you convince yourself as being objective. I don’t doubt for a minute that you and your mom want peace. After all, not all Arabs can possibly be so virulently illogical and against a good people.

      But unless you stand up and decry Arab injustices, you cannot be taken seriously. You and your ilk are obviously afraid to do, for good reason, for otherwise some nice Arab will take his cleaver to you. And you know very well how likely that can be!

      Again, look at EVERY Muslim country and tell me that it runs calmly, has all citizens on equal par, or at least calls itself democratic. Show me one European country where rape victims are not mostly Muslim. Just look at what Muslims do in England, Sweden and France, where they opened doors to so many millions of Arabs. Are these Muslims not a problem there? Open your eyes, lady, and see things as they are!

      Muslims have the notion they can accept the hospitality of their host country, and then, when they grow in numbers, they seek to undermine. They are cultured as ingrates. Koran tells them it’s okay to lie to undermine the “enemy”.

      Something else. Look at how worthless women are treated in Arab countries. I treat my broom better. Look at how they abuse women from A to Z. These are not a normal people, if you ask me. There’s too much dirt in the Muslim/Arab backyard to warrant any respect for them… in my opinion.

      If you detect hate, it is only because the hate coming from your side, the Muslim/Arab perspective (not as YOU PERSONALLY might be predisposed, for you are but one in many billions, but) in general has to be counterbalanced. Arabs/Muslims bubble with a deep-pitted hate firstly for Jews, and then for any other kind of “infidel” as well. They even kill each other like they were pesky flies.

      Open your eyes. Is ISIS not you? Okay, so it’s another Muslim who’ll do the same thing. You got too much luggage to bear before you can objectively think things out carefully.

      So don’t accuse me of hate. If anything, I’m emotionally protecting my own people. Your kind are counting heads cut off. Mine are counting on winning Nobel prizes. Again, you’ll take offense, but my point is quite simple. Jews have a positive agenda, Arabs/Muslims do not!


  7. nervana111 says:

    “Arabs NEVER want peace with Jews in the Jewish country of Israel. Nor do you” ???

    Scroll up dude, I wrote in black and white that ” I want peace with you”
    Shall I repeat

    if you fail to absorb that fact, then that is your problem not mine.
    have a good day and keep indulging in victimhood

    pointless to keep this discussion.


  8. nervana111 says:

    You clearly never read a word from what I wrote about Erdogan. I criticise him daily and is repeatedly attacked by his followers, but hey, you do not want to read and reflect, you just want to attack me. Sad truly sad..
    here is my latest about him
    but I am 100% sure your are mentally blocked and you will never bother to read and reflect.


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