Time to Normalize the Temple Mount

Linda and Dennis Gingerich love to host tours to Israel. Sharing this opinion article by Nave Dromi from the Jerusalem Post, describes our prayer for Jerusalem, especially the Temple Mount. This is not a political statement or a religious statement. This is not an argument for past mistakes by either side. But it is one of the boldest calls for unity that we’ve seen in awhile. We’ve been on the Temple Mount multiple times over the 26 years we’ve been hosting groups in the city of Jerusalem. Sometimes, we have witnessed Jews being removed from the mountain for praying. Always, we have been warned not have a Bible in our pockets or backpacks and never to sing or pray. What a day that would be when this place would be a place where all nations and religions could pray.

Normalization is the buzzword of the moment. We are now normalizing things that had been abnormal for far too long.

It is no coincidence that the deal to normalize relations between the State of Israel and the United Arab Emirates is called the “Abraham Accords.” The patriarch, common to both Judaism and Islam, is revered by both as the progenitor of both religions and peoples.

Both Jews and Muslims believe that Abraham was told to sacrifice his son, while commentators differ on the identity of the son. Jews of course believe that the binding of Isaac was a scene set on the Temple Mount that earlier was the point of creation and later became the location for the two greatest houses of worship for the Jewish nation.

Isaiah prophesied the Temple Mount in the future “will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” Perhaps it would be prudent to finally realize this prophecy by allowing Jews and Muslims to pray on the Temple Mount in harmony and accord, without one trampling on the rights and liberties of the other.

Unfortunately, since Israel retook the Temple Mount in 1967, it has not allowed Jewish worship on its holiest site. While retaining full national sovereignty on the Temple Mount and its environs, religious sovereignty was handed to the extremist Wakf Islamic religious trust, which has sought to throw out Jews for the mere moving of lips, holding Hebrew literature or the sheer mentioning that there was a Temple on the mount.

This “status quo” has been kept because Israeli leaders did not want to stoke widespread global Islamic anger and riots. It has been openly stated by Israeli authorities that this is a security issue, and upsetting the current order on the Temple Mount could provoke violence.

However, we are now living in unprecedented times. Israel has just signed an agreement with an Arab Gulf nation, has been allowed flyover rights by Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and is set to open the first embassy in Jerusalem by a Muslim-majority nation, Kosovo.

The wall of Islamic rejection to the Jewish state and Jewish sovereignty in its indigenous and ancestral homeland is being taken apart brick by brick. While the conflicts of the past are ending, taboos are certainly being shattered. Arguably, the largest taboo, Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, also needs to be addressed in concord and unity.

When the delegation from the UAE arrives in Israel on September 22, perhaps Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can invite its most senior member to join him for a visit on the Temple Mount, and both can pray for the success of peace, prosperity and stability in the region, each according to their own religion.

As an added gesture, to secure this historic undertaking, they can invite Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to join them in what would be a paradigm-shattering event that would truly usher in an era of peace and equality, all taking place on the Temple Mount. It would be another outstretched hand to Abbas to see if he really is ready for a profound peace. The leaders can use this opportunity to affirm the right of all individuals to pray on the Temple Mount in a way that does not interfere with the existing physical structure. This type of declaration, by an Arab and Jewish political leader, will be a game-changer for the region and ensure that the agreement signed by Israel and the UAE truly lives up to the reputation of the patriarch it is named after.

After thousands of years, Jews and Muslims will no longer see each other as opponents, rivals or enemies, but as long-lost cousins who come together in fraternal embrace in the place made famous by their mutual ancestor. It would be the closing of a circle and the strongest message to the international community that Jews and Muslims are not destined to live together in conflict, but in harmony and equality.

Dr. Ali Rashid al Nuaimi, chairman of the Defense, Interior and Foreign Affairs Committee at the UAE’s Federal National Council, said recently that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed wants to visit Jerusalem in person as he seeks a “comprehensive peace.”

A comprehensive peace is one that involves all facets of accord and reconciliation. The UAE has openly and publicly declared that Jews hold deep roots in the region and we belong here. This a deeply meaningful admission, and one that can be backed up on the mountain holy to both peoples.

The simple utterances of public hope and faith can reclaim the threshold of Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount. It has been too long since the prayers of all of Abraham’s children were heard on the Temple Mount. The region is reaching back into history to a time when Jews and Muslims were familial.

Normalization is the buzzword of the moment. We are now normalizing things that had been abnormal for far too long. One of the most abnormal and aberrant things about the Middle East conflict is the rejection of a Jew’s right to pray on the Temple Mount. This must change if an accord between Abraham’s children is truly meant to be meaningful.It is time to return Jewish prayer to the Temple Mount. It is time to normalize the Temple Mount.

The writer is an Israeli commentator and director of the Middle East Forum’s Israel office.

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