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Jerusalem's Temple Mount

The following material is gleaned from a bulletin written by Boris Shusteff who is an engineer living in upstate New York. He is a Research Associate with the Freeman Center for Strategic Studies. He recounts history concerning the Temple Mount that is not well known.

During World War I when the Turkish commander was forced to abandon Jerusalem to General Allenby, Marek Schwartz was left in charge of a sacrifice unit of artillery and was instructed to "blow Jerusalem to hell" the moment the British entered. Under these personal orders from Jemal Pasha, Schwartz had his batteries trained on the Mosque of Omar. When Jemal left Jerusalem to make his last stand before Damascus, Captain Schwarts walked into British lines rather than destroy Jerusalem.

So a Moslem gave the order to destroy the 3rd holiest place for Islam and a Jew prevented the destruction of the 1st holy place for Judaism.

Moslem shrines remain intact, but Jewish presence on the Temple Mount remains unwelcome, though fifty years later the whole city including the Temple Mount was very unexpectly captured by Israel – June 7, 1967 in the Six Day War. Upon reaching the area, Colonel Motty Gur exclaimed to the nation’s total surprise and joy: "The Temple Mount is ours. I’m standing near the Mosque of Omar right now. The Wailing Wall is a minute away." After 1,897 years!

On August 16, 1967, Rabbi Shlomo Goren led a group of Yeshiva students in a service on the Temple Mount which ended with the blowing of the shofar. "And it shall come to pass on that day, the great trumpet will blast forth and those abandoned in Assyria and the outcasts in Egypt shall come to bow down before the Lord on the Holy Mount in Jerusalem" (Isa. 27:13).

But this was the one and only public Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount. Although Moshe Dayan on the morning of the first Sabbath after the war, visited the Al Aksa Mosque and told the Moslem delegation that now there would be unrestricted Jewish access there, he later said, "precisely because control was now in our hands, it was up to us to show broad tolerance. We should certainly respect the Temple Mount as an historic site of our ancient past, but we should not disturb the Arabs who were using it for what it was now – a place of Moslem worship."

Boris Shusteff writes: "Dayan was wrong when he wrote that the Temple Mount was an historic site of our ancient past. The Temple Mount was and STILL IS the holiest place for the Jews. Even after the destruction of the Temple our uninterrupted presence on the Temple Mount, though greatly diminished, continued for almost fifteen centuries . . . ."

But Jews voluntarily limited their presence at the Temple Mount. Shusteff continues, "For 2,000 years in Eretz Yisrael and in exile, we clung to Jerusalem with our nails and teeth. Unwillingly, the Moslems, and the world community as well, recognized that we are the ancient owners of the country. However, after reestablishing the State, we became generous and complacent. We lost the yearning that we had had for two millennia. We succumbed to humiliation and we allowed others to spit in our faces.

"One defeat followed another. We swallowed the relocation of foreign embassies from Jerusalem. We did not create a media storm when on June 26, 1991 Binyamin Begin showed the Knesset a map that displayed all the capital cities of the region except Jerusalem. This map was part of a press kit carried by U.S. Secretary of State James Baker when he visited Israel in March 1991. We permitted others to label our primordial land ‘an occupied territory.’

"With the signing of the Oslo agreement our acceptance of humiliation spread like a metastatic cancer. The list is endless. One can mention, for instance, the Palestinian police that freely roams in the eastern part of Jerusalem; and the control by the Palestinian Authority of the schools and the hospitals in this part of the city; and the visits of foreign dignitaries to the Orient House, the PA’s headquarters; and the Palestinian flag flying above this ‘Foreign Ministry’, and the ban on Israeli flags imposed there . . ."

Torat Hayim, a Jewish seminary on Via Dolorosa, was abandoned after the riots of 1936. It was left in care of its Arab janitor who had died before the war of 1948, but he had given the keys to his brother. The lower rooms were rented out to Arab tenants, but the brother sealed off and preserve the synagogue and library on the upper floor! When Chaim Herzog, the Israeli Governor of Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, heard this story, he went to the building and found that the synagogue and its library of 3,000 books were intact. The Arab janitor was asked: "Weren’t you afraid to watch over the synagogue when all the other synagogues in the old city were demolished?" To which the janitor replied: "The holy place watched over me more than I watched over it."

Boris Shusteff continues: "When are we going to understand that if we really want Jerusalem to be our undivided capital, then we need to watch over its holy places? The Babylonian Talmud instructs, ‘When you pray, you are to face Jerusalem, if you are in Jerusalem; you should direct your heart toward the Temple’ (Tractate Brachot 30a).

"The surest way to direct our hearts toward the Temple is while standing on the Temple Mount. Only through establishing our presence there we will watch over our holiest place and God will watch over us. It is inconceivable for Jews not to be able freely to pray on the Temple Mount now that Jerusalem is under our rule."