Are the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus (Shechem) and Rachel’s Tomb near Bethlehem holy Muslim sites? And what about the Temple Mount? Are the Muslims the only ones who have a right to pray there?
The Palestinian Arabs and their leaders clearly think so and act upon it. They don’t hesitate to use violence to prevent freedom of worship as guaranteed by Israeli law and deny Jews entry to their holy places, and they are encouraged to do so by the Arab countries.
This week, the Palestinians ensured support for their denial of Jewish heritage sites in the land of Israel from the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
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UNESCO partly adopted the Palestinian position and voted for a resolution that recognizes Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem and the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron as “Muslim sites” and as an “integral part of Palestine.”
The UN organization, which is supposed to guard heritage sites and proper education in the world, condemned in the same resolution “Israeli aggression” and “illegal” measures that “restrict access and freedom of worship” on the Temple Mount.
The Palestinian bid to get UNESCO to recognize the Western Wall (the last remaining wall of the Jewish Temple) as a Muslim site and an “integral part of the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” was thwarted at the last moment. This happened after Jewish organizations and the Israeli government condemned the proposal and said the Palestinian move was a “shameful and deceitful attempt to rewrite history.”
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UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova disowned the Western Wall clause in the draft resolution that was submitted by several Muslim countries, and said it was a dangerous idea. She called upon UNESCO members to “make decisions that do not further fuel tensions on the ground.”
The resolution recognized that the “Al-Haram Al-Ibrahimi/Tomb of the Patriarchs and the Bilal Ibn Rabah Mosque/Rachel’s Tomb” were Muslim sites and an integral part of Palestine and was adopted by 26 UNESCO member states. Six countries rejected the resolution, and the rest of the UNESCO members abstained during the vote.
The Palestinian Authority became a full member of UNESCO in October 2014 and immediately made clear that the membership would be used to continue its global political war against Israel that aims to delegitimize the Jewish State.
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The PA uses the automatic Muslim majority in UN organizations to weaken the position of Israel and to get recognition for the (non-existent) “State of Palestine.”
By condemning “Israeli aggression” on the Temple Mount, UNESCO is turning things on their head. It was in fact Muslim gangs that harassed Jews on the Temple Mount and used the Al-Aqsa Mosque for attacks on Israeli security forces long before the current explosion of Arab violence started.
Furthermore, contrary to what UNESCO claims, it was Israel that took measures to defuse tensions at the site. One of the measures was a ban on Jewish prayer on the holiest place in Judaism. Muslims enjoyed unlimited access until they indulged in violent riots and attacked Jews with stones and knives.
At the root of the problem lies the Muslim denial of any Jewish history in Judaism’s holiest place. This denial is rather odd because the Temple in Jerusalem is mentioned in the Quran in Surah 17:7:
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“If you do good, you do good for yourselves; and if you do evil, (you do it) to yourselves.” Then when the final promise came, (We sent your enemies) to sadden your faces and to enter the temple in Jerusalem, as they entered it the first time, and to destroy what they had taken over with (total) destruction.
So the Quran clearly states that there stood a Temple in Jerusalem and confirmed what the Bible and other sources say about the destruction of the Jewish holy site. Nevertheless, Arab and Muslim leaders continue to deny any Jewish claim on the site–and Jewish history in Israel in general.
The Temple Mount is mentioned in the Bible in many places, but few people know that the place was purchased by King David. The fact that the Bible elaborates on the purchase is not happenstance but has a deeper meaning, the Jewish sages say.
Three Jewish holy places were purchased: the Temple Mount in Jerusalem by King David, the Tomb of the Patriarchs (Ma’arat HaMachpela) by Avraham and the land where Joseph’s remains were buried by Jacob. The Sages say the fact that the Bible mentions these purchases in detail is meant to emphasize the eternal Jewish ownership of the sites.
Here’s what the Bible says about David’s purchase of Mount Moriah, the site where Shlomo built the Temple later:
And David said to Ornan, ‘Give me the site of the threshing floor that I may build on it an altar to the Lord give it to me at its full price so that the plague may be averted from the people.’ Then Ornan said to David, ‘Take it; and let my lord the king do what seems good to him; see, I give the oxen for burnt offerings, and the threshing sledges for the wood, and the wheat for a cereal offering. I give it all.’ But King David said to Ornan, ‘No, but I will buy it for the full price; I will not take for the Lord what is yours, nor offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing.’
So David paid Ornan six hundred shekels of gold by weight for the site. And David built there an altar to the Lord and presented burnt offerings and peace offerings, and called upon the Lord, and he answered him with fire from heaven upon the altar of burnt offering.” (I Chron. 21:22-26)
Joseph Tomb has some religious meaning for Muslims, but that didn’t prevent them from burning down the site during the Second Intifada and during violent riots earlier this month. Here too, Muslims (and now UNESCO) do not recognize Jewish heritage.
Joseph’s tomb is located on a plot land that was purchased by Jacob (Israel) the father of the Jewish people.
Here’s what the Bible says about that purchase:
And Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, on his way from Paddan-Aram; and he camped before the city. And from the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, he bought for a hundred pieces of money the piece of land on which he had pitched his tent. There he erected an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel. (Bereshit/Genesis 33:18-20)
The Ma’arat HaMachpela in Hebron is the place where the tombs of Abraham, Jacob, Yitzchak, Leah, Rebecca and Sarah are located. The Muslims deny any Jewish connection to the place; and until the Six-Day-War in 1967, Jews were only allowed to pray on the stairs leading up to the entrance of the shrine.
Today, Jews have only access to a small part of the complex, except for the Passover holiday and the Feast of the Tabernacles (Sukkot), when the Ma’arat HaMachpela is closed for Muslim worshipers.
As said, the Quran does not mention the tomb of the Patriarchs; but the Bible tells us that Avraham, the first Jew, bought the place from a Canaanite man by the name of Ephron:
“Then Abraham bowed dawn before the people of the land. And he said to Ephron in the hearing of the people of the land. But if you will hear me; I will give the price of the field; accept it from me, that I may bury my dead there.’ Ephron answered Abraham, ‘My lord, listen to me; a piece of land worth four hundred shekels of silver, what is that between you and me? Bury your dead,’ Abraham agreed with Ephron; and Abraham weighed out for Ephron the silver that he had named in the hearing of the Hittites, four hundred shekels of silver, according to the weights current among the merchants. So the field of Ephron in Machpelah, which was to the east of Mamre, the field with the cave which was in it and all the trees that were in the field, throughout its whole area, was made over to Abraham as a possession in the presence of the Hittites, before all who went in at the gate of his city.
After this, Abraham buried Sarah, his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah east of Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan. The field and the cave that is in it were made over to Abraham as a possession for a burying place by the Hittites.” (Bereshit/Genesis 23:1-20)
The story about Rachel’s burial along the road near Bethlehem is only mentioned in the Bible, not in the Quran.
The book of Bereshit (Genesis) tells us that Jacob buried his beloved wife Rachel along the road from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. To this day, Jews from all over the world come to Rachel’s tomb to pray. The tomb of the mother of the Jewish people is a symbol of comfort for people in distress, and for women who have had trouble becoming pregnant.
Rachel’s tomb was never claimed by Arabs as a Muslim holy site, but that changed in the year 2000 at the start of the second Intifada.
Nadav Shagrai, a researcher for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs who wrote an essay about the history of Rachel’s Tomb and the root of the Muslim claim to the site, had the following to say about the Muslim claim:
In 2000, after hundreds of years of recognizing the site as Rachel’s Tomb, Muslims began calling it the “Bilal ibn Rabah mosque.”20 Members of the Wakf used the name first in 1996, but it has since entered the national Palestinian discourse.
Bilal ibn Rabah was an Ethiopian known in Islamic history as a slave who served in the house of the Prophet Muhammad as the first muezzin (the individual who calls the faithful to prayer five times a day). When Muhammad died, ibn Rabah went to fight the Muslim wars in Syria, was killed in 642 CE, and buried in either Aleppo or Damascus. The Palestinian Authority claimed that according to Islamic tradition, it was Muslim conquerors who named the mosque erected at Rachel’s Tomb after Bilal ibn Rabah.
The Palestinian claim ignored the fact that Ottoman firmans (mandates or decrees) gave Jews in the Land of Israel the right of access to the site at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The Palestinian claim even ignored accepted Muslim tradition, which admires Rachel and recognizes the site as her burial place.
“Well-known Orientalist Professor Yehoshua Porat has called the ‘tradition’ the Muslims referred to as ‘false.’ He said the Arabic name of the site was ‘the Dome of Rachel, a place where the Jews prayed,’” Shagrai wrote.
So is UNESCO right, and are these sites holy Muslim sites? And do people other than Muslims have a right to enter and pray on the Temple Mount?
You can judge for yourself.
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