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'Tolerant' Muslims threaten holy war if Jews try to pray at site of ancient temple

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 4th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

A growing movement of Jewish activists seeks to pray at the ancient site of the destroyed temple in Jerusalem. The problem is that the site also happens to be among the holiest sites in all Islam and is under Muslim control. The latest push threatens to create fresh conflict between Jews and Muslims.

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL (Catholic Online) - Three religions regards the same location in Jerusalem as sacred and holy, and members of two of them are prepared to shed blood over the right to pray there-unimpeded by the other.

The site of Jerusalem's ancient temple has been the focus of conflict for well over two thousand years. Originally, the Jewish temple represented the most sacred ground to the Israelites who fought to defend it during the classical era and saw it converted to pagan use, destroyed, rebuilt, and converted and destroyed again.

During the Crusades, Jews lost control of the territory as Christians and Muslims fought viciously for control of the site. According to Muslims, the Prophet Mohammed slept at that place and rose to heaven.

Muslims subsequently built a mosque and other improvements to the site during the medieval period. That construction stands to this day and the site is used almost entirely by Muslims. The people of other religions, including Jews, have access to the site, with escort, but they are forbidden from praying or any other activities that could incite Muslims.

To circumvent the prohibitions, devout Jews will sneak prayers by feigning cell-phone conversations and dropping coins to pick up, surreptitiously bowing in the process.

Jewish activists are unhappy with this state of affairs and a growing number of them, including high-ranking members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's party, want to see the site opened to Jewish prayers.

The growing political pressure threatens to turn the area into the site of conflict.

"We're looking for it to be divided between Jews and Muslims," Aviad Visoli, chairman of the Temple Mount Organizations, told the Washington Post. "Today, Jews realize the Western Wall is not enough. They want to go to the real thing."

According to authorities, Rabbis are telling their congregations they should go to the temple to pray. Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, deputy minister of religious affairs is asking that Jews be given one hour each day to pray at the Temple Mount esplanade.

This suggestion is anathema to Muslims who believe any non-Muslim prayer offered at the site defiles their temple. Muslims have warned that future attempts to expand Jewish prayer rights at the temple could create open conflict.

The current round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks is deftly ignoring the Temple Mount issue.

Unfortunately, the heart of the Temple Mount issue isn't territory, but tolerance. Islam claims it is a tolerant religion. Yet, a Jew, praying in an open space, in the courtyard of a Muslim shrine is itself an act worthy of militant retaliation.

This is because Islam isn't a tolerant religion. There are moderate Muslims and tolerant ones, even liberal ones. They will rush to defend Islam against such accusations, but it's action, not profession that defines tolerance. When Muslims riot over the visit of a Jewish leader to the site (Ariel Sharon, 2000) and prominent Muslims threaten holy war over the possibility of allowing Jews to pray there, they define themselves as intolerant to the core.

There are powerful strains of conservative Islam bent on converting the world, by the sword if necessary. They do all of the world's people a grave disservice by their intolerance. They also taint the reputation of Islam around the globe.

If a Muslim were to visit St. Peter's square and place his prayer-rug on the ground, remove his shoes and offer prayers, no Catholic would threaten a holy war. More likely, his space would be respected. There's a lesson in that, a lesson that can avert bloodshed. Unfortunately, there are millions of people in an important place, who don't want to hear it.

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