Oh Abdullah, Jordan is Not So Special

The current leader of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a well-polished man named King Abdullah II, who has reigned since the passing of his father in 1999. In recent years, he has aggressively sought to claim “special” rights in the holy sites of Jerusalem, well beyond his reach.


King Abdullah II of Jordan

In May 2017, King Abdullah II addressed the United States President Donald Trump and said:

“the Hashemite Custodianship of Jerusalem’s Islamic and Christian Holy Sites is an unbreakable, historical responsibility and an honour to undertake on behalf of the Arab and Muslim nations.”

There were several problems with his claim:

  • Jordan has no custodianship over Christian sites
  • Jordan does not have exclusive custodianship
  • Jordan’s actions underscore that it is not “responsible” as it’s words are very “breakable”
  • Jordan’s basis for custodianship relates to its funds and efforts regarding improvements to the site, which Israel has in abundance regarding the Old City of Jerusalem, (which Jordan opts to ignore)
  • Jordan negotiated those custodian rights with Israel, yet has undermined Israel’s authority in Jerusalem

Here are some details.

Christian Holy Sites in Jerusalem

In July 1994, Israel and Jordan signed a peace agreement. Within that treaty was language that related to Jordan’s role at Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem (Article 9.2):

“In this regard, in accordance with the Washington Declaration, Israel respects the present special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in Muslim Holy shrines in Jerusalem. When negotiations on the permanent status will take place, Israel will give high priority to the Jordanian historic role in these shrines.”

There was no mention of any Christian sites.

Jordan’s Non-Exclusive Role

The Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty gave Jordan special rights for: 1) Muslim holy sites for 2) Arab and Muslim Nations. However, the treaty gave Jordan nothing as it related to 1) Jewish holy sites, for 2) the rest of the non-Arab and non-Muslim world.

While the al Aqsa Mosque that sits at the southern tip of the Temple Mount is an exclusively Islamic site, the rest of the Temple Mount – including the location of the Dome of the Rock – are Jewish holy sites. Jordan has no special rights over such Jewish holy sites and nor any authority over non-Arab and non-Muslim visitors.

Jordan’s Abrogation of Key Components of the Israel Peace Treaty

Jordan has violated the underlying spirit of the peace treaty with Israel in various manners. In August 2017 the Jordanian Foreign Minister and the Waqf were critical of the 1,000 Jews that went onto the Temple Mount on Tisha B’Av saying “This is unprecedented, unacceptable and should stop.” But they have no rights to prohibit any Jew from ascending to the Temple Mount. Article 9.1 of the treaty underscored the point:

“Each party will provide freedom of access to places of religious and historical significance.”

Additionally, King Abdullah’s July 2017 statement that Israel was trying to “Judaize” Judaism’s holiest space was an abrogation of Article 9.3 of the peace treaty which stated:

“The Parties will act together to promote interfaith relations among the three monotheistic religions, with the aim of working towards religious understanding, moral commitment, freedom of religious worship, and tolerance and peace.”

Jordan’s statements and actions were in direct violation of every sentiment of the peace treaty executed by his father and the Jewish State, as he sought to undermine Jewish history and rights on the Temple Mount.

The Deceit of the Jordanians and Palestinians

On March 31, 2013, King Abdullah II signed a treaty with the acting-President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas about Jordan’s role regarding the holy sites in Jerusalem. In that treaty, the parties asserted that the entirety of the Temple Mount was exclusively an Islamic site, and had no ties to other religions:

“Recalling the unique religious importance, to all Muslims, of Al Masjid Al Aqsa with its 144 dunums [the land size of the Temple Mount], which include the Qibli Mosque of Al Aqsa, the Mosque of the Dome of the Rock and all its mosques, buildings, walls, courtyards, attached areas over and beneath the ground and the Waqf properties tied-up to Al Masjid Al Aqsa, to its environs or to its pilgrims (hereinafter referred to as “Al Haram Al Sharif”);”

How do either the Jordanians or Palestinians believe that they are promoting “religious understanding, … tolerance and peace,” when they publicly step on Jewish history and faith?

It is also interesting to note that the Jordanian agreement with the PA also never discussed any Jordanian role with Christian holy sites.

“Historical responsibility” of Jordan and Israel

To this day, Jordan continues to state that the very presence of Israel in Jerusalem is a threat to Arabs and Muslim holy sites, and refuses to acknowledge that Jerusalem and the Temple Mount have been anchored in Jewish history for over 3000 years.

Consider language on King Abdullah’s website called  “Custodianship over Holy Sites.

“The Hashemites have stood up against Zionist claims to Jerusalem, which pose a direct threat to the Arab city and its cultural heritage.”

How does Abdullah make such a statement while also acknowledging Israel’s role in Jerusalem in its peace treaty? Is Jordan’s treaty with Israel only based on Israel’s de facto existence and presence in Jerusalem? If Jordan believes that Israel has no role or place in Jerusalem, why have sections in the peace treaty specifically discussing Jerusalem?

The website goes on to discuss the long history of Jordan in fixing up various parts of Jerusalem, including Christian and Muslim holy sites:

“His Majesty’s attention was not limited to Islamic holy sites; he personally helped put out a fire that nearly destroyed the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in 1949. All throughout his reign (1921-1951), King Abdullah I was the guardian and custodian of Christian holy sites in Jerusalem.”

The “investments” made by Jordan in the Old City of Jerusalem, pale in comparison to the investments made by the government of Israel since it reunited the city in June 1967. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent in city improvements. By such measure alone, Israel’s rights throughout the city trumps any claim by Jordanians or Palestinians.

Whose “Illegal Occupation”

In July 2017, Jordan was effective in pushing forward a UNESCO decision that condemned Israel’s excavations in the Old City such as the City of David, and recommitted to the claim that Jerusalem’s Old City walls were in “danger.” The Jordanian embassy added that “The resolution stated that all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying power, which have altered or purport to alter the character and status of the holy city of Jerusalem, and in particular, the “basic law” on Jerusalem, are null and void and must be rescinded forthwith…. He also said that the decision, which Jordan presented jointly with Palestine through the Arab group at the committee, emphasised that all Israeli procedures and violations in East Jerusalem are null and void under the international law.”

It is a strange hypocrisy that Jordan claims that Israel’s annexation and role in the Old City of Jerusalem is illegal and not recognized by the international community, when Jordan’s annexation of the eastern half of Jerusalem and the “West Bank” in 1950 was itself not recognized by any country (other than itself, the UK and Pakistan).


The King of Jordan claims that his country has a special role in the Old City of Jerusalem and that he advances peace even though:

  • Jordan’s “special role” does nothing to undermine the rights of Jews at its holiest site
  • Jordan’s investment in Jerusalem pales next to Israel’s investment
  • Jordan’s annexation of the Old City of Jerusalem was less legal than Israel’s annexation of the eastern part of the city in1980

The King of Jordan is eloquent but deceitful. He shrouds himself in words of peace as he stirs up a religious war at Judaism’s holy site.

Abdullah has begged both Israel and the Palestinian Authority for some special status in the Jerusalem’s Old City, and each party has agreed to give him some role as a neutered and neutral party. But as Abdullah stretches the meaning of his role and undermines the essence of the peace treaty, it is time for Israel to reconsider Jordan’s role and reassert the Jewish State’s rights and responsibilities at Judaism’s holiest spot.


Related First.One.Through articles:

Time for King Abdullah of Jordan to Denounce the Mourabitoun

Jordan’s Deceit and Hunger for Control of Jerusalem

Visitor Rights on the Temple Mount

The Waqf and the Temple Mount

The UN’s #Alternative Facts about the 1967 Six Day War

750 Years of Continuous Jewish Jerusalem

Nicholas Kristof’s “Arab Land”

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Will Israel Also Remove an Umbrella from the Western Wall Plaza?

The latest spate of violence in Jerusalem during July 2017 has been described by the mainstream media as stemming from Israel’s erection of metal detectors on the Temple Mount in reaction to the shooting of Israeli security guards by Israeli Arabs. The explanation falls flat.

Metal detectors are found all around the world at mosques, churches and synagogues. Just a few hundred feet from the Temple Mount, metal detectors are in place at the entrance to the Western Wall Plaza. Security cameras  can be seen at the Vatican and Mecca. Metal detectors are found at the entrances to mosques throughout the Middle East.

So why the protest?

It is not about security. It is about control over the Temple Mount and the Al Aqsa Mosque that sits at its southern tip.

Many Arabs and Muslims strongly object to any Islamic holy site being under the control of non-Muslims (known as kafir, non-believers). Jews are supposed to have a lower secondary status (known as dhimmi) in lands that they consider as Islamic lands. As such, Jewish control over an Islamic holy site in a land that they view as Arab is considered extremely insulting to the honor and pride of many Muslims.

Muslims are not insulted by the presence of metal detectors to protect visitors from violence. They are outraged by anything that implies the authority and control of the Temple Mount by non-Muslims; even the placement of an umbrella to act as a protection from the sun.

That is neither a joke nor an exaggeration.

Arab states put forward a resolution at the United Nations in October 2016 condemning Israel for placing an umbrella in the Western Wall Plaza at the approach of a ramp that goes up to the Temple Mount (known as the Ascent to the Mughrabi Gate).

“19. Deprecates the continuing Israeli unilateral measures and decisions regarding the Ascent to the Mughrabi Gate, including the latest works conducted at the Mughrabi Gate entrance in February 2015, the instalment of an umbrella at that entrance as well as the enforced creation of a new Jewish prayer platform south of the Mughrabi Ascent in Al-Buraq Plaza “Western Wall Plaza”, and the removal of the Islamic remains at the site, and reaffirms that no Israeli unilateral measures, shall be taken in conformity with its status and obligations under the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict”

The authority of the Jewish State at the Temple Mount is repulsive to many devout Muslims, and they have taken to the United Nations resolutions and to violence to purge  such Jewish presence.

Will Israel remove an umbrella to keep the Muslim world from “resorting to violence,” the way it removed the metal detectors? Who is throwing shade on this topic?


The Western Wall and the Ascent to the Mughrabi Gate
(photo: First.One.Through)


Related First.One.Through articles:

750 Years of Continuous Jewish Jerusalem

Arabs in Jerusalem

Jordan’s Deceit and Hunger for Control of Jerusalem

The Waqf and the Temple Mount

The Arguments over Jerusalem

Visitor Rights on the Temple Mount

Active and Reactive Provocations: Charlie Hebdo and the Temple Mount

Tolerance at the Temple Mount

Nicholas Kristof’s “Arab Land”

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A Seder in Jerusalem with Liberal Friends

I am “right-of-center” when it comes to politics about Israel. I firmly believe that Israel has unquestioned legal, moral and historic right to live as a free, independent, democratic Jewish state, and that the borders of such state should include the holiest city for Jews, the united city of Jerusalem as its capital for the previous reasons, as well as based on fundamental security needs.

This year, I had the fortune of celebrating my Peach seder in Jerusalem. My hosts were liberal friends that believe that the eastern part of the city – a few hundred feet from where we ate the festive dinner – should become the capital of a new state of Palestine. I was not sure how this fact would impact the seder: how would the meal remain a celebration and educational for the dozen children, while not ignoring the momentous 50-year jubilee of the united city without a contentious debate?

The Community Obligation

I tried to stay on safe ground.

Before Pesach each year, I purchase a new Haggadah to share some new thoughts at the seder. Knowing of the attendees at this year’s meal, I decided to buy Erica Brown’s “Seder Talk,” as I considered that her essays would appeal to the more progressive crowd (compared to past year selections of R. Soloveitchik, R. Lamm, Lord Sachs, Sfas Emes among others).

One of Brown’s essays discussed the basis for the seder’s “Four Sons.” She considered that the bible wrote in four different places the need to educate one’s children about the exodus from Egypt, and each mention correlated to a different type of child:

  • Exodus 12:26-27: And when your children ask you “What is this service to you?” you will say, “It is a Pesach offering for the Lord, for He passed over the houses of the Children of Israel in Egypt while He struck the Egyptians, but saved those in our homes.”
  • Exodus 13:8: And you shall explain to your son on that day, “Because of this the Lord acted for me when I came out of Egypt.”
  • Exodus 13:14: And when, in time to come, your son asks you saying, “What is this?” you shall say to him, “With a string hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, from the grip of slavery.”
  • Deuteronomy 6:20-21: When in time your children ask you, “What re the testimonies, the statutes and laws, that the Lord our God commanded you?” you shall say to your children, “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt and the Lord our God brought us out of there with a strong hand.”

The four different types of children in the Haggadah are the hacham (wise son), the rasha (evil son), the tam (simple son), and the she’eino yo’dea lish’ol (the one that doesn’t know how to ask). Brown wrote that the rabbis believed that the role of the parent is to explain to each child according to that child’s abilities. There are “four different recipients, whose learning needs vary. All must be told the story. All must learn it and be able to transmit it.

Brown continued that the mission to tell the story of the Exodus actually extends beyond parental responsibility. The Jerusalem Talmud used an alternative term for the “tam,” the simpleton, instead calling that son a “tipesh,” a stupid child.  Brown said that “the child of the Jerusalem Talmud is the child with limited mental capacity…. This child is a child of not only the family but of our entire community.” It is not only the responsibility of the parent to educate their own children, but in certain circumstances, it is also the obligation to assist others raising those kids. To make an important adjustment to the words of Hillary Clinton – it does not “take a village” to raise children – it is the responsibility of each parent to rear their own. However, there may be extraordinary circumstances in which the broader community should be involved in educating and raising a child with special needs.

I opted to end my comments there, as the reception at the seder was lukewarm. I do not think I won fans with terms for children of “stupid” and “mentally challenged,” even though the remarks were from Erica Brown herself. Had I continued with some extended thoughts of my own about community, it would have surely gone downhill.

The Community Declaration

Shortly after the description of the four sons, the Haggadah quotes and analyzes a different selection from the bible.

  • Deuteronomy 26: 5-8: [Then you shall declare before the Lord your God:] “My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous. But the Egyptians mistreated us and made us suffer, subjecting us to harsh labor.  Then we cried out to the Lord, the God of our ancestors, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our misery, toil and oppression. So the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders.

The Haggadah uses many pages to expound on these biblical verses, however, it does not give the context for the long history leading up to the exodus.

This declaration in Deuteronomy is ordered by God at the time of bikurim, the bringing of the first fruits in Jerusalem.

  • Deuteronomy 26: 1-2: When you have entered the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance and have taken possession of it and settled in it,  take some of the firstfruits of all that you produce from the soil of the land the Lord your God is giving you and put them in a basket. Then go to the place the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name

God demanded that the story of leaving Egypt be repeated in the chosen place of the chosen land for the chosen people: at the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, in the heart of the Jewish holy land.

Nachmanides (1194-1270), also known as the Ramban considered the rationale of the bikurim commandment. Why would an offering of first fruits in the Jewish Temple be accompanied with the history leaving Egypt?

The Ramban noted that bikurim is ONLY made in public in Jerusalem; such an offering cannot be made on an individual basis. The personal declaration of thanks for the riches of the holy land is made before the entire community. The acknowledgement of the gifts of the holy land began with the exodus from Egypt, and is something that each person must publicly declare: my gift of fruit is simply a portion of our collective gifts: we are a nation that was collectively brought from Egypt to Jerusalem. The offered fruit is really the nation’s fruit, just as the freedom from slavery was a national liberation.

The bible and Haggadah are clear in the command to educate one’s own children, and Erica Brown noted the need of the community to also educate other children in the community about our freedom from slavery. We stand as part of the community helping individuals learn the lesson of God’s gifts.

But we also have a need to stand before the community to acknowledge God’s gifts to that same community. Those gifts extend beyond our freedom from slavery, to the gift of the holy land and its produce. And that declaration is to be made in Jerusalem on the Jewish Temple Mount.

Being part of the community means helping those in the community that need assistance. And that same community is also a witness to our public declarations as we internalize the message that our freedom and fruits of the holy land are gifts from God.

When left-wing radicals like the New Israel Fund rewrite the Haggadah from “Next Year in Jerusalem” to “Next Year in Palestine and Israel,” they are rewriting the centrality of God’s gifts and the role of our community. In doing so, have they rejected God’s gift and being part of our community? Or must the community not give up, and teach this wayward son (or tipesh) as well?


Related First.One.Thrugh articles:

Here in United Jerusalem’s Jubilee Year

Squeezing Zionism

Today’s Inverted Chanukah: The Holiday of Rights in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria

Rick Jacobs’ Particular Reform Judaism

The Left-Wing’s Two State Solution: 1.5 States for Arabs, 0.5 for Jews

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Time for King Abdullah of Jordan to Denounce the Mourabitoun

King Abdullah II of Jordan came to Washington D.C. in February 2017 to attend the National Prayer Breakfast. We once again spoke eloquently about “tolerance, mercy, compassion for others, mutual respect.” He stated clearly his belief that people should be “equal in dignity” and that there should be “respect for the houses of God.” Welcome words, particularly from the leader of a country with a terrible history of treating Jews and Jewish holy places.

As reviewed in “Jordan’s Deceit and Hunger for Control of Jerusalem,” Jordan attacked Israel several times, banned Jews from their holy places and instituted an anti-Semitic nationality law that specifically excluded Jews from getting Jordanian citizenship.

abdullah-prayer-breakfast
Jordanian King Abdullah II speaking at National Prayer Breakfast
February 2, 2017

But Jordan made peace with Israel in 1994 and perhaps King Abdullah may finally be ready to take the next step in recognizing Jewish rights in Jerusalem.

The Mourabitoun

After the Gaza War in 2014, the Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank were looking for a way to express their anger at Israel. On the Jewish Temple Mount in Jerusalem, dozens of Muslim women began to actively protest Jews coming onto the plaza. They would follow the visitors around the site ad yell “Allahu Akbar” in efforts to intimidate them to leave the area.

Men joined these protestors as well, sometimes throwing rocks at the Jewish visitors. These “Mourabitoun” were actively promoted by the terrorist group Hamas, and tacitly approved by the Waqf that administers the holy site. The Waqf is funded by the Jordanian government.

Because of the Mourabitoun, the number of Jews that get to visit the Jewish Temple Mount is a fraction of the tourists that ascend to the complex each day. Armed Israeli guards vet each Jews that goes up to ensure that they have no prayer books and do not pray during the visit. The soldiers surround these small groups of 10-15 people as they methodically go to discrete areas of the site.

Meanwhile, thousands of non-Jewish tourists get to visit Judaism’s holiest site unimpeded.

If Abdullah wants to be a man true to his word, it is time to denounce the Mourabitoun and give Jews the tolerance and mutual respect he says is necessary for a peaceful world. It is time for the Waqf to not stand in the way of Jewish visitors who used to pray freely on the Temple Mount 450 years ago, before Suleiman kicked them from the site and relegated a small section of the western retaining wall of the mount – the Kotel – for Jewish prayer.

Will Abdullah be a man of his word in advancing peace and respect as he advocated at a prayer breakfast? Or will he be a hypocrite and anti-Semite who cannot show mutual respect to Jews? It is time for action, not just words.


Related First.One.Through articles:

The Waqf and the Temple Mount

Visitor Rights on the Temple Mount

It’s the Temple Mount, Not the Western Wall

It is Time to Insert “Jewish” into the Names of the Holy Sites

The UN’s Disinterest in Jewish Rights at Jewish Holy Places

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It’s the Temple Mount, Not the Western Wall

An October 2016 vote by UNESCO condemned Israeli activities around the Jewish Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu noted the farce of the resolution that distanced the Temple Mount from Judaism.  The UNESCO resolution even prompted the spokesperson for the UN Secretary General to read a prepared statement on two occasions, on October 14 and again on October 18:

“… the Secretary‑General reaffirms the importance of the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls for the three monotheistic religions and stresses the importance of the religious and historical link of the Jewish, Muslim and Christian peoples to the holy site.  The Al Aqsa Mosque/Al‑Haram al‑Sharif, the sacred shrine of Muslims, is also the Har HaBayit — or Temple Mount — whose Western Wall is the holiest place in Judaism, a few steps away from the Saint Sepulchre church and the Mount of Olives, which is revered by Christians.  The Secretary‑General reiterates that any perceived undertaking to repudiate the undeniable common reverence for these sites does not serve the interests of peace and will only feed violence and radicalism.  He also calls on all sides to uphold the status quo in relation to the holy sites in the Old City of Jerusalem.”

The statements made many pro-Israel people happy, as it was a marked improvement from the UNESCO resolution.

However, the statement continued two terrible falsehoods.

First, the Temple Mount itself – and where the Dome of the Rock currently sits – is the holiest place in Judaism, not the Western Wall.  The Western Wall is simply the place where Suleiman I relegated Jews to pray after he kicked them off of the Temple Mount while he “improved” Jerusalem around the 1560s.  Before the edict, Jews had prayed on the Temple Mount for centuries.

Over the last 500-or-so years, Jews have come to venerate the Western Wall as holy, even though it has no more inherent holiness than the southern or eastern retaining walls of the mount.  For example, rabbis do not recommend a person visit a mikvah, a ritual bath, before visiting the Western Wall, as they insist for Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount.

Second, the status of the Jewish Temple Mount in Jerusalem is akin to the Kaaba Stone in Mecca, Saudi Arabia for Muslims. It does not even have an equal in Christianity. Neither Islam nor Christianity have any sites in Jerusalem that are as holy to their religions, as the Jewish Temple Mount is to Judaism.

While it was appreciated that the spokesperson for the UNSG chose to politely distance himself from the horrible UNESCO resolution, it would have been far better to:

  • clearly condemn the UNESCO resolution
  • state that it is the Temple Mount, not the Western Wall that is the holiest spot for Jews
  • not try to equate the holiness and significance of the Temple Mount for Jews, with the other monotheistic religions’ holy places in Jerusalem

It is worthwhile to educate Jews about these basic facts as well.

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The Temple Mount in Jerusalem


Related First.One.Through articles:

It is Time to Insert “Jewish” into the Names of the Holy Sites

Visitor Rights on the Temple Mount

The Waqf and the Temple Mount

Tolerance at the Temple Mount

Losing the Temples, Knowledge and Caring

The Cancer in the Arab-Israeli Conflict

The Arguments over Jerusalem

The United Nations and Holy Sites in the Holy Land

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UNESCO Votes after only Hearing the Opposition

Imagine a legal system where the plaintiff is also the prosecutor.

Imagine a legal system which passes judgment, after only listening to the arguments of the prosecution.

Imagine a legal system, where the judges are all family members of the prosecuting team.

That is the farce of the United Nations.

UNESCO Vote on the Temple Mount

Consider the October 2016 UNESCO vote condemning Israeli policies at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The resolution was completely one-sided and did not seek any balance, such as:

  • mentioning that the site is called the Jewish Temple Mount, the holiest spot in the world for Jews;
  • mentioning the Muslim harassment of Jews who came to visit the site during normal visiting hours;
  • mentioning that Israel has security control of the compound, as agreed in the Oslo II Accords signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and the 1994 Peace Agreement signed between Israel and Jordan

kotel-4The Western Wall, the western retaining wall of the Jewish Temple Mount,
site of Jewish prayers since Jews were evicted from the Temple Mount by Suleiman 450 years ago. Dome of the Rock at top, sits on location of the Jewish temples.
(photo: First.One.Through)

The UNESCO resolution was advanced by the Palestinian Authority and submitted by fellow Islamic Arab countries, Algeria; Egypt; Lebanon; Morocco; Oman; Qatar; and Sudan. They sought to alter history and reality, by declaring that only Muslims had rights to an Islamic site.

The countries that voted in favor of the resolution were predominantly Muslim-majority countries, including: Algeria (99% Muslim); Bangladesh (86%); Chad (58%); Egypt (90%); Iran (100%); Lebanon (60%); Malaysia (61%); Morocco (91%); Oman (88%); Pakistan (96%); Qatar (78%); Senegal (96%); and Sudan (97%).

The only Muslim-majority country that did not vote in favor of the resolution was Albania (59%), which abstained.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation hailed the vote that was submitted and approved by Muslim countries:

The General Secretariat of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation welcomed the adoption by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) of a resolution that acknowledges Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al Sharif to be an exclusively Islamic holy site. The General Secretariat stressed that this resolution was an expression of the condemnation and rejection by the international community ofall Israeli occupation policies and actions, designed to cover up historical facts and deny the inalienable political, cultural and religious rights of the Palestinian people in Jerusalem, the capital of the State of Palestine.

The Secretary General, Iyad Amin Madani, commended the OIC group’s efforts and the positions of friendly countries that backed the resolution, which would entrench and preserve the Arabo-Islamic identity of Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Iyad Madani stressed the importance of enforcement of these historic and important resolutions, and called, at the same time,on UNESCO to shoulder its responsibilities and take the necessary measures to put an end to the serious Israeli violations against the Arabo-Islamic heritage in Palestine, especially in the cities of Jerusalem and Al-Khalil, which run counter to the principles of international law and relevant UN resolutions.”

Irina Bokova, the Director General of UNESCO understood the absurdity and bias of the UNESCO vote and offered her opinions on the matter:

“Jerusalem is the sacred city of the three monotheistic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It is in recognition of this exceptional diversity, and this cultural and religious coexistence, that it was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list. 

The heritage of Jerusalem is indivisible, and each of its communities has a right to the explicit recognition of their history and relationship with the city. To deny, conceal or erase any of the Jewish, Christian or Muslim traditions undermines the integrity of the site, and runs counter to the reasons that justified its inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

“Nowhere more than in Jerusalem do Jewish, Christian and Muslim heritage and traditions share space and interweave to the point that they support each other. These cultural and spiritual traditions build on texts and references, known by all, that are an intrinsic part of the identities and history of peoples. In the Torah, Jerusalem is the capital of King David, where Solomon built the Temple and placed the Ark of the Covenant. In the Bible, Jerusalem is the city of the passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the Quran, Jerusalem is the third holiest site in Islam, where Muhammad arrived after his night journey from Al Haram Mosq (Mecca) to Al Aqsa”

It was an appropriate comment and gesture, but underscored the absurdity of the organization she heads.

The United Nations is a kangaroo court that passes one-sided resolutions that denies protections to minorities. Today, it exists as a forum of hate under an umbrella of respectability.


Related First.One.Through articles:

The Waqf and the Temple Mount

Tolerance at the Temple Mount

The Countries that Acknowledge the Jewish Temple May Surprise You

Visitor Rights on the Temple Mount

The United Nations and Holy Sites in the Holy Land

The UN’s Disinterest in Jewish Rights at Jewish Holy Places

Al Jazeera (Qatar) Evicts Jews and Judaism from Jerusalem. Time to Return the Favor

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Al Jazeera (Qatar) Evicts Jews and Judaism from Jerusalem. Time to Return the Favor

In October 2016, UNESCO condemned Israel regarding its activities on the Jewish Temple Mount in Jerusalem and excluded all references to Judaism’s ties to the site.  The resolution was put forward by a number of Muslim states, including: Algeria; Egypt; Lebanon; Morocco; Oman; Qatar; and Sudan.

The Qatari-run news outlet, Al Jazeera, continued to proudly distort history in its coverage of the story. Consider its following statements:

“Al-Aqsa Mosque compound is the third-holiest site in Islam. It is located in East Jerusalem, which Israel annexed following its invasion in 1967 – in a move never recognised by the international community – as part of its subsequent military occupation of the West Bank.

Jewish settlers and Zionist organisations have called for complete Jewish control over the mosque compound.

Jewish groups refer to the site as the “Temple Mount” and their increased incursions into the mosque compound have continuously led to Palestinian protests across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli military and armed settler incursions have resulted in Palestinian deaths and injuries in recent years in particular. Muslim access to the religious site has also been tremendously limited by the army.”

The AJ media outlet published this on its own. It was not quoting Hamas (which the Qatari government supports).  For a sense of reality, here is a sample redlined report from a balanced perspective:

“Al-Aqsa Mosque sits on the Temple Mount, which was built by the Jewish King Herod 2,000 years ago. The mosquecompound is the third-holiest site in Islam and the Temple Mount is the holiest place in Judaism. It is located in the eastern half ofEast Jerusalem, which Israel annexed following its defensive war against an attack initiated by Jordaninvasion in 1967 – neither Jordan’s annexation of Jerusalem, nor Israel’s subsequent annexation were in a move never recognised by the international community – as part of Israel’sits subsequent administrative control military occupation of the West Bank. According to the Oslo II accords signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in 1995, and the Peace Agreement between Israel and Jordan signed in 1994, Israel handles all security matters on the Temple Mount/ A-Aqsa compound.

Non-Muslims have regular visiting hours on the Temple Mount, and some Jewish settlers and Zionist organisations have called for non-Jews to be able to pray at the site as they had done before Suleiman banned the practice roughly 500 years agocomplete Jewish control over the mosque compound.Those calls resulted in Palestinians organizing themselves against Jewish visitors.

In September 2015, Israel banned the “Mourabitoun,” the group of Muslim civilian guards who were regularly harassing Jewish visitors to the holy site.  That action further excited Muslims who feared that Israel sought to change the status quo, and sparked numerous Jewish groups refer to the site as the “Temple Mount” and their increased incursions into the mosque compound have continuously led to Palestinian protests across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.

The fighting between the Israeli military and Palestinian Arabs armed settler incursions have resulted in hundreds ofPalestinian deaths and injuries in recent years in particular. Due to the increased fighting and tensions, both Jewish and Muslim access to the religious site has also become morebeen tremendously limited, including an Israeli ban of all members of the Knesset by the army.”

As seen above, Al Jazeera is part-and-parcel of the problem of incitement in the conflict. Qatar continues to be an active supporter of violence in the region.

It is well past time to boycott Al Jazeera and its social media site AJ+.  Further, Americans should demand that the United States remove its central military command in the Middle East out of Qatar (perhaps it can help stabilize Iraq by relocating it there).

Distorting history is just part of the problem.  Incitement must have consequences.

Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani (C) Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (L) and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal attend a ceremony in Doha, on February 6, 2012. Abbas will head an interim national consensus government under a deal signed in Qatar between Abbas and Meshaal , ending a long-running disagreement that had stalled Palestinian reconciliation. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)

Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani (C) Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (L) and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal attend a ceremony in Doha, on February 6, 2012. 
AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)


Related First.One.Through articles:

Stopping the Purveyors of Hateful Propaganda

The Parameters of Palestinian Dignity

Visitor Rights on the Temple Mount

Palestinians agree that Israel rules all of Jerusalem, but the World Treats the City as Divided

The Cancer in the Arab-Israeli Conflict

The Arguments over Jerusalem

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It is Time to Insert “Jewish” into the Names of the Holy Sites

Every religion knows its holy sites.  And the world typically appreciates those facts as well.

Muslims do not call mosques “Islamic Mosques” because to do so would be redundant.  The Vatican does not refer to the “Catholic” St. Peter’s Basilica, because everyone knows that it is a Catholic holy site.

Not only would clearly identifying the sites be redundant, it would be superfluous since those religions have complete control over the sites. No other religion is marching on Mecca to claim the Kaaba Stone, or the Vatican to claim a cross.

But Jews in Israel do not have such luxuries.

The Jewish Temple Mount

The United Nations has a long and inglorious history of trashing Israel.  It has not simply rebuked the country for military matters, but for religious ones as well.  As detailed in “The United Nations and Holy Sites in the Holy Land,” for years the UN has undermined various Jewish holy sites, including: the Temple Mount; Tomb of the Patriarchs; Tomb of Rachel; Joseph’s Tomb; and even the Hurva Synagogue.

In September 2015, the UN Security Council advanced an effort to completely distance Judaism from its holiest spot: The Temple Mount.  As described in “The UN’s Disinterest in Jewish Rights at Jewish Holy Places,” the UNSC followed the recommendation of acting-President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas in several respects: solely using the Islamic name for the Temple Mount; only voicing concern for Muslim worshippers, not Jewish ones; mentioning the special role of Jordan at the site, but not Israel; and ignoring the calls of incitement to terrorism by Abbas.

A year later, UNESCO followed the lead.

On October 13, 2016, UNESCO approved a draft resolution which removed any mention of the Jewish names for its holiest site. Throughout the resolution, the UN only used Islamic names for the site, and ignored all of the points mentioned above.

This resolution was put forth to undermine Judaism’s ties to the Temple Mount, and Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem.  The move by UNESCO was an effort to give the Jordanian Waqf full control of the Jewish Temple Mount, and to ultimately hand the Old City of Jerusalem to become a capital of a future state of Palestine.

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The Temple Mount, with thousands of Jews in front of the Western Wall

The Cave of the Jewish Patriarchs

The Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron is the burial site of almost all of the founding fathers and mothers of Judaism, including: Abraham; Isaac; Jacob; Sarah; Rebecca; and Leah.  Abraham was also the father of Ishmael, whose descendants are Arabs (most of whom are Muslims), so the site is revered by Arabs as well.

But the tomb is clearly the location of the JEWISH Patriarchs and Matriarchs.

For centuries the Ottoman Muslims forbade Jews from entering the Jewish holy site, and it was only after Israel took control of the city in 1967, did Jews again pray at their holy site.  Israel also permitted Muslims to continue to pray there, just as it did at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Abbas has voiced his displeasure with the Jews in Hebron and wants them all expelled.


As the world seeks to expel Jews from their holy land and now seeks to deny the basic history of Jews at their holiest sites, it is time for Israel to clearly label the fabric that is Judaism.  All maps, all signs, all press releases, and every piece of material regarding the holy sites should henceforth always include “Jewish” in the names.

Regrettably, Jews do not have the luxury of not being redundant and superfluous.


Related First.One.Through articles:

The Countries that Acknowledge the Jewish Temple May Surprise You

Squeezing Zionism

Visitor Rights on the Temple Mount

The Waqf and the Temple Mount

Joint Prayer: The Cave of the Patriarchs and the Temple Mount

Tolerance at the Temple Mount

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The Countries that Acknowledge the Jewish Temple May Surprise You

The United Nations has been a hotbed of anti-Israel sentiment for decades. Whether the issue was war, terrorism, blockades, the security barrier, peace talks, settlements, refugees, etc., the vast majority of countries have been very vocal and very critical of Israel.

The UN also has a long history of ignoring Jewish rights to their sacred sites, as described in “The United Nations and Holy Sites in the Holy Land.” The various countries in the UN had a chance to add their own voices to that history.

In the fall of 2015, Palestinian Arabs claimed that Jews were going to overrun the Al Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and proceeded to kill and attempted to kill dozens of Israelis. Those events made the countries at the UN focus on discussing the Temple Mount itself. Their comments  on October 22, 2015 were interesting.

DSC_0087
The Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount above the Kotel,
location of the First and Second Jewish Temples

(photo: FirstOneThrough)

A Muslim Holy Site

Not surprisingly, the Muslim countries referred to the Temple Mount as an exclusively Islamic holy spot.

  • State of Palestine” called the location the “Haram al Sharif,” the Muslim name for the Temple Mount.
  • Angola discussed the “Al Aqsa Mosque,” which is Islam’s third holiest spot, located on the southern tip of the Temple Mount
  • Qatar mentioned the “Holy Shrine

Some countries went further, and stressed that the Temple Mount compound was important only to Muslims.

  • Maldives stated Haram al-Sharif must be restored.  Israel must stop altering the Islamic and Arabic character of the city
  • Egypt noted that the “Holy Shrine was extremely important to more than one billion Muslims worldwide,” and said nothing about Jews
  • Iran called the site “Haram Al-Sharif, and called for respect for the rights of Muslim worshippers to pray at that site in peace.

Others were more extreme in their calls against Israel:

  • Saudi Arabia said that “Israel had failed to protect Islamic holy sites, demolished the gates of Haram al-Sharif and turned it into a prayer place for Jews.  Israeli extremists had set fire to the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron
  • Kuwait described “attacks on Al-Aqsa mosque were an unprecedented assault against the inalienable religious rights of Muslims all over the world.   The OIC reiterated the historic and present Hashemite custodianship of the Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem, including Haram Al-Sharif/Al-Aqsa Mosque.”
  • Morocco was alarmed at the situation of “Islamic holy sites. Jerusalem was the very essence of the Palestinian question and there could be no peace without clarifying the status of Al-Quds as capital of a Palestinian State.  Any harm brought against the Al-Aqsa mosque would heighten tensions.”

The surprise in the singular call of the Islamic character of the site, was that a single western country also only mentioned the Arabic and Muslim name for the site: the United Kingdom.

Just Holy Sites

Some countries avoided the controversy, like Spain, Chad, Nigeria, Norway, Korea and France, just referring to generic “holy sites.” Such language was impartial and neutral. That was perhaps logical in a tense and violent environment.

The Holy See mentioned that the location was sacred to “Judaism, Christianity and Islam.” An ACTIVELY balanced approach, which pulled all of the monotheistic religions to Jerusalem.

Turkey’s approach was a mix. Like the Holy See, it noted that “Jerusalem, a city sacred to Islam, Judaism and Christianity, should be treated with the utmost respect.” But then went on to attack Israel’s practices at the site saying that Israel was “targeting holy sites and all other provocative activities undermining the status and sanctity of Haram al-Sharif must immediately stop.  The Jordanian role as custodian of the holy sites in Jerusalem was crucial for the preservation of Haram al-Sharif as an Islamic sanctuary.”  It would appear that Turkey was willing to acknowledge the centrality of Jerusalem to Jews, just not the Temple Mount.

Most countries like: New Zealand; Venezuela; China; Chile; the United States; Russia; Sweden; Lebanon; Malaysia; Guatemala; Brazil; Japan; India; Bangladesh; Costa Rica; Kazakhstan; Iceland; Botswana; Sri Lanka; Bahrain; Cuba; and Pakistan did not mention the holy site itself.

Yes, that many countries weighed in about the situation in Israel.

Three Countries Recognize Judaism at the Temple Mount

In the long list of world condemnation, there was a silver lining, and it came from the unlikeliest of countries. Three countries besides Israel, referred to the platform as the Temple Mount, recognizing the history of Jews at the location and the sanctity of the spot in Judaism.

  • Lithuania, a country not known for being a strong Israeli ally, said that the “Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount was a sacred place for both Muslims and Jews.”
  • Ukraine mentioned the Al Aqsa mosque, but then also said “It was important for both parties to find the courage to respect holy places in accordance with the principles specified in the fundamental international documents, particularly those of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the agreements that regulated the status of the Temple Mount complex.”
  • Zimbabwe also said that “Access to the Temple Mount and other holy sites must be preserved under the status quo arrangements.”

These are not remarkable statements by these three countries on their face. But to consider that dozens of countries – including Israel’s allies – would not recognize the centrality of the Temple Mount to Judaism, does make their statements noteworthy.

Ukraine has a long history of anti-Semitism, but it was among the few countries that referred to the site by its historic Jewish name.  The three countries did go on to chastise Israel for actions on the Temple Mount, but at least they had the decency to not ignore Jews and Judaism also.

Six months later, in April 2016 in Paris, UNESCO itself weighed in that there was no Jewish connection to the Temple Mount when it drafted 40 points of rebuke against Israel, that only referred to the Jerusalem site by Islamic and Arabic names 19 times.  This was very deliberate, as seen when UNESCO went through the courtesy of referring to the common names of other Jewish holy sites in discussing “The two Palestinian sites of Al-Ḥaram Al Ibrāhīmī/Tomb of the Patriarchs in AlKhalīl/Hebron and the Bilāl Ibn Rabāḥ Mosque/Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem.”


Decades ago, several countries would not acknowledge the Jewish State, and many Arab countries to this day still refer to Israel as the “Zionist Entity.”  Much of the world is still so backwards, that it cannot even recognize the history of the Jewish people and the holiest spot for Judaism.

Send a note to the governments of Lithuania (misija.jt@urm.lt), Ukraine (uno_us@mfa.gov.ua) and Zimbabwe (zimbabwe@un.int) and let them know that their statements, while seemingly insignificant, meant a lot to a small nation with a little country in the middle of a hostile neighborhood and United Nations.

Consider sending a note to your home country and the UK (fax 212 745 9316)  as well, relaying your disappointment.  You are welcome to attach this article.


Related First.One.Through articles:

Tolerance at the Temple Mount

Names and Narrative: CNN’s Temple Mount/ Al Aqsa Complex Inversion

Active and Reactive Provocations: Charlie Hebdo and the Temple Mount

Visitor Rights on the Temple Mount

The Arguments over Jerusalem

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Active and Reactive Provocations: Charlie Hebdo and the Temple Mount

Leaders of the Western World came to the defense of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in early 2015, after radical Islamists gunned down the staff in their offices. Those leaders stood in solidarity with the French in the name of freedom of speech. Yet those same leaders have not rallied to the side of Israel while Islamic radicals murder and attempt to murder Israelis for an even more basic principle.

empty-street-in-Jerusalem-during-Yom-Kippur
Empty Street in Jerusalem

Active Provocation

An act of active provocation is one in which the action itself is specifically designed to provoke and upset an individual or group. The person taking the action does not have any benefit from the activity, other than the enjoyment of upsetting someone.

For example, when Pamela Geller held a “Draw Mohammed” contest in Texas in May 2015, the event was designed to upset Muslims. The action of portraying the Islamic prophet in physical form is considered highly insulting to many Muslims, and several people came to the event with the goal of killing participants for the sacrilegious act.

While people came out in defense of Geller for exercising her right of free speech, few would argue that Geller had any personal benefit from her actions other than getting satisfaction in hurting the feelings of Muslims.

Reactive Provocation

Reactive provocation is significantly different from active provocation. Such activity has personal benefit and there is no intention of malice. For example, a person may eat a turkey sandwich which they truly enjoy, even though another person may be a vegetarian and find the action upsetting.

Everyone has sensitivities. How far could a society extend itself to ban certain “normal” activities because some people may be offended by the actions?

Would a government ban gay people from holding hands in public if it upsets the values of some religious people? Would it ban all meat because it upsets vegetarians?  It would be impossible to navigate such a world in which anyone could object and block any action.

America was founded on the principle of the “pursuit of happiness” and has defended such right in cases of active provocation such as Pamela Geller in the US and Charlie Hebdo abroad. How could it do less for situations of reactive provocations?

Western Values versus Personal Interest

Various western societies offer a wide spectrum of freedoms including, speech, assembly and religion meant to cover elements of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Western culture is designed to offer space for different people to live and interact, even if various belief systems are in conflict. The expectation is for tolerance of different and possibly offending views.

The raison d’etre of Charlie Hebdo is to offend. It’s cartoons are examples of active provocation whereby people deliberately upset others. While the comedic value of some of the pieces could be debated, the principle of freedom of speech is core to western society and fiercely protected. While writing a magazine is not a common activity, free speech is a daily activity of everyone, so the leaders of western countries stood together to defend active provocation and all forms of free speech.

hebdo march
World Leaders come out in solidarity with France
January 2015

In Israel, people also attempt to live with ordinary freedoms.  Like other democracies, they include freedom of speech, press, religion and assembly. But such freedoms sometimes offend radical Muslims.

The Temple Mount has maintained established visiting hours for Jews and non-Jews alike for any decades.  People of all faiths visit the site.  They do so as a natural act of visiting an incredible tourist site or because of religious conviction.  They do not visit as a pretext of causing offense to anyone.  If there are some Islamic extremists who are upset that Jews visit, that is a reaction based on that person’s anti-Semitic biases, an example of reactive provocation.

Muslims have become more worried about Jewish visitation to the Temple Mount which they consider holy as well.  The number of Jews visiting the Temple Mount doubled over the past five years to about 11,000 in 2014.  It is still a paltry sum compared to the estimated 4 million Muslims who come to the site each year. However, fears of the growing Jewish presence has made Muslims begin to attack Jews throughout Israel.

So why is the western world so cavalier about the carnage in Israel from Islamic radicals, while shaken to its core for the Hebdo killings? Is freedom of religion and access a lesser democratic value than speech?  Is France considered more western than Israel? Perhaps some believe that to be true.

It is also a fact that Europe and America do not have shrines holy to Islam, so the situation of the al Aqsa mosque is really a narrow problem for Israel to handle.  Western ambivalence may not be so much a function of values as it is proximity.

How embarrassing that the narrow scope of the champions of democracy shows that they are less interested with values than personal interests.  The world should loudly condemn Islamic terrorism and support freedoms which are enshrined in Israeli law and democratic ideals.


Related First One Through articles:

My Terrorism

I’m Offended, You’re Dead

Selective Speech

Visitor Rights on the Temple Mount

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