www.WorldNetDaily.com — originally from Israel Today
If Jerusalem’s Temple Mount stands at the heart of the Middle East conflict, and if Muslim treatment of other faiths at the site is any indication, talk of regional peace is somewhat premature.
Azzam Khatib, director of the Islamic Trust (or Waqf) that guards the mosques atop the Temple Mount, said that Jews and Christians who try to pray at the ancient holy site are declaring war.
Any non-Muslim “who seeks such an approach is really seeking a religious war,” said Khatib, who insisted that the Temple Mount is an exclusively Muslim site and that Jews and Christians should not even want to pray there.
Khatib even took issue with the use of the term “Temple Mount,” angrily demanding the site be called al-Haram al-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary.
Khatib refused to consider the possibility that the site was once home to the First and Second Jewish Temples, calling such claims unsubstantiated myths. When presented with a citation from a 1929 tourist guide published by the Supreme Muslim Council that acknowledged the Temple Mount as the site of Solomon’s Temple, Khatib rejected the idea that such a book was ever published by a Muslim authority.
According to Khatib, when the Muslims first arrived in Jerusalem 1,400 years ago, the Temple Mount area was barren, and no hard evidence of previous structures remained, making any non-Muslim claims to the hilltop mere speculation.
“When the Muslims came here they never found any standing building or any culture still alive, so they never threatened any standing building,” said the Waqf director. “We are not going to entertain theories about buildings that may or may not have been here before.”
Always a fount of contradiction, the Muslim officials later negated their own claims that the Temple Mount was empty in A.D. 600 with their stories of Muhammad’s midnight visit to the Al Aksa Mosque that today towers over the southern end of the raised compound.
Pointing to a massive retaining wall, which if the Muslim officials are to be believed should also not have existed 1,400 years ago, a Waqf guide identified the spot where Muhammad tied his horse, Buraq, after legend says he traveled thousands of miles in the span of just a few hours.
Various Waqf officials also failed to provide a single, cohesive answer as to why the gate on the eastern side of the Temple Mount, known in the Bible as the Golden Gate, is sealed shut. Historical Muslim sources state that the gate was sealed and a cemetery planted in front of it to prevent Jesus’ prophesied return.
But Khatib said the gate was closed simply because it was built in front of a cemetery and “it’s difficult to approach a gate while passing through cemeteries, through graves.”
When pressed as to why a gate would be built where a cemetery already existed, Khatib’s aide and translator chimed in and altered the story, saying that the gate had been there first and “after the blocking of the gate, and people stop using the gate, people made use of the area (by burying their dead).”
A third explanation was provided by a Waqf official identified as Abu Qatis, who mumbled something about a Crusader massacre of Muslims at the gate.
Returning to the issue of protection of access to and religious freedom at the Temple Mount, Khatib and his aide vigorously denied suggestions that Jewish and Christian visitors are ever denied entry. Moments later, however, Khatib defended the practice of turning away visiting Jews and Christians as legitimate payback for Israeli security measures that deny access to the Temple Mount to Palestinian Arab Muslims from outside Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries.
“You cannot expect us to allow in everyone when Palestinians from just outside Jerusalem cannot come here and pray,” said Khatib.
An Israeli police officer standing guard at one of the Temple Mount’s entrances told us that the restrictions on Muslim access are only enforced occasionally, and were only made necessary because of past Muslim riots at the site that ended with stones being hurled onto Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall.
“This is just an excuse,” insisted Khatib. “Tell me, during the last five years in Jerusalem, what riots do we have in this area?”
Clearly unfamiliar with having their positions challenged, Khatib and his aide abruptly ended the interview when it was suggested that perhaps the lack of violence over the past five years was due to the Israeli measures.