The most contested piece of real-estate on earth

[ by Charles Cameron — Jerusalem and apocalyptic sentiment, not at the emergency crash warning level, but still something to keep an eye out for ]

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If you’re interested, as I am, in the ways that end-times theology impacts geopolitics, whether in its Christian, Judaic or Islamic (Sunni or Shi’ite) formulations, then two recent articles in Ha’aretz deserve your attention.

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The first, published July 27, has Ari Shavit interviewing Gov. Mitt Romney on behalf of Ha’aretz, and asking the following question:

Governor Romney, you’ll be arriving in Jerusalem on Saturday night, on the eve of the day on which we commemorate the destruction of the First and Second Temples. Many Israelis feel that the fate of the ‘Third Temple’ relies on its strong bond with a strong America. Can you assure them that should you be president, you will reverse the trend of American decline? Can you guarantee that both America, and Israel’s bond with America, will be strong once again?

Gov. Romney does not speak to the Third Temple issue in his response, though the rest of the interview will no doubt interest those with a focus on foreign policy – and policy with regard to a nuclear Iran in particular.

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The second Ha’aretz piece, posted almost a month earlier, gives some context on why the issue of the Third Temple is important – it is part and parcel of Jewish messianic prophecy. The problem here is that the rebuilding of the Temple would presumably take place on the site that’s currently considered the third holiest in Islam – the plateau that Muslims term the Noble Sanctuary and Jews the Temple Mount.

And that could mean trouble:

In 1990, after Muslims became concerned that the Temple Mount Faithful would come to lay the cornerstone for the Third Temple – as they had several times in the past – the muezzin of the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the mount called on the thousands of worshippers there to defend the site against such a move. This led to what became known as the Temple Mount riots, in which 17 Palestinians were killed and several Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall were injured. The riots led to a serious toughening of the police stance regarding the Temple Mount, but it did not stop attempts by the various right-wing organizations to restore a full Jewish presence there.

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As the navel is set in the centre of the human body,

so is the land of Israel the navel of the world…

situated in the centre of the world,

and Jerusalem in the centre of the land of Israel,

and the sanctuary in the centre of Jerusalem,

and the holy place in the centre of the sanctuary,

and the ark in the centre of the holy place,

and the foundation stone before the holy place,

because from it the world was founded.

— Midrash Tanchuma, Qedoshim.

Tisha B’Av, the day on which Jews mourn the destruction of the First and Second Temples, begins in the evening of Saturday, July 28 this year, and ends in the evening of Sunday, July 29.

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Gershom Gorenberg calls the plateau “the most contested piece of real-estate on earth” — and his book The End of Days is the definitive text exploring the different apocalyptic expectations asspociated with it in the three Abrahamic religions.

In it, he notes that according to one Jewish source, the fight between Cain and Abel arose over a dispute as to which of them had the better claim to the Temple Mount.

3 comments on this post.
  1. L. C. Rees:

    That’s an awkward question for Governor Romney.

    As he explained to this Iowa talk radio host during his 2007, Latter-day Saints know from Zechariah 14 that the Third Temple will be built following a war of genocidal intent and when all is dark for Israel. YHWH will descend, split the Mount of Olives, and open a way for the Jews to escape before doing away with Israel’s attackers. They will look up to YHWH in thanks and notice the holes left when nails were driven through His hands and feet.

    That moment will not be without some awkwardness so some awkwardness on Governor Romney’s part is expected. 

  2. zen:

    It might get even more awkward if Romney has to explain to the Israelis that it is the non-Mormons who are really the Gentiles 😉
     

  3. L. C. Rees:

    True.

    Utah’s fourth governor Simon Bamberger remarked during the 1916 campaign that, “As a Jew, I’ve been called many a bad name, but this is the first time in my life that I’ve been called a ‘damned Gentile’!”

    The most widely used equivalent term currently used by we in the Camp of Israel is “non-member”. Church leaders have counseled members not to use this or similar terms since we are all children of God. However, given mortal man’s thirst for labels, it’s use is likely to continue among Latter-day Saints just like Mormon is among Gentiles.