Myths & Facts Online


By Mitchell G. Bard

“Jerusalem is an Arab City.”
“Jerusalem need not be the capital of Israel.”
“The Arabs were willing to accept the internationalization of Jerusalem. The Jews opposed the idea. Because of their intransigence, Israel illegally occupies the entire city today.”
“Jordan accepted internationalization.”
“From 1948 through 1967, Jordan ensured freedom of worship for all religions in Jerusalem.”
“Jordan safeguarded Jewish holy places.”
“Jordan strove to improve conditions in Arab East Jerusalem. By contrast, Israeli authorities bulldozed hundreds of Arab homes in that part of the city, leaving many Arab residents homeless.”
“Under Israeli rule, religious freedom has been curbed in Jerusalem.”
“Israel denies Muslims and Christians free access to their holy sites.”
“Israeli policy encourages attacks by Jewish fanatics against Muslim and Christian residents and their holy sites.”
“Israel has restricted the political rights of Palestinian Arabs in Jerusalem.”
“Under UN Resolution 242, East Jerusalem is considered 'occupied territory.' Israel's annexation of Jerusalem therefore violates the UN resolution.”
“East Jerusalem should be part of a Palestinian state because because all its residents are Palestinian Arabs and no Jews have ever lived there.”
“The April 1990 move of 20 Jewish families into St. John's Hospice a building in the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem, located near the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is an example of Israel's intent to drive non-Jews from their parts of the city.”
“In an unprovoked attack, Israeli police murdered 17 Arab worshippers on the Temple Mount in 1990.”
“The United States does not believe Jerusalem should be the united capital of Israel.”
“The Temple Mount has always been a Muslim holy place and Judaism has no connection to the site.”
“Israel should not be allowed to control the Temple Mount because it denies Muslims access to their holy places.”
“The Palestinians have been careful to preserve the archaeological relics of the Temple Mount.”
“When Israel excavated the Western Wall tunnel, it threatened the integrity of the Temple Mount and al-Aksa Mosque, and was therefore condemned by the UN Security Council.”
“Internationalization is the best solution to resolve the conflicting claims over Jerusalem.”
“Israel tried to burn down the al-Aksa mosque in 1969.”



“Jerusalem is an Arab City.”


Jews have been living in Jerusalem continuously for nearly two millennia. They have constituted the largest single group of inhabitants there since the 1840's (map of Jerusalem in 1912) .Jerusalem contains the Western Wall of the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism.

Jerusalem was never the capital of any Arab entity. In fact, it was a backwater for most of Arab history. Jerusalem never served as a provincial capital under Muslim rule nor was it ever a Muslim cultural center. For Jews, the entire city is sacred, but Muslims revere a site the Dome of the Rock not the city. "To a Muslim," observed British writer Christopher Sykes, "there is a profound difference between Jerusalem and Mecca or Medina. The latter are holy places containing holy sites." Besides the Dome of the Rock, he noted, Jerusalem has no major Islamic significance.1




























































“Jerusalem need not be the capital of Israel.”


Ever since King David made Jerusalem the capital of Israel more than 3,000 years ago, the city has played a central role in Jewish existence. The Western Wall in the Old City the last remaining wall of the ancient Jewish Temple, the holiest site in Judaism is the object of Jewish veneration and the focus of Jewish prayer. Three times a day, for thousands of years, Jews have prayed "To Jerusalem, thy city, shall we return with joy," and have repeated the Psalmist's oath: "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning."

Jerusalem "has known only two periods of true greatness, and these have been separated by 2,000 years. Greatness has only happened under Jewish rule," Leon and Jill Uris wrote in Jerusalem. "This is so because the Jews have loved her the most, and have remained constant in that love throughout the centuries of their dispersion....It is the longest, deepest love affair in history."3


“For three thousand years, Jerusalem has been the center of Jewish hope and longing. No other city has played such a dominant role in the history, culture, religion and consciousness of a people as has Jerusalem in the life of Jewry and Judaism. Throughout centuries of exile, Jerusalem remained alive in the hearts of Jews everywhere as the focal point of Jewish history, the symbol of ancient glory, spiritual fulfillment and modern renewal. This heart and soul of the Jewish people engenders the thought that if you want one simple word to symbolize all of Jewish history, that word would be 'Jerusalem.'”  Teddy Kollek4



“The Arabs were willing to accept the internationalization of Jerusalem. The Jews opposed the idea. Because of their intransigence, Israel illegally occupies the entire city today.”


When the United Nations took up the Palestine question in 1947, it recommended that all of Jerusalem be internationalized. The Vatican and many predominantly Catholic delegations pushed for this status, but a key reason for the UN decision was the Soviet Bloc's desire to embarrass Transjordan's King Abdullah and his British patrons by denying Abdullah control of the city.

The Jewish Agency, after much soul-searching, agreed to accept internationalization in the hope that in the short-run it would protect the city from bloodshed and the new state from conflict. Since the partition resolution called for a referendum on the city's status after 10 years, and Jews comprised a substantial majority, the expectation was that the city would later be incorporated into Israel. The Arab states were as bitterly opposed to the internationalization of Jerusalem as they were to the rest of the partition plan.

In May 1948, Jordan invaded and occupied East Jerusalem, dividing the city for the first time in its history, and driving thousands of Jews whose families had lived in the city for centuries into exile. The UN partition plan, including its proposal that Jerusalem be internationalized, had been overtaken by events.

After the Arab states' rejection of UN Resolution 181 and, on December 11, 1948, UN Resolution 194, establishing the UN Conciliation Commission for Palestine, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion declared that Israel would no longer accept the internationalization of Jerusalem.

From 1948-67, the city was divided between Israel and Jordan. Israel made western Jerusalem its capital; Jordan occupied the eastern section. Because Jordan like all the Arab states at the time maintained a state of war with Israel, the city became, in essence, two armed camps, replete with concrete walls and bunkers, barbed-wire fences, minefields and other military fortifications.


“You ought to let the Jews have Jerusalem; it was they who made it famous.”

Winston Churchill to diplomat Evelyn Shuckburgh, 1955.6


In 1967, Jordan ignored Israeli pleas to stay out of the Six-Day War and attacked the western part of the city. The Jordanians were routed by Israeli forces and driven out of East Jerusalem, allowing the city's unity to be restored. Teddy Kollek, Jerusalem’s mayor for 28 years, called the reunification of the city "the practical realization of the Zionist movement's goals."

Because Israel was defending itself from aggression in the 1948 and 1967 wars, international legal scholar Steven Schwebel wrote, it has a better claim to sovereignty over Jerusalem than its Arab neighbors.7


“Jordan accepted internationalization.”


Jordan opposed internationalization from the start when it joined the other Arab states in rejecting partition. Jordan's delegate, Fawzi Pasha Malki, bluntly told the UN Ad Hoc Political Committee on December 6, 1949:

My delegation believes that no form of internationalization...serves any purpose, as the holy places under the protection and control of my government are safe and secure, without any necessity for a special regime.8

When the Trusteeship Council met in Geneva in early 1950 to draw up a new law governing Jerusalem, Jordan refused to permit UN supervision of any kind.9

That year, Jordan annexed all the territory it occupied west of the Jordan River, including East Jerusalem. The other Arab countries denied formal recognition of the Jordanian move, and the Arab League considered expelling Jordan from membership. Eventually, a compromise was worked out by which the other Arab governments agreed to view all the West Bank and East Jerusalem as held "in trust" by Jordan for the Palestinians.


“From 1948 through 1967, Jordan ensured freedom of worship for all religions in Jerusalem.”


In violation of the 1949 Armistice Agreement, Jordan denied Israelis access to the Western Wall and to the cemetery on the Mount of Olives, where Jews have buried their dead for more than 2,500 years.

Under paragraph eight of the agreement, Jordan and Israel had agreed to establish committees to arrange the resumption of the normal functioning of cultural and humanitarian institutions on Mt. Scopus, and free access to that area; use of the cemetery on the Mount of Olives, and free access to holy places and cultural institutions.

Under Jordanian rule, "Israeli Christians were subjected to various restrictions during their seasonal pilgrimages to their holy places" in Jerusalem, noted Teddy Kollek. "Only limited numbers were grudgingly permitted to briefly visit the Old City and Bethlehem at Christmas and Easter."10

In 1955 and 1964, Jordan passed laws imposing strict government control on Christian schools, including restrictions on the opening of new schools, state control over school finances and appointment of teachers and the requirements that the Koran be taught. In 1953 and 1965, Jordan adopted laws abrogating the right of Christian religious and charitable institutions to acquire real estate in Jerusalem.

In 1958, police seized the Armenian Patriarch-elect and deported him from Jordan, paving the way for the election of a patriarch supported by King Hussein's government. Because of these repressive policies, many Christians emigrated from Jerusalem. Their numbers declined from 25,000 in 1949 to less than 13,000 in June 1967.11

These discriminatory laws were abolished by Israel after the city was reunited in 1967.


“Jordan safeguarded Jewish holy places.”


Jordan desecrated Jewish holy places. King Hussein permitted the construction of a road to the Intercontinental Hotel across the Mount of Olives cemetery. Hundreds of Jewish graves were destroyed by a highway that could have easily been built elsewhere. The gravestones, honoring the memory of rabbis and sages, were used by the engineer corps of the Jordanian Arab Legion as pavement and latrines in army camps (inscriptions on the stones were still visible when Israel liberated the city).

The ancient Jewish Quarter of the Old City was ravaged, 58 Jerusalem synagogues some centuries old were destroyed or ruined, others were turned into stables and chicken coops. Slum dwellings were built abutting the Western Wall.12


“Jordan strove to improve conditions in Arab East Jerusalem. By contrast, Israeli authorities bulldozed hundreds of Arab homes in that part of the city, leaving many Arab residents homeless.”


As had been the case under previous Islamic rulers, King Hussein had neglected Jerusalem. After the capture of the Old City in 1967, the scope of his disregard became clear when Israel discovered that much of the city lacked even the most basic municipal services a steady water supply, plumbing and electricity.13 As a result of reunification, these and other badly needed municipal services were extended to Arab homes and businesses in East Jerusalem.

Israeli authorities found that hundreds of squatters had made their homes in the Jewish Quarter. Israeli civil engineers cleared the ruins to rebuild the quarter, but only after offering compensation or alternate housing to the squatters.


“Under Israeli rule, religious freedom has been curbed in Jerusalem.”


After the 1967 war, Israel abolished all the discriminatory laws promulgated by Jordan and adopted its own tough standard for safeguarding access to religious shrines. "Whoever does anything that is likely to violate the freedom of access of the members of the various religions to the places sacred to them," Israeli law stipulates, is "liable to imprisonment for a term of five years." Israel also entrusted administration of the holy places to their respective religious authorities. Thus, for example, the Muslim Waqf has responsibility for the mosques on the Temple Mount.

Les Filles de la Charite de l'Hospice Saint Vincent de Paul of Jerusalem repudiated attacks on Israel's conduct in Jerusalem a few months after Israel took control of the city:

Our work here has been made especially happy and its path smoother by the goodwill of Israeli authorities...smoother not only for ourselves, but (more importantly) for the Arabs in our care.14

Former President Jimmy Carter acknowledged that religious freedom has been enhanced under Israeli rule. There is "no doubt" that Israel did a better job safeguarding access to the city's holy places than did Jordan. "There is unimpeded access today," Carter noted. "There wasn't from 1948-67."15

The State Department notes that although Israel has no constitution, the law provides for freedom of worship, and the Government respects this right.16


“I also respect the fact that Israel allows for a multifaith climate in which every Friday a thousand Muslims pray openly on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. When I saw that, I had to ask myself, where in the Islamic world can 1,000 Jews get together and pray in full public view?”

Muslim author Irshad Manji16a


“Israel denies Muslims and Christians free access to their holy sites.”


Since 1967, hundreds of thousands of Muslims and Christians many from Arab countries that remain in a state of war with Israel have come to Jerusalem to see their holy places. Arab leaders are free to visit Jerusalem to pray if they wish to, just as Egyptian President Anwar Sadat did at the al-Aksa mosque. For security reasons, restrictions are sometimes imposed on the Temple Mount temporarily, but the right to worship is not abridged and other mosques remain accessible even in times of high tension. In October 2004, for example, despite high alerts for terrorism and the ongoing Palestinian uprising, an estimated 140,000 Muslim worshipers attended Ramadan prayers on the Temple Mount.16b

According to Islam, the prophet Muhammad was miraculously transported from Mecca to Jerusalem, and it was from there that he made his ascent to heaven. The Dome of the Rock and the al-Aksa Mosque, both built in the seventh century, made definitive the identification of Jerusalem as the "Remote Place" that is mentioned in the Koran, and thus a holy place after Mecca and Medina. Muslim rights on the Temple Mount, the site of the two shrines, have not been infringed. Although it is the holiest site in Judaism, Israel has left the Temple Mount under the control of Muslim religious authorities.

For Christians, Jerusalem is the place where Jesus lived, preached, died and was resurrected. While it is the heavenly rather than the earthly Jerusalem that is emphasized by the Church, places mentioned in the New Testament as the sites of Jesus' ministry have drawn pilgrims and devoted worshipers for centuries. Among these sites are the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Garden of Gethsemane, the site of the Last Supper, and the Via Dolorosa with the fourteen Stations of the Cross.

The rights of the various Christian churches to custody of the Christian holy places in Jerusalem were defined in the course of the nineteenth century, when Jerusalem was part of the Ottoman Empire. Known as the "status quo arrangement for the Christian holy places in Jerusalem," these rights remained in force during the period of the British Mandate and are still upheld today in Israel.


“Israeli policy encourages attacks by Jewish fanatics against Muslim and Christian residents and their holy sites.”


Israeli authorities have consistently attempted to stop fanatics of all faiths from desecrating religious sites or committing acts of violence near them. When it has been unable to stop such acts from occurring, Israel has severely punished the perpetrators. Allen Goodman, a deranged Israeli who in 1982 went on a shooting rampage on the Temple Mount, for example, was sentenced to life imprisonment.

In 1984, Israeli authorities infiltrated a Jewish group that planned acts of violence against non-Jewish sites and civilians. The terrorists were tried and imprisoned.

In 1990, the Temple Mount Faithful, a Jewish extremist group, sought to march to the Temple Mount on Sukkot to lay the cornerstone for the Third Temple. The police, worried that such a march would anger Muslims and exacerbate an already tense situation created by the intifada and events in the Persian Gulf, denied them the right to march. That decision was upheld by the Israeli Supreme Court, a fact communicated immediately to Muslim religious leaders and the Arab press. Despite Israel's preemptive action, "Muslim leaders and intifada activists persisted in inciting their faithful to confrontation."17 As a result, a tragic riot ensued in which 17 Arabs were killed.

Since that time, Israel has been especially vigilant, and done everything possible to prevent any provocation by groups or individuals that might threaten the sanctity of the holy places of any faith. In 2005, for example, Israel banned non-Muslims from the Temple Mount to forestall a planned rally by Jewish ultra-nationalists.


“Israel has restricted the political rights of Palestinian Arabs in Jerusalem.”


Along with religious freedom, Palestinian Arabs in Jerusalem have unprecedented political rights. Arab residents were given the choice of whether to become Israeli citizens. Most chose to retain their Jordanian citizenship. Moreover, regardless of whether they are citizens, Jerusalem Arabs are permitted to vote in municipal elections and play a role in the administration of the city.


“Under UN Resolution 242, East Jerusalem is considered 'occupied territory.' Israel's annexation of Jerusalem therefore violates the UN resolution.”


One drafter of the UN Resolution was then-U.S. Ambassador to the UN Arthur Goldberg. According to Goldberg, "Resolution 242 in no way refers to Jerusalem, and this omission was deliberate....Jerusalem was a discrete matter, not linked to the West Bank." In several speeches at the UN in 1967, Goldberg said: "I repeatedly stated that the armistice lines of 1948 were intended to be temporary. This, of course, was particularly true of Jerusalem. At no time in these many speeches did I refer to East Jerusalem as occupied territory."18

After 1948, the UN General Assembly voted on three resolutions calling for the internationalization of Jerusalem. The matter was dropped until Israel gained control of the city. Since 1967, the UN, which for 19 years ignored Jordan's occupation of the city, has adopted numerous resolutions criticizing Israel for altering the status of Jerusalem.


“The basis of our position remains that Jerusalem must never again be a divided city. We did not approve of the status quo before 1967; in no way do we advocate a return to it now .”

President George Bush19



“East Jerusalem should be part of a Palestinian state because all its residents are Palestinian Arabs and no Jews have ever lived there.”


Before 1865, the entire population of Jerusalem lived behind the Old City walls (what today would be considered part of the eastern part of the city). Later, the city started to expand beyond the walls because of population growth, and both Jews and Arabs began to build in new areas of the city.

By the time of partition, a thriving Jewish community was living in the eastern part of Jerusalem, an area that included the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. This area of the city also contains many sites of importance to the Jewish religion, including the City of David, the Temple Mount and the Western Wall. In addition, major institutions like Hebrew University and the original Hadassah Hospital are on Mount Scopus — in eastern Jerusalem.

The only time that the eastern part of Jerusalem was exclusively Arab was between 1949 and 1967, and that was because Jordan occupied the area and forcibly expelled all the Jews.

In March 2010, during a visit to Israel by Vice President Joseph Biden, the Israeli government announced the construction of 1,600 apartments in the Jerusalem suburb of Ramat Shlomo. The United States strongly condemned the announcement and the continued Israeli construction in East Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized for the timing of the announcement. Israel's detractors have claimed Israel's expansion in East Jerusalem represents a violation of the Road Map and prevents peace, despite the fact that Israel is adhering to its unprecedented moratorium on West Bank settlement, previous peace talks were not impeded by construction and every Israeli government since 1967 has supported the development of the Nation's capital.

Moreover, the subject of the controversy, Ramat Shlomo, is located north of Jerusalem and not in East Jerusalem. It is a community of 16,000 Orthodox Jews. It is not a fledgling settlement, rather an established community that is considered a consensus settlement - a municipality that is expected to remain part of Israel's capital in any peace agreement . While the timing of the announcement was unfortunate, the project has been in the planning stage for three years - and actual construction is not expected to begin for another three years. The construction will not disrupt the lives of Palestinians, as the community is entirely Jewish and the chosen location is an empty valley.19a



“The April 1990 move of 20 Jewish families into St. John's Hospice a building in the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem, located near the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is an example of Israel's intent to drive non-Jews from their parts of the city.”


Israel has always respected the rights of all religions to practice freely. The act of moving into the hospice in no way infringed upon these rights. The building in question was not a church or holy place of any kind. Neither these Jews nor the Israeli government had any intention of interfering with the Christians' access to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, or any other holy place in the Old City.

The Israeli government came under fire for its alleged role in financing the leasing. The government maintains a wide array of housing assistance programs throughout Israel. It was within this framework that financial assistance was provided to Ateret Kohanim, a private association that owns several buildings in the Old City.

The PLO-backed leadership of the intifada issued an order to kill the Armenian businessman who sold the building to the Jewish families.20

One group that saw through the efforts to exploit this delicate situation was the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem. "Just as there are Muslim Arabs living in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, there is no reason why — if tenants in their quarter wanted to rent their property to Jews that they should not be allowed to take up residence there," the embassy said in a statement. "We believe that in Israel, as in all other democratic nations, Christians, Muslims and Jews should be able to live anywhere they choose." To deny Jews the right to live anywhere in Jerusalem, it declared, was "absurd."21

The Greek Orthodox patriarchate went into the Israeli courts to file a complaint against the hospice. The fact that the church took the issue to court demonstrates its faith in Israel's system of justice. In 1995 a compromise was reached in which the building lease was turned over to the city of Jerusalem.


“In an unprovoked attack, Israeli police murdered 17 Arab worshippers on the Temple Mount in 1990.”


The ostensible reason for the October 8, 1990, riot that led to the deaths of 17 Arabs, was that a Jewish fringe group known as the Temple Mount Faithful was going to attempt to lay a cornerstone for the rebuilding of the Temple.

The group had won the reluctant permission of police to march around the Temple Mount carrying Israeli flags. But seeing a large crowd of Muslims gather on the site, police revoked the permit to march. When the riot broke out, the "Faithful" were praying peacefully nearly a mile away.

Arab radicals had helped pave the way for the violence. Leaders of Fatah and Hamas were struggling to "mobilize an upsurge of the intifada in the neighborhoods of Jerusalem."22 When members of their groups heard calls from sheiks to "defend" the Islamic holy places, they mobilized on the Temple Mount.

"Once the violence began," the Washington Post reported, "Palestinian youths attacked police with a ferocity and persistence unprecedented in Jerusalem during the nearly three years of the intifada. Arab sources say the fervor of the youth can be connected to what had been a concerted campaign by Palestinian leaders in Jerusalem in recent weeks to step up the level of attacks, especially on police."

During the ensuing melee, rioters randomly lobbed stones in the direction of Jewish pilgrims, who were quietly saying Sukkot prayers in front of the Western Wall below. Jamal Nusseibah, the son of a prominent Palestinian professor, admitted people had brought stones with them to the Temple Mount in their school bags.23

Two official Israeli reports were issued with regard to the tragedy. The first was the government-appointed Zamir Commission, which concluded that a rioting mob hurled stone and metal projectiles at police from close range, that the policemen's lives were in jeopardy and that they opened fire to defend themselves. The report criticized the Israeli police for their handling of the incident, in particular their lack of preparedness in dealing with a situation they could have foreseen would become violent. It is difficult to imagine any Arab government issuing a report making such scathing, public criticisms of the performance of its own police force.

Media accounts inaccurately reported that the second report contradicted the Zamir Commission's findings. Judge Ezra Kama's investigation confirmed Zamir on key points. Kama did not conclude that Israel "provoked" the riot. The report does say, however, that "3,000 Arabs, mostly youths, heeded the call [by Muslim preachers to come to the Temple Mount to 'defend' it]; that stones were prepared in advance; that the Muslim leadership knew that none of the Temple Mount Faithful would be allowed anywhere near the area, and in fact clearly saw them leaving almost an hour before the rioting began."24


“The United States does not believe Jerusalem should be the united capital of Israel.”


Only two countries have embassies in Jerusalem Costa Rica and El Salvador. Of the 180 nations with which America has diplomatic relations, Israel is the only one whose capital is not recognized by the U.S. government. The U.S. embassy, like most others, is in Tel Aviv, 40 miles from Jerusalem. The United States does maintain a consulate in East Jerusalem, however, that deals with Palestinians in the territories and works independently of the embassy, reporting directly to Washington. Today, then, we have the anomaly that American diplomats refuse to meet with Israelis in their capital because Jerusalem’s status is negotiable, but make their contacts with Palestinians in the city.

In 1990, Congress passed a resolution declaring that "Jerusalem is and should remain the capital of the State of Israel" and "must remain an undivided city in which the rights of every ethnic and religious group are protected." During the 1992 Presidential campaign, Bill Clinton said: "I recognize Jerusalem as an undivided city, the eternal capital of Israel, and I believe in the principle of moving our embassy to Jerusalem." He never reiterated this view as President; consequently, official U.S. policy remained that the status of Jerusalem is a matter for negotiations.

In an effort to change this policy, Congress overwhelmingly passed The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995. This landmark bill declared that, as a statement of official U.S. policy, Jerusalem should be recognized as the undivided, eternal capital of Israel and required that the U.S. embassy in Israel be established in Jerusalem no later than May 1999. The law also included a waiver that allowed the President to essentially ignore the legislation if he deemed doing so to be in the best interest of the United States. President Clinton exercised that option.

During the 2000 presidential campaign George W. Bush promised that as President he would immediately "begin the process of moving the United States ambassador to the city Israel has chosen as its capital."25 In June 2001, however, Bush followed Clinton's precedent and used the presidential waiver to prevent the embassy from being moved.

While critics of Congressional efforts to force the administration to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital insist that such a move would harm the peace process, supporters of the legislation argue the opposite is true. By making clear the United States position that Jerusalem should remain unified under Israeli sovereignty, they say, unrealistic Palestinian expectations regarding the city can be moderated and thereby enhance the prospects for a final agreement.


“The Temple Mount has always been a Muslim holy place and Judaism has no connection to the site.”


During the 2000 Camp David Summit, Yasser Arafat said that no Jewish Temple ever existed on the Temple Mount.25a A year later, the Palestinian Authority-appointed Mufti of Jerusalem, Ikrima Sabri, told the German publication Die Welt, "There is not [even] the smallest indication of the existence of a Jewish temple on this place in the past. In the whole city, there is not even a single stone indicating Jewish history."

These views are contradicted by a book entitled A Brief Guide to al-Haram al-Sharif, published by the Supreme Moslem Council in 1930. The Council, the supreme Moslem body in Jerusalem during the British Mandate, said in the guide that the Temple Mount site "is one of the oldest in the world. Its sanctity dates from the earliest times. Its identity with the site of Solomon's Temple is beyond dispute. This, too, is the spot, according to universal belief, on which David built there an altar unto the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings."

In a description of the area of Solomon's Stables, which Islamic Waqf officials converted into a new mosque in 1996, the guide states: "...little is known for certain about the early history of the chamber itself. It dates probably as far back as the construction of Solomon's Temple... According to Josephus, it was in existence and was used as a place of refuge by the Jews at the time of the conquest of Jerusalem by Titus in the year 70 A.D."26

More authoritatively, the Koran the holy book of Islam describes Solomon’s construction of the First Temple (34:13) and  recounts the destruction of the First and Second Temples (17:7).

The Jewish connection to the Temple Mount dates back more than 3,000 years and is rooted in tradition and history. When Abraham bound his son Isaac upon an altar as a sacrifice to God, he is believed to have done so atop Mount Moriah, today’s Temple Mount. The First Temple’s Holy of Holies contained the original Ark of the Covenant, and both the First and Second Temples were the centers of Jewish religious and social life until the Second Temple’s destruction by the Romans. After the destruction of the Second Temple, control of the Temple Mount passed through several conquering powers. It was during the early period of Muslim control that the Dome of the Rock was built on the site of the ancient temples.

Strictly observant Jews do not visit the Temple Mount for fear of accidentally treading upon the Holy of Holies, which housed the original Ark of the Covenant, since its exact location on the Mount is unknown. Other Jews and non-Muslims do visit with the full knowledge and consent of the Waqf, respecting prayer schedules and dress codes and providing no threat of “desecration” to the site.


“Israel should not be allowed to control the Temple Mount because it denies Muslims access to their holy places.”


Israel has shared the Temple Mount since 1967, when Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, upon reuniting Jerusalem, permitted the Islamic authority, the Waqf, to continue its civil authority on the Temple Mount. The Waqf oversees all day-to-day activity there. An Israeli presence is in place at the entrance to the Temple Mount to ensure access for people of all religions.

The only times Israel has prevented any Muslims from going to the Temple Mount were during periods of high tension when the threat of violence necessitated restrictions on the entrance into the area. These measures were taken to protect worshipers of all faiths and the shrines in the Old City. They usually have lasted only for a day or two.


“The Palestinians have been careful to preserve the archaeological relics of the Temple Mount.”


Though it has refused to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Temple Mount, the Waqf cooperated with Israeli inspectors when conducting work on the holy site. After the 1993 Oslo accords, however, the Jordanian-controlled Waqf was replaced with representatives beholden to the Palestinian Authority. Following the riots that accompanied Israel’s decision to open an exit from the Western Wall tunnel, the Waqf ceased cooperating with Israel.

The Waqf has subsequently prevented Israeli inspectors from overseeing work done on the Mount that is believed to be causing irreparable damage to archaeological remains from the First and Second Temple periods. Israeli archaeologists charge that during extensive construction work, thousands of tons of gravel which could contain important relics have been removed from the Mount and discarded in the trash. Experts say that even if artifacts are not destroyed they will be rendered archaeologically useless because the Palestinian construction workers are  mixing finds from diverse periods when they scoop up earth with bulldozers.27

Given the sensitivity of the Temple Mount, and the tensions already existing between Israelis and Palestinians over Jerusalem, the Israeli government has not interfered in the Waqf’s activities. Meanwhile, the destruction of the past continues.


“The Zionist movement has invented that this was the site of Solomon's Temple. But this is all a lie.”

Sheik Raed Salah, a leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel28



“When Israel excavated the Western Wall tunnel, it threatened the integrity of the Temple Mount and al-Aksa Mosque, and was therefore condemned by the UN Security Council.”


The best known part of the remaining Herodian Temple Mount constructions is the traditional Jewish prayer area of the Western Wall, which has stood exposed, above ground level, for two thousand years. The capture of the Old City in the Six-Day War provided an opportunity to explore along the continuation of the Western Wall from the prayer plaza northwards. Long sections of the southern wall of the Temple Mount and its southwestern corner were exposed during the 1970s, furnishing a comprehensive picture of the monumental Herodian walls surrounding the Temple Mount and the vast, planned areas of public construction outside them.

A tunnel allows pedestrians to walk on 2000-year-old stones along one of the oldest subterranean paths in Jerusalem, beginning at the Western Wall plaza and ending at the Via Dolorosa. For years, Israel kept the exit closed to avoid provoking Palestinians already angered by the excavation. This forced visitors to the tunnel to return the same way they entered, sometimes literally having to turn sideways and squeeze past people moving in the other direction.

In September 1996, Prime Minister Benjamin N etanyahu decided to open the exit. It was done late at night to minimize the prospect for violence, but gave the impression he was doing something underhanded. The Palestinians (and Muslims elsewhere) saw the move as a provocative violation of the peace accords and part of an Israeli campaign to undermine Muslim holy sites. Palestinians rioted in reaction to the Israeli action.

The UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1093 after the Saudi representative complained about Israel opening a tunnel "in the vicinity of al-Aksa mosque." In fact, the tunnel is an archeological site that has nothing to do with the mosque. The restoration of the Western Wall tunnel was undertaken as part of an ongoing effort by Israel to reveal major archeological finds in Jerusalem and to improve the tourism infrastructure in the Old City.

The tunnel was re-excavated under the supervision of archaeologists and engineers. No archeological or religious sites were damaged in its construction. The tunnel does not run underneath the Temple Mount and its restoration did not endanger any buildings or other structures in the Old City. No private property was expropriated, condemned or otherwise confiscated to accomplish this project.

Moreover, the restoration of the tunnel did not violate the Interim Agreement between Israel and the Palestinians as archeological restorations in Jerusalem are not covered by the document.

The controversy eventually died down and today the tunnel may be visited by tourists. By opening the exit, tourists have easier access to the Via Dolorosa from the Western Wall plaza, which, coincidentally, benefits merchants in the Muslim Quarter where the visitors depart.


“For us, there is only one Jerusalem, and no other. It will be ours forever, and will never again be in the hands of foreigners. We will honor and cherish all lovers of Jerusalem, of all faiths and religions. We will carefully guard all its sites of prayer, churches and mosques, and freedom of worship will be ensured, which was not the case when others ruled it. We will fearlessly face the entire world and will ensure the future of united Jerusalem. For Jerusalem is the anchor, root of life, and faith of the Jewish people and we will never again part with it.”

— Ariel Sharon29


“Internationalization is the best solution to resolve the conflicting claims over Jerusalem.”


The seeming intractability of resolving the conflicting claims to Jerusalem has led some people to resurrect the idea of internationalizing the city. Ironically, the idea had little support during the 19 years Jordan controlled the Old City and barred Jews and Israeli Muslims from their holy sites.

The fact that Jerusalem is disputed, or that it is of importance to people other than Israeli Jews, does not mean the city belongs to others or should be ruled by some international regime. There is no precedent for such a setup. The closest thing to an international city was post-war Berlin when the four powers shared control of the city and that experiment proved to be a disaster.

Even if Israel were amenable to such an idea, what conceivable international group could be entrusted to protect the freedoms Israel already guarantees? Surely not the United Nations, which has shown no understanding of Israeli concerns since partition. Israel can count only on the support of the United States, and it is only in the UN Security Council that an American veto can protect Israel from political mischief by other nations.


“Israel tried to burn down the al-Aksa mosque in 1969.”


The readiness of Arab leaders to employ falsehood in their propaganda was demonstrated when Nasser and other leaders called for a Holy War against Israel when an arsonist set fire to the al-Aksa Mosque in August 1969. The guilty party was an Australian Christian tourist, Michael Rohan, who confessed to the crime. The accused was tried and found to be mentally ill.

“I would be blind to disclaim the Jewish connection to Jerusalem.”

Sari Nusseibeh, the Palestinian Authority's representative in Jerusalem30


1Encounter, (February 1968).
2John Oesterreicher and Anne Sinai, eds., Jerusalem, (NY: John Day, 1974), p. 1; Israel Central Bureau of Statistics; Jerusalem Foundation; Municipality of Jerusalem. The figures for 2000 include 9,000 with no religion classified.
3Leon and Jill Uris, Jerusalem, (New York: Doubleday and Company, 1981), p. 13.
4Teddy Kollek, Jerusalem, (DC: Washington Institute For Near East Policy, 1990), pp. 19-20.
5Kollek, p. 24
6Sir Eveyln Shuckburgh, Descent to Suez; Diaries 1951-56, (London, 1986).
7American Journal of International Law, (April 1970), pp. 346-47.
8New York Times, (December 7, 1949).
9Special Report of the Trusteeship Council, (June 14, 1950).
10Kollek, p. 15.
11Kollek, p. 16.
12Kollek, p. 15.
13Meron Benvenisti, Jerusalem, The Torn City, (MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1976), pp. 44, 60-61.
14Catholic Herald of London, (October 6, 1967).
15Near East Report, (April 2, 1990).
16U.S. Department of State, "2001 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom, Released by the Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, (Washington, D.C., December 2001).
16aPearl Sheffy Gefen, “Irshad Manji, Muslim Refusenik,” Lifestyles Magazine, (Summer 2004), p. 29.
16bJerusalem Post, (October 22, 2004).
17Kollek, p. 62.
18New York Times, (March 12, 1980).
19Letter from President George Bush to Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek, (March 20, 1990).
19aRon Prosor, "Commentary: The Response to Israel's Announcement is Disporportionate,", (March 18, 2010); Abe Selig, "Ramat Shlomo Residents Don't Understand What All the Fuss is About," Jerusalem Post, (March 11, 2010).
20Reuters, (April 19, 1990).
21Statement by International Christian Embassy, (April, 18, 1990).
22Washington Post, (October 14, 1991).
23"60 Minutes," (December 2, 1990).
24Jerusalem Post, (August 17, 1991).
25Speech to AIPAC Policy Conference, (May 22, 2000).
25aInterview with Dennis Ross, Fox News Sunday, (April 21, 2002).
26Jerusalem Post, (January 26, 2001).
27Jewish Telegraphic Agency, (February 12, 2001).
28Jewish Telegraphic Agency, (February 12, 2001).
29Address by Prime Minister Sharon at the Jerusalem Day Ceremony Ammunition Hill, (June 6, 2005).
30Jerusalem Post, (November 12, 2001).

Photo Credit: Jew at the wall courtesy of Jack Hazut, J.H.M. Photography

See also: Jerusalem
Peace Process
Ancient Jewish History
Modern Jewish History

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