The current negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are a struggle close to the heart of many. Hope springs eternal, but questions remain.
Most would agree that President Obama’s insistence and Secretary of State Kerry’s persistence are the primary instigators of the current negotiations. Although the prospects of peace are always tantalizing, the likelihood that peace talks will raise unrealistic hopes and stir long- held tension is a real and present danger.
The proposed Two State Solution is an imposition on Israel’s 65-year peace process, and does not necessarily address the sensitivities of the people and regimes required to actually make and maintain peace. Besides settlements, recognition of Israel, Gaza and other significant issues, the heart and soul of the conflict is reflected in the microcosm of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.
The complexity of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount appears insurmountable. The bedrock that is Mount Moriah stretches from the south at the base of the Kidron Valley floor to the Temple Mount at the head, on which the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa mosque are built. No amount of coercion can stem the tides of Jewish or Muslim demands for exclusive access to, and possession of, the Temple Mount.
Jews are a self-described “stiffnecked” people, so their dogmatic attitude toward this location is no surprise, especially among the orthodox. Likewise, history demonstrates that many Arabs get extremely worked up each time Jews make a significant approach towards the Temple Mount. Peace between Israel and people living under the Palestinian Authority is therefore dependent on possession and occupation on this monolith.
The prospects of sharing The Rock are difficult because the traditional location associated with the Jewish Temple Holy of Holies is also the Dome of the Rock – a Muslim shrine built in 691 CE. By all accounts, Jewish prayer must always be directed toward the Holy of Holies, the place on Mount Moriah where the Ark of the Covenant is thought to have once been located.
If its location was once at the Dome of the Rock, Jews praying at the Temple Mount’s Western Wall would be required by Orthodox Jewish law to face it – but most face the wall despite the Dome of the Rock being ±15°’s North of the wall. The practice is easily explained because the precise location for the Holy of Holies is presently unknown and any place on Mount Moriah’s bedrock monolith, which according to Jewish tradition is creation’s Foundation Stone, could ultimately house it.
But there is an authentic and ancient proposition (see: Deception and Glory) offering hope that a Jewish Temple on Mount Moriah can be realized in peace. If religious authorities agree that the new excavation at the recently discovered site in Jerusalem’s City of David is the penultimate location for the Third Temple’s altar, then according to Orthodox Jewish law, a sea-change will have occurred. This site, if true, could shift perspective, tradition, and reality. The emergence of a peaceful solution from the epicenter of conflict is a characteristic of Jewish thinking and could be persuasive.
In such a scenario, it cannot be overlooked that the economic boost from tourism to the City of David may be sufficiently significant to motivate 70,000 of East Jerusalem’s Jordanian Citizens, previously denied Israeli citizenship, to re-apply to becomes Israelis.
Their efforts to obtain Israeli citizenship or permanent Jordanian/Israeli residency could seriously change the facts on the ground. Such a demographic shift could finally put an end to the madness of division, and also help contribute to a lasting peace between the two sides.