Saturday, January 18th | 22 Tevet 5780

May 16, 2017 1:56 pm

Temple Mount Geography Confounds New York Times

avatar by Ira Stoll


The Western Wall and Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City. Photo: Paul Arps via Wikimedia Commons.

A New York Times news article about preparations for President Donald Trump’s visit to Jerusalem included this sentence about the Western Wall: “The wall lies underneath the Al Aqsa Mosque, or Temple Mount, which is one of the holiest sites in Islam.”

This is inaccurate in at least two ways.

First, it gets the basic physical/spatial geography of the site wrong. The Western Wall is not “underneath the Al Aqsa Mosque.” Any aerial photograph of the city will confirm that, as would a visit there. The mosque hugs the southern end of the Temple Mount, while the Western Wall is a western retaining wall. There’s some considerable distance between the westernmost wall of the mosque and the top of the Western Wall.

Second, the reference to “the Al Aqsa Mosque, or Temple Mount.” The Al Aqsa Mosque and the Temple Mount are two different things. Muslims call the Temple Mount the Haram al-Sharif or Noble Sanctuary, which may have been what the Times was trying to say.

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It’s not the first time, by any means, that the Times has stumbled in describing the site. A 2015 Times article about the Temple Mount generated both an editor’s note and a correction, as did another Times article on the topic later the same year.

The Times may want to be careful with this one. The phony Arab charge that Jews are undermining the foundation of the mosque has led to violence in the past.

Maybe the Arabs are trying to claim the entire plaza atop the Temple Mount as the “Al Aqsa Mosque” as a way of bolstering their claims there. But there’s no good reason for the Times to play along with that land grab.

More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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