BLOG 227 – November 24, 2014
It’s been a tough week in the Middle East. The murder of four Jewish worshippers in a synagogue at the hands of knife swinging, cleaver cutting, pistol packing Palestinians has once again set the region on edge. The Palestinian cousins were shot and their houses in East Jerusalem destroyed, but the matter is not settled. Clergy representing Jews, Muslims, and Christians publically met in unison and called for calm. The Greek Patriarch, Latin Patriarch and an Iman from Acre condemned the assault. However, Muslim authorities and senior Israeli rabbis were not present.
The savage pounding Hamas received in Gaza and their precarious political position has caused them to set off such killings as a symbolic gesture making them appear significant and forceful. Of course, the killings are actually a sign of frustration and failure. But symbolic acts are an important part of what keeps the pot boiling in Israel and Palestinian territories.
The PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) has just declared they will change the name of the Temple Mount to the Al Aqsa Mosque or the Noble Sanctuary. The new declaration was the result of rioting and unrest around the Temple Mount area. Apparently, the PLO believes a name change will support their cause.
The problem is that the issue is not semantics, but sovereignty.
The Muslims and Jews have two different interpretations of what this important religious area is about. Muslims say a Jewish temple never stood there, but Mohammed and his horse leaped into heaven from where the Dome of the Rock stands. The Jews say two Temples existed there centuries before Mohammed was born. Part of the problem for the Muslims is that the earliest claims for Mohammed’s ascent to heaven were prompted by his recognition of the holiness of the two temples that once stood there. Today, Muslims would attempt to deny and suppress that story. These two symbolic viewpoints are at the heart of the recent violence.
Muslims are fearful that the Jews will claim the sacred area, tear down the Dome of the Rock, and rebuild the Temple. Probably, the motivation for the two Palestinian killers attack arose from this fear.
While the Netanyahu government will never contemplate or condone such an attack, there are Jewish leaders who favor such an idea. It is now claimed that some members of the Israeli Parliament are prepared to sponsor legislation to rebuild the Third Temple on the site of the Dome of the Rock. Muslims believe the Jews are counting the days until this occurs.
America went through an apocalyptic mindset in the 80’s anticipating the world would enter its final days by the year 2,000. When the clock kept ticking and nothing happened, that viewpoint virtually disappeared. In these blogs, we have never pandered an apocalyptic perspective because it is speculative. However, significant elements in the Jewish world are now embracing such a viewpoint. They believe the reconstruction of the Temple will bring in the Messianic age and the world will embrace their viewpoint. This segment of Judaism is willing to push the issue because they believe it will bring the Messiah.
Behind the semantics and clashing viewpoints is a battle over sovereignty. Who rules? The battle is far from over.