The UN and Temple Denial
On November 8, in a direct attack at the heart of Judaism and the Jewish People, the United Nations General Assembly passed two resolutions that mentioned the “Haram al Sharif” but not its Jewish synonym “the Temple Mount” as one of the “holy places of Jerusalem.” This followed an October 26 resolution by the World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which called Israel an “occupying power” of the Temple Mount and the Western Wall Plaza, and demanded that Israel stop building and excavating in the Old City of Jerusalem. These statements deny the Jewish connection to Jerusalem, and implicitly deny that the Jewish Temples ever stood on the Temple Mount, a canard known as “Temple Denial.”
According to a mix of Biblical history, recorded history and tradition, the Temple Mount was the location of the First Jewish Temple, built by King Solomon around 950 BCE and destroyed in the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem in 567 BCE, and the Second Jewish Temple, which stood from 516 BCE through the Roman siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE. Though Temple Denial reigns at the UN and within the Muslim world, statements by other Muslims and substantial archeological evidence show that the Jewish Temples did in fact exist.
Temple Denial within UNESCO
Muslim-majority countries exhibited Temple Denial by casting many of the ballots in favor of the UNESCO resolution. According to diplomatic sources, seven out of the ten committee members that voted for the October 26 resolution are from Muslim-majority countries: Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Indonesia, Kuwait, Lebanon, Tunisia, and Turkey. Of the twenty-four ballots cast in an earlier vote on the same resolution, fourteen were cast by Muslim-majority countries: Algeria, Bangladesh, Chad, Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Senegal, and Sudan.
Temple Denial within the Palestinian Authority
Temple Denial is common within the ranks of the Palestinian Authority as well. Calling the UNESCO vote a “victory for truth,” Mahmoud Al-Habbash, the religious and Islamic affairs advisor to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, said that “Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque in particular, and the Al-Buraq Wall [the Western Wall] and the Al-Buraq plaza [the Western Wall plaza] are all purely Islamic and Palestinian assets and no one has the right to be our partner in that.” In recent months, Fatah has repeatedly referred to the First and Second Temples as “the alleged Temple.” In 2010, 2012, and 2015, Sheikh Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, the grand mufti of Jerusalem appointed to his post in 2006 by Abbas, claimed that there was never a Jewish temple in Jerusalem. Both Abbas and past Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat have similarly voiced Temple Denial.
Muslims Recognition of the Temple Mount’s Jewish Origin
But the Temple Denial of the Palestinian Authority and UNESCO’s Muslim-majority countries stand in stark contrast to their Muslim predecessors who understood the Jewish origins of the Temple Mount. Umar ibn al-Khattab, the Arab conqueror of Jerusalem, ordered the Patriarch Sophronius to show him “the sanctuary of David,” according to Simon Sebag Montefiore, in his book Jerusalem: The Biography. Umar is linked to the building of the Dome of the Rock and its association with the Jewish Temple, according to a recently studied early Arabic (Kufic) inscription dated to the 9th or 10th centuries C.E. in a mosque near Hebron. The inscription states that “…this territory …and its entire area, is an endowment to the Rock of Bayt al-Maqdis [Dome of the Rock] and the al-Aqsa Mosque, as it was dedicated by the Commander of the Faithful, Umar ibn al-Khattab for the glory of Allah.” The Arabic “Bayt al-Maqdis” is an older Arabic term for Jerusalem which derives from the Hebrew “Beit Hamikdash,” meaning “the Holy Temple.” (The modern Arabic term for Jerusalem, “al-Quds,” is in turn a derivative of Bayt al-Maqdis.)
- A commentary of an imam living from 1074-1144 reads: "The Holy Temple was the dwelling place of the prophets and the residence of the believers.”
- A guide to the Temple Mount, published in 1925 and 1929 by the Supreme Moslem Council, says that the substructure of the al-Aqsa Mosque “dates probably as far back as the construction of Solomon’s Temple.”
- The 1932 version of the above-mentioned guide states: “This site is one of the oldest in the world… 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 1951, Aref el-Aref, a historian and the mayor of Jordanian-occupied Jerusalem, said that “the ruins of Solomon’s Temple are under al-Aqsa,” and that Umar (mentioned above) built a mosque on top of the ruins of the Temple.
- In a July 2006 interview, a former senior leader of the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, the religious authority that manages the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque, said that “Prophet Solomon built his famous Temple at the same place that later the Al Aqsa Mosque was built. It cannot be a coincidence that these different holy sites were built at the same place. The Jewish Temple Mount existed.” He was dismissed from his position after he had mentioned his beliefs on the Jewish connection to Temple Mount to his colleagues. He did not disclose his name in the interview because he believed that he would risk his life if he did otherwise.
The Waqf Discards Temple Mount Artifacts
Palestinian officials engaged in not only rhetorical, but also physical Temple Denial through grossly negligent excavation techniques of the Temple Mount. From 1996 to 1999, the Waqf removed via bulldozers and heavy machinery “roughly 400 truckloads” of dirt from the Temple Mount to build an underground mosque and a “massive vaulted entranceway.” These truckloads of dirt were dumped in the Kidron Valley. In 2005, the Temple Mount Sifting Project was created to find if there were any artifacts linked to the Temple Mount that were discarded in this process.
Archeological Findings Substantiate Existence of Jewish Temples
Archeological findings provide incontrovertible evidence that both Jewish Temples existed.
First Temple. In 2015, archaeologists near the Temple Mount discovered a seal belonging to King Hezekiah of the First Temple period, with the words “Belonging to Hezekiah [son of] Ahaz king of Judah.” In 2007, in a rare cooperation between Waqf and Israeli authorities, Muslim workers found artifacts which are believed to be from the First Temple, including “animal bones; ceramic bowl rims, bases, and [bowl] sherds; the base of a juglet used to pour oil; the handle of a small juglet; and the rim of a storage jar.”
In 2005, the Temple Mount Sifting Project discovered an incomplete clay seal with a partial Hebrew phrase that may spell out “Belonging to Ga’alyahu son of Immer,” with Immer being a priestly family dating to the First Temple period and referenced in the Bible.
Second Temple. Perhaps the largest and most obvious remnants of the Second Temple are the Western, Northern, Southern, and Eastern Walls (including the Eastern Wall Seam), Robinson’s Arch, and the Stairs of Ascent.
Other large physical evidence of the Second Temple exists. In September 2016, the Sifting Project discovered and restored part of the mosaic marble floor of the Second Temple. In 2009, archeologists discovered the Magdala Stone while excavating the Migdal Synagogue near the Sea of Galilee. The Magdala Stone is believed to be a contemporaneous depiction of the Second Temple and contains the oldest carving of the Second Temple’s seven-branched menorah. In 2007, archeologists found a quarry believed to be used by King Herod to renovate the Second Temple. In 1968, archeologists also discovered the Trumpeting Place inscription, a Second Temple parapet containing the Hebrew words “to the place of trumpeting,” and also connected to Josephus’ writings. In 1871 and 1935, full and partial Temple Warning Inscriptions were discovered, respectively, prohibiting non-Jews from entering the inner court of the Second Temple.
Additionally, archeologists have discovered many coins providing evidence of the Second Temple. In 2008, the Temple Mount Sifting Project found a silver coin minted during the Great Revolt (66-67 CE), with the ancient Hebrew inscriptions “Holy Jerusalem” written on one side and “half shekel” and the Hebrew letter Aleph (which is both the first letter and number in Hebrew, in this instance commemorating year one of the Revolt) written on the other side. This coin even contained fire damage that experts believe was from the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. In fact, many bronze coins found in the Temple Mount exhibited similar fire damage. The Sifting Project also uncovered a coin from the Great Revolt with the inscription “Freedom of Zion.”
There is considerable archeological evidence demonstrating the destruction of the Second Temple. The most famous is the Arch of Titus in Rome, which contains a relief of Roman soldiers carrying away the Second Temple’s seven-branched menorah, an event also recorded by Josephus in Antiquities and The Jewish War. In October 2016, archeologists found what they believe to be the “Third Wall” chronicled by Josephus, where the Romans breached the Second Temple, along with remnants of a protective tower as well as “over 70 ballista and sling stones in front of the wall.” In 2006, the Sifting Project also found an iron arrowhead used by the Romans during the siege of the Second Temple. Some of the most famous coins from the Second Temple period are the “Judea Capta” and “Judea Devicta” coins (“Judea is Captured” and “Judea is Destroyed”), struck in 70 CE and for 26 years thereafter. These coins feature profiles of Emperor Vespasian, or his sons Titus (who led the army that sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the Second Temple) and Domitian, with a captive sitting under either a Roman soldier or a war trophy.
The United Nations’ votes to deny the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount is non-fact based political maneuvering on the part of the world body, and those countries that voted in favor of the resolution. Archeology and Muslim authorities not aligned with UNESCO and the Palestinian Authority provide evidence to support the claim that both Jewish Temples existed -- the claim that they didn’t is blatantly implausible. The United Nations resolutions are is nothing short of a baseless attempt to rewrite Jewish history, and by extension, that of Western Civilization. In any future Arab-Israeli peace process, these resolutions will likely only harden the Palestinian Authority’s position on the Old City of Jerusalem without justly preserving Jewish rights there.