Wednesday, September 26, 2012

With Charity Toward None, A History of Israel

Disclosure: The patch of dirt known as Israel, a nation about the size of New Jersey, has been one of the most fought over pieces of real estate in human history because it's where Judaism, Christianity and Islam have always theologically and geo-politically collided. This paradigm is not about to change and Israel will forever be controlled by whoever maintains the military superiority to control it. That is the way it has always been and always will be unless a merciful God decides that Israel should just fall into the Mediterranean Sea and is no longer available for anybody to fight over.  The issue is further complicated by the fact that nearly all organized religions are nothing more than institutionalized violence and the two most violent religions that ever existed are Christianity and Islam simply because they were militarily successful in creating powerful and brutal empires.  Man and his gods will forever be etched into the inhumanity of man vs. man.

Israel comprises less than 1/2% of the Arab landmass.  It doesn't have any oil to fight over or even any significant resources.  Yet, control of this tiny patch of dirt has been a relentless mission of Jews, Christians and Muslims throughout history.

In 1948 the United Nations proclaimed the partition of a piece of real estate upon which no sovereign nation ever existed, except in the ancient world where the sovereign nation of Israel did exist. The United Nations is an illegal body of totalitarian internationalists and the organization should never have been created or funded, let alone possess the authority to reorder any of the earths' real estate and peoples according to its dictates. But it did it anyway and the highly contentious patch of dirt known as Biblical Israel was partitioned into two separate parcels of real estate, one for the creation of a new Arab state and one for the newly created nation of Israel. Immediately, all hell broke loose, although hostilities had been brewing for decades.

The day after Israel was proclaimed a nation, Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq invaded the one day old Israel. As the first modern War of Independence for Israel, the issue was not solely about the Arabs kicking the Jews out of the area but also about the intentions of the 5 invading countries to increase their own real estate holdings. Rest assured, Palestinian statehood was not a component of their agenda. The Arab leaders rejected the Arab Palestinian state created by the U.N. partition. By the time the 1948 war was over, the negotiated settlement transferred the West Bank to Jordan and the Israelis also increased their real estate holdings. Jordan, a predominantly Palestinian nation anyway, was then deemed to be the nation who would house and administer the Palestinians. So the issue of the Palestinians was supposedly settled. Wrong.

Unquestionably, the Arabs living in the area were shafted but they were shafted by their Arab neighbors and not Israel, who never initiated a single war of aggression against the Arabs. The Israelis never told them to leave their homes nor did the Israelis evict hundreds of thousands of Arab/Muslims from their homes. In fact, Israel encouraged them to stay and become citizens. The Arab nations screwed their own brethren by invading Israel but the worst of the disaster resulted in the intention of Arab nations to deliberately initiate a war of annihilation against Israel. The Arab nations, by making a play for additional real estate, ignored the UN mandate for a Palestinian state and derailed any potential peace or peaceful co-existence.  Moreover, it's important to analyze the situation in the context of the modern Middle East, how it came into existence and all the geo-political baggage that accompanied the demise of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I.

The Making of the Modern Middle East

The 1948 War of Independence was just the beginning of a series of wars against the Jew by their Arab Muslim neighbors that included the 1948 War of Independence, the 1956 Sinai War, the 1967 Six Day War, and the 1973 Yom Kippur (Ramadan) War.  The aforementioned wars were the major wars involving military hostilities but numerous skirmishes and lower level conflicts continued with predictable regularity.  These wars constituted unsuccessful wars of annihilation against Israel and the Jews.  But by far, the most humiliating defeat for the Arabs was the 1967 Six Day War. Occasionally, the world is delivered the infamous “shot that is heard around the world”. The 1967 Six Day War was such an event. The Arab loss was far more painful than mere military defeat. The l967 war explosively extricated the entire Jewish/Christian Holy Land from a nearly uninterrupted 1400 year span of Islamic rule.  A basic understanding of Islam and its rise is absolutely critical because of the ongoing festering wounds between the Christian world and the Muslim world.

A Cruise through History: Islam, the West and the Rest of the World

The history of the area known as Israel is itself intriguing. The very word “Palestine” is a derivative of a Roman term for the lands west of the Jordan River to the Mediterranean. There are no such people called “Palestinians”. Except for the periods when the ancient Jews of Biblical history created the nation of Israel with the twelve tribes and ruled the area during several lengthy periods prior to the birth of Christ, the creation of modern Israel was predicated more on acute Christian guilt for the Holocaust than the real and profound desire of Christian nations to establish a homeland for the world’s Jews.

Moreover, it could even be suggested that Christian interest in creating the nation state of Israel was also closely aligned to extracting the Jewish/Christian Holy Land from Islamic rule. For obvious reasons, Christianity has always held a fascination for the area based on its own Biblical history and sacred scriptures. As the birthplace of Jesus and the lands where He lived His short but incredible life, the Christian holy sites are just as important to Christians as the Jewish holy sites are to the Jews and the land is deeply reflective and representative of the souls of both religions.

But the Jews were expelled from their ancestral homeland by the Romans in the first century AD and the lands known as modern day Israel and the West Bank have been throughout its long and mostly boring history under the dominance of the Jewish people, the Romans (a short period of time) and various Islamic dynasties (a long period of time), with the last being the Ottoman Empire. In fact, the Muslims conquered the area in 638 (about 600 years after the Israelis were expelled by the Romans), Islamized it and destroyed many churches/synagogues. But even today, most historians agree that substantial Jewish populations always remained in the area throughout history and the Roman expulsion was more of a temporary dispersion from Jerusalem to other parts of the Holy Land as well as a permanent dispersion of some Jews to other nations. Throughout most of Jerusalem’s history, Jews have constituted a significant percentage of its population.

Interestingly, the fate of the original 12 tribes of Israel has consumed Biblical scholars and has fired the imaginations of both Jews and Christians. After all, Jesus was a devout and observant Jew, a member of some tribe and Jesus lived His entire life as a Jew. But within the lands historically dubbed Palestine by the Romans, though never a nation other than Israel, the issue of foreign rule in the area has never sparked any real hostilities until the creation of the State of Israel.

While public sentiment has somehow seized the romantic notion that the Palestinians have somehow been stripped of their national identity and homeland, an identity and homeland that never existed, such notions have fueled the historically false premise that “Palestine” is a nation, has always been a nation and should be restored to its nationhood. And while it can be validly argued that the “Palestinians” as an Arab people have suffered for a variety of reasons, namely being caught up in all the Arab induced wars, the Jews have also been shafted but for far longer than the “Palestinians” and not by the Palestinians or Muslims.

Judaism and Jewish history were born in the area somewhere around 1800 BC. when Abraham, considered the father of Judaism, established a Semitic population in the area, most probably in Iraq. Early Jewish history is so steeped in the birthplace of the world’s first monotheistic religion that it is impossible to separate Judaism from the geographic area known historically as Israel and Judah. But separated they were, at least for some, through a series of revolts accompanied by expulsions from their sacred and ancestral lands. During the period the Jews roamed their Biblical homeland of Israel, there weren’t even any Christians, a religion that existed during its infancy as more of an oppressed cult for hundreds of years until it ultimately became the official religion of the Roman Empire in the early 4th century when the Emperor Constantine pretty much forcibly converted the Empire to Christianity.

Neither were there any Muslims in the Jewish/Christian Holy Land until over 600 years after the birth of Jesus. Islam did not appear on the religious scene until the middle of the 7th century. By far, the most serious crisis facing the early Jews under Roman rule evolved around the belief in one God during an epoch in history were gods were as prevalent as grains of sand in the desert. Consequently, the religious, political and social identity of the monotheistic Jews was threatening to existing rulers. Because the Romans worshipped many gods, Roman emperors and governors didn’t particularly care which gods were worshipped; indeed, they had their own collection of favorite gods. However, besides the belief in one God, it was the Messianic fervor accompanied by the expectation that the one God would reappear as King of the Jews that caused an uproar because such an event held the potential of causing considerable civil and political unrest.

Neither God nor politics were permitted to disrupt Roman political and civil stability without serious consequences, particularly when one’s God is proclaimed to be a divinely delivered “King” capable of usurping the power of Roman rule. Accordingly, the Jews, already considered oddly troublesome for belief in one deity, were adjudicated a direct threat and were viciously persecuted. However, the Christians were later persecuted by the Romans for the very same reasons and also for long periods of time.

When the Roman Emperor Constantine supposedly converted to Christianity and made it the religion of the Empire during the early fourth century, Christianity commenced an incredible and rapid spread. Everybody within the boarders of the Roman Empire was Christianized. It could very well be argued that conversion was compulsory and many pagan areas were ruthlessly destroyed, burned and its citizens murdered until they finally relented and agreed to conversion. Although the historical Jesus is definitely perceived as a love and peace sort of guy because He carried no sword nor led any armies, modern day Christians harbor the highly romanticized idea that Christianity spread precisely because the messages of love and peace were overwhelmingly appealing to a savage and barbarous world.

It most assuredly wasn’t the messages of love and peace that propelled the Christian Crusaders to sack the Eastern Christian capital of Constantinople or to butcher and slaughter 30,000 Muslims and Jews residing in Jerusalem during one of the Crusades; it certainly wasn’t love and peace that bloodied Europe with wars between Catholics and Protestants and it certainly wasn’t Christian love that instituted the African slave trade or created anti-Semitism. Sadly, Christian history is mired in blood, atrocities and the most inhumane of barbarous deeds.

Throughout European Christian history the Jews had been viciously persecuted, usually because they were accused by the Christian leadership of being the killers of Christ and it mattered little to the murderous Christians that those whom they slaughtered were in no way responsible for the killing of Jesus. This supposed justification for Jewish persecution has always been puzzling to me personally because my own Christian upbringing constantly reiterated, over and over, that God sent his only begotten Son, Jesus, to earth to die for our sins and pave the way for our redemption. Well, Jesus died in accordance with the divine plan thereby accomplishing His earthly mission. So why murder the Jews?

But the Christian leadership, be it Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox or Protestant, commenced its long and savage persecution of the Jews spanning well over a millennium, a persecution completely unrelated to Islam, a religion that categorically never specifically discriminated against the Jews but consistently and viciously discriminated against all non-Muslims, including Christians, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists.  In 1290 the British King Edward I expelled the Jews from Britain and the French King Phillip IV expelled the Jews from his kingdom in 1306, here.  The Spanish Inquisition and the Inquisition initiated by the Roman Catholic Church horrifyingly documents Christian violence against Jews, here.

However, these days it's Islam that is at the forefront of geo-political violence which is why it is imperative that one possess a basic understand of Islam, its theology, its culture and its history.

Some periods of Jewish persecution under Christian rule were worse than other periods but persecution of the Jews was a desirable Christian deed, almost a religious duty. By the time Hitler came to power and really just continued doing, albeit on a far larger scale, what Christians had been doing since time immemorial, even the Christian world was shocked, appalled and horrified. As America and Europe viewed the horrors of the concentration camps and the Holocaust, it was easy for us to find solace and comfort in having someone to blame, Hitler, when, in fact, it was deviant Christian theology that laid the foundation of anti-Semitism. Hitler merely availed himself of the morbid condition, politicized it to his own personal advantage and capitalized on it. It was Christianity that delivered Hitler to us because without the pervasive anti-Semitism so prevalent throughout the ages, Hitler would have merely been dismissed as a decidedly un-Christian lunatic.

Thus, the collective Christian guilt during post WW II resulted in Western interest in assisting the Jews in finding a homeland, and, quite naturally, the only one they wanted was their ancestral homeland, having been rejected and persecuted nearly everywhere else in the then anti-Semitic Christian world.

Long before World War II and commencing in the mid to late 19th century, the persecutions committed against the world’s Jews by Christians prompted the Jewish leadership to seriously dedicate itself to a re-establishment of their ancient homeland. Jews started buying large tracts of land in “Biblical Israel” from the Arabs as they desperately attempted to escape the pogroms of Christian Europe and Russia. As the Jews were buying land, the price of real estate skyrocketed and while the Arabs continued to protest the arrival of the Jews, they also continued to sell them their land. As the Arabs were raking in Jewish money for the legal purchase of land, the Arabs were also killing the Jews who were settling on land legally purchased by the Jews.

The meddlesome and interventionist British were fixated on the lands that became known as Palestine but they weren’t necessarily committed to reconstituting Biblical Israel. By implementing the infamous Balfour Declaration in 1917, essentially a promise to deliver a Jewish state to the Jews, the British deviated from their traditional Arab appeasement mode that was facilitated by a British romantic attachment to anything Arab. But it’s probably also true that widespread support existed to extricate the Jewish Christian Holy Land from Islamic rule. Failing to comprehend the disaster they helped to create in the Middle East, the British tried every trick in its bag of international diplomacy, from proposing legislative councils, advisory councils, an Arab Agency, representative government institutions and other measures to obtain Arab cooperation. The British never understood that Muslim Arabs would have much preferred rule under Islamic Ottoman Empire than infidel rule in any form.

When the oil card came into significant play around World War I but accelerated during World War II, the British became more antagonistic toward Jewish aspirations and embarked on a series of appeasement policies toward the Arabs. As Middle East, British and Jewish frustration and violence intensified, the British dumped the issue of Israel on the newly established United Nations, which created the partition of Israel in 1948. The Arabs rejected the 1948 partition and still do.

Although the 1948 War of Independence for Israel was a momentous event for both the Israelis and the Arabs, no one in the Arab world was the least bit interested in a Palestinian nation. The Arab tribes and nations, competing for both land and power themselves after the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, were not receptive to Western concepts of modern nationhood. The Arab tribal mentality viewed the demise of the Ottoman Empire as an opportunity for majestic land grabs by the strongest tribal thugs. Undoubtedly, the creation of the modern Middle East is one of the most dismal failures of the West, except for Israel, who succeeded where the Arabs failed by creating a prosperous and modern nation state.

At the time of the 1948 war, no one really expected the State of Israel to survive. Most probably, if the Arab/Muslims succeeded in butchering the already existing and newly arriving Jews, it is highly doubtful if anyone in the West would have noticed, let alone helped the nascent struggling nation of Israel. President Eisenhower even refused to sell arms to Israel. After the first war (1948), Israel held lands that more or less were to define its borders until the 1967 war. Arab nations were not even remotely committed to the concept of peaceful co-existence with Israel.

But the 1948 Arab induced war caused far more than more land for Israel, Jordan and Egypt, it also resulted in the physical displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees who just packed up and left at the urging of neighboring Arab leaders. Most residents of a modern nation state would never just pack up and leave their country, even if under threat of war. One is always prompted to ask the puzzling question “why did they leave?”. They left because the Arab leaders told them they could return after the war was won and avail themselves of all that the Jews created, after the Jews were slaughtered.

Perhaps there was no strong attachment to the land by the Palestinians as Bedouin culture is highly mobile. Conversely the Jews, having just barely survived the Holocaust, were firmly anchored in their ancient homeland, even prior to setting foot on the soil of the newly created Israel. After all they had been through, the Jews were dedicated to the proposition that they would either survive or perish. There were no other choices for the Jews who were indeed in a fight for their very survival.

There can be no question whatsoever that the creation of Israel has created problems and consequences of seemingly insurmountable proportions. But in defense of Israel and in deference to Arab nations, Israel did grant full citizenship to all Arabs who stayed while the Arab nations refused to grant citizenship to the displaced Arabs who even to this day reside in a variety of refugee camps throughout the Arab world. Today, modern Israel has in excess of a million Arab citizens. The refugee problem was more than displaced Arabs who fled the area. Hundreds of thousands of Jews who had lived in the areas of the Middle East not defined as Israel, some as far back as Biblical times, vacated their homes, either by force, encouragement or choice, and relocated to the new State of Israel where they were granted immediate citizenship. The displacement of the Arabs who fled voluntarily and the Jews fleeing into Israel for safety constitutes one of history’s numerous population exchanges.

The Islamic nation of Turkey initiated massive population exchanges upon the break-up of the Ottoman Empire, primarily because non-Muslims were not welcomed in Islamic strongholds and millions were forcibly re-located (1.5 million Armenian Christians under Ottoman rule were slaughtered by Muslims). After World War II, tens of millions of people throughout Europe were dislocated and relocated, frequently against their will, as new borders were again redrawn, primarily to punish Germany. Unfortunately, such tragic situations are the unavoidable consequences of winding down a war and have occurred quite frequently throughout human history.  Wars are evil and destructive, and ordinary people are always its victims.

The Arabs severely persecuted, murdered and/or evicted many Jews whose families were deeply rooted in every Arab nation for thousands of years, including Aden, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Morocco and Egypt to Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. Although nearly everyone only focuses on the displaced Arabs who fled Israel, no one has ever raised the issue of displaced Jews but in recent years the issue is finally being addressed. Irwin Cotler, a Canadian MP, chairs the “Justice for Jews from Arab Countries”. Among other issues, the JJAC addresses the dislocation of 856,000 Jews from Arab nations and the expropriation of over $1 billion in Jewish assets by Muslims. In Syria, an estimated 7,000 to 10,000 Jews were driven from their homes by Muslim abuse and persecution. Mr. Cotler also discussed the “systematic legislation which criminalized and disenfranchised Jews and sequestered their property”. Algeria “issued a variety of anti-Jewish decrees prompting nearly all of the 160,000 Jews to leave the country”.

Much to the shock of the West, and possibly the chagrin of some in the West, Israel not only survived the first invasion by 5 Arab nations but also lived to fight another day. During the 1956 War (the second war), which was initiated by Egypt’s nationalization of the Suez Canal, Britain and France invaded the area, not to help the Jews but to protect their threatened trade. This time, Syria and Jordan were partners with Egypt as they contemplated, yet again, the obliteration of Israel. Israel even succeeded in taking the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza strip although it eventually returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt in a negotiated settlement. Defeat number two for the Arabs.

As the 60’s rolled around, Syria was under the dictatorship of Assad, a man who is reported to have slaughtered over 20,000 Syrians he considered political opponents but that's politics as usual in tribal areas where tribal wars are waged until the strongest thug takes power. Assad was a member of the Baath Party, a Stalinist type regime, of which Saddam Hussein was also a member. After Assad’s death, his son assumed political power but as a western educated sovereign he lacked the ruthless baggage of his father. Syria poses no threat whatsoever to the West or any nation for that matter. During Ottoman rule, the area dubbed “Palestine” was considered no more than a southern province of Syria.

However, Syria was interested in expanding its sovereign territory. As the skirmishes between the Israelis and the Arabs continued, 1967 ushered in the third war, which erupted into the now famous Six Day War. This Arab induced war was caused by Egypt blocking the Gulf of Aqaba in an attempt to harm Israeli shipping. However, the Arabs were also once again planning a violent and final attack on Israel. That the 1967 War was an astonishing victory for the Israelis is an understatement. Again, Israel did not start the war but by accurately anticipating the war, Israel made the decision to act preemptively. The 1967 Israeli military campaign will be recorded as one of history’s most daring and brilliant military maneuvers ever. In a matter of hours, Israel totally destroyed the Egyptian air force.

Not wanting a war, Israel asked King Hussein of Jordan not to invade Israel or participate in hostilities against Israel. Although King Hussein may have preferred not to participate in the invasion of Israel, he feared other Arabs more than he feared Israel and participated in the invasion despite Israel’s request to refrain from hostilities. Israel’s victory cost Jordan the West Bank and the Holy City of Jerusalem. Frankly, because of Jordanian/Arab military blunders, the West Bank and Jerusalem just sort of fell into Israel’s hands like a gift, an event that they neither sought nor planned. At long last and through no direct warmongering initiatives of the Israelis, the key areas representing ancient Israel were back under Jewish control and this event can be attributable to nothing other than Arab aggression and blunders.

From a Middle East perspective, the 1967 Israeli victory was worse than another round of defeat and humiliation for the Arabs, it was a highly symbolic loss because the Arabs lost Jerusalem. As the Old City of Jerusalem represents the theological “capitol” and heart and soul of both Christianity and Judaism, Islam has been obsessed with it from its earliest days. In fact, the obsession was so overwhelming that the capture of Jerusalem was one of Islam’s earliest conquests (638 AD and a mere 6 years after the death of the Prophet) and long before other major conquests like Africa and Spain. That Jerusalem and the nearby holy sites of Christianity and Judaism constitute the most explosive parcel of real estate on earth is no exaggeration.

Although Christians and Jews are well aware of the historical, Biblical and spiritual significance of their Holy Land, few have even remotely considered precisely how their historical Holy Land became an Islamic holy site. It’s an interesting but debatable story. According to the Koran, the Prophet Mohammad left Arabia with the Angel Gabriel one night, went to Jerusalem, ascended one evening to heaven where he met with the prophets of the Old and New Testament, chatted and returned to Jerusalem and Arabia. There were no witnesses to the event. Islam claims the site of the miraculous ascension to be the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Since no documented evidence exists that the Prophet ever left the Arabian Peninsula during his lifetime, except for the miraculous ascension story in the Koran, one is left questioning if Jerusalem really marks the spot of the ascension. Is Jerusalem the spot of an Islamic miracle or is it Islamic folklore? The fact that the Prophet, over the span of one evening or a few hours, was divinely transported from Medina, Saudi Arabia to Jerusalem, then to heaven, back to Jerusalem and then back to Medina has prompted some to consider that a human body could not survive the G-force.

However, questioning the occurrence of a miracle is not an issue as one’s belief in the divine intervention in human affairs also abundantly abounds in both Christianity and Judaism. Miracles represent the core of most religious belief systems and adherence to any religious belief is a matter of faith as we choose to “believe” or “disbelieve” for reasons of personal choice. Maybe the fear of eternal damnation provides sufficient inducement for various religious beliefs but humankind, nevertheless, has always been passionately and inextricably deity obsessed. So the story of the Prophet’s transportation and ascension to heaven is not in dispute. It’s an Islamic miracle. But what is in dispute is whether or not the Temple Mount in Jerusalem marks the exact spot of the ascension.

According to some religious scholars, Christian, Jewish and Islamic, Jerusalem is not the spot of the ascension and this assertion is based on a Koranic verse:
Glory to Allah Who did His servant For a Journey by night From the Sacred Mosque To the farthest Mosque.
Since Jerusalem was not conquered by Islam until 6 years after the death of the Prophet, there were no mosques in Jerusalem or anywhere else on earth except parts of the Arabian Peninsula during the Prophet’s lifetime. Therefore, the term “farthest Mosque” could not possibly reference Jerusalem, where no mosque ever existed until 80 years after the Prophet’s death, and, in fact, could only reference a mosque in Mecca or Medina or elsewhere in Arabia, where the only mosques actually existed. Even more surprising, though not shocking, is that the early Islamic conquerors of Jerusalem specifically researched the history of the Temple Mount, knowing full well that it represented the holiest site in Judaism and an equally significant holy site to Christianity. Only then did the Islamic conquerors proceed to erect Islamic religious shrines and proclaim that the “farthest Mosque” was suddenly deemed to be the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

However, the Islamic conversion of another religion’s religious shrines and holy sites to Islamic mosques or shrines are fairly typical events throughout Islamic history - a recurring problem, so to speak. Those who support the proposition that Jerusalem is not, nor ever was or could possibly be the site of the Prophet’s Night Journey, have obviously based their opinions on data that is religiously explosive in Islamic circles. Even so, neither the Islam of pre-conquest Jerusalem nor the Prophet nor the Koran ever claimed Jerusalem to be the site of the ascension. This assertion occurred much later and not until after Islam conquered the Holy City of Jerusalem and the surrounding holy sites. But by far, the heaviest reliance for such theories should come directly from the sacred texts of the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Koran. One Christian group researched the numerical occurrences of the word “Jerusalem” in all three scriptures and the results are interesting. The word “Jerusalem” is mentioned as follows in the following sacred scriptures:

Old Testament - 657 references to Jerusalem New Testament - 154 references to Jerusalem, Koran - 0 references to Jerusalem

However, the actual reference count to Biblical mentions of Jerusalem is also in dispute but a Google search does validate numerous Biblical references to Jerusalem even if the numerical counts vary. On the dicier issue of mentions of Jerusalem in the Koran, it is generally agreed that Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Koran.

Claiming Jerusalem is in the Koran
Hosein acknowledges (on p. 31) that "It is true that the word 'Jerusalem' does not explicitly occur in the Qur'an."
If Jerusalem was in fact the site of the great miracle of the Prophet’s flight to heaven, would this not constitute a theologically significant event worthy of mention? Indeed, Jewish and Christian scriptures are overflowing with documented stories and evidence of people, events and places that have impacted their religious histories. Moreover, the geographic sites of Jewish/Christian holy places have brought forth a barrage of religious pilgrims imbued with a spiritual desire to directly experience the most sacred events and places in their religions. But not only is Jerusalem not even mentioned anywhere in the Koran, no Muslims ever flocked to Jerusalem or considered it a significant holy site.  The holiest cities in Islam have always been Mecca and Medina. In reality, Jerusalem to Islam has never represented sacredness or religious significance. To Islam, Jerusalem is representative the conquest of Christianity and Judaism and nothing more.

While a rational being could conclude that a claimed holy site not even worthy of a mere mention in sacred scriptures could not really be that holy after all, an irrational being could also conclude that it doesn’t matter that the supposed third holiest site in Islam isn’t even mentioned anywhere in the Koran. Even more interesting are that photographs of Jerusalem in the 1800’s show a dilapidated Islamic holy site on the Temple Mount overgrown with weeds and a conspicuous absence of human and religious activity. But in the mid 1990’s, the Islamic world suddenly coughed up enough dough to plate the dome with gold. It was Arafat who gave birth to an Islamic suicide terrorist group called the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, named after the Al Aqsa Mosque that sits upon the Biblical Temple Mount.

But the highly dubious Islamic claim to Jerusalem as its third holiest site notwithstanding, the situation becomes even more intriguing with the supposition of other supposed historical events, much of which is sheer speculation and/or dubiously documented theories.   These events include the belief that a Christian Church, Saint Mary of Justinian or its ruins, existed on the Temple Mount at the time of the Islamic conquest. Did Muslims merely converted a then existing Christian-Byzantine Church into an Islamic shrine and name it after the Koranic term “Al Aqsa” which is Arabic for the term “farthest Mosque”? Other researchers have maintained that the Crusaders of the 11th century are reported to have converted the Islamic shrines back to Christian shrines when they briefly captured Jerusalem because the Dome of the Rock is reported to have been converted to a Church called the Templum Domeni and the Al-Aqsa Mosque was supposedly converted into a Church called Templum Solomonis (Solomon’s Temple). Both of these Christian shrines were supposedly reconverted back to Islamic shrines when the Muslims militarily re-conquered Jerusalem in 1187 under Saladin.

The first Islamic shrine to be “installed” on the Temple Mount was the Dome of the Rock and construction commenced in 691 AD. According to some historians, the Dome of the Rock was a duplicate of a Byzantine Christian Church on the Mount of Olives, the Biblical site of Jesus’ Ascension, as opposed to the belief that an existing Byzantine Church was converted into a mosque. Muslim attraction to the site, regardless of the controversy over the “farthest” mosque (Al Aqsa), evolves around the Biblical Mount Moriah, where Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son, Issac. A portion of historical Mount Moriah is reported to lie under the Dome. Again, Muslims claim to be the only true descendents of Abraham through Ishmael, the illegitimate son of Abraham, and accordingly, the site is significant to Muslims but only in the context of the Muslim assertion that Arab Muslims are the only validly recognized descendents of Abraham. The Al Aksa Mosque was completed around 715 and supposedly constructed with materials of destroyed Christian Churches.

The Dome of the Rock should be interesting to Christians because it is loaded with Arabic inscriptions, many of which denigrate Christianity:
There is no God but Allah alone; he has no co-partner
The Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, is but a messenger of Allah..So believe Only in Allah and of his messenger, but do not say “Three” [trinity] and it will be better for you. Allah is only one God. Far be it from His glory that he should Have a son.
It is not for Allah to take for Himself any offspring.
Verily, the religion in Allah’s sight is Islam.

Praise be to Allah who hath not taken to himself offspring.
Obviously, these Islamic inscriptions constitute no more than insults to Christianity whose belief in the Trinity has resulted in Christianity being branded a pagan religion by Muslims.

Although the Temple Mount is steeped in Jewish/Christian history, and while Islam’s peculiar claim is alleged by some to be bogus, many religious scholars have asserted that the Islam’s only purpose in declaring the Temple Mount an Islamic religious shrine was to reinforce Islam’s supremacy as the only surviving successor religion of Abraham. Moreover, it is generally accepted that Caliph Abd al-Malik built the Al Aksa Mosque on the Temple Mount to declare himself the only valid successor to King Solomon.

And so, as the history of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount chronologically evolves around two historically and/or Biblically validated Jewish temples, to a Christian religious shrine, to an Islamic religious shrine, back to a Christian religious shrine and finally another military conquest of the “shrines” by Islam, who currently controls the site known as the Temple Mount, the fate of the highly disputed area that comprises 35 acres is quite significant. But Christians and Jews are solidly anchored to their Biblical Holy Land based on their scriptures. Conversely, Islam’s dubious claim is not anchored in any sacred scripture, just conquest and the desecration of Christian and Jewish holy sites.

But the mere fact that the area known as Biblical Israel and Judah has been under Islamic control and domination throughout Islamic history, from 638 to the 1967, (except for a brief Christian re-conquest by the Crusaders) and has continued to be claimed exclusively by Islam is a religious affront to Christianity and Judaism..  The collision of theology and geography is notorious for creating violent conflict throughout history.

In modern times and during the period following the first Arab induced war when Jordan captured and held the Old City of Jerusalem (1949-1967),  ancient synagogues were desecrated, defaced and/or totally destroyed. Even more disturbing are allegations of the Islamic removal and desecration of thousands of Jewish gravestones from an ancient cemetery on the Mount of Olives. It's even been reported that ancient and historical Jewish gravestones from the Biblical Mount of Olives were used to construct latrines for the Jordanian Army and were also used to construct a road to the Intercontinental Hotel, a road at least partially constructed with Jewish gravestones.

The Arab objection to the creation of modern Israel in 1948, which only intensified after the 1967 war, is based the loss of historical Islamic dominion over the holiest sites in Christianity and Judaism. Indeed the capture of Jerusalem and its surrounding holy sites was a prize for Israel, Judaism and Christianity. But the cost was the unleashing of historic religious resentments.

Following the 1948, 1956 and 1967 defeats, the Arab states met in the Sudan in 1967 where they all agreed not to recognize Israel, not to make peace with Israel and not to negotiate with Israel, the famous 3 No’s. Such a move by the Arabs was tantamount to the Allies of WW II agreeing not to negotiate or make peace with Hitler individually but to stick together and demand nothing less than unconditional surrender to all the Allies, which occurred.  Since no Arab nation, either individually or collectively, was going to recognize Israel nor her right to exist, the Arab agreement represented nothing more than a permanent state of war with Israel which continues to this very day in the form of perpetual state of war, Dar Al-Harb (House of War) until Islam achieves Dar Al-Islam (House of Islam or Peace).  Eventually Egypt and Jordan did sign a peace treaty with Israel, a treaty that resulted in the assassination of Sadat.

As if three major military defeats weren’t enough for the Arabs, they started the 4th official war in 1973, known as the Yom Kippur or Ramadan War. Perhaps as Egypt and Syria launched a major strike during the Holy month of Ramadan, they felt empowered with religious fervor and surely, Allah could not fail them again, as the date chosen for the commencement of that war was the 10th day of Ramadan, a day in which the Prophet Mohammed initiated a battle himself in 624 AD, a battle that ultimately resulted in his victory over Mecca.

As the Israeli’s were forced to abandon their highest Holy Day of the year and march off to war, yet again, they certainly were not lacking in vigor as they crossed the Suez Canal and cleared a path straight to Cairo. They also succeeded in driving the Syrians back to Damascus. Although the Israelis claimed victory, it was a very costly victory to both the Israelis and the rest of the world as well. The Arabs soon realized that its strength lied, not in its armies and arms, but in its oil. Accordingly, they proceeded with an oil embargo that not only rocked the West but also loudly proclaimed that those who support Israel must be prepared to suffer the consequences. Again, such a move in no way represented the desire of the Arab nations for the self determination of the Palestinian Arab people but very much represented the desire of neighboring nations to annihilate Israel. The issue of Palestinian self-determination was an afterthought and only after a succession of Arab defeats.

After the major wars of 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973 and a ton of skirmishes, no one can argue that Israel has been under attack since its inception. Because of the Arab induced inferno, the nationhood of both the Palestinians and the Israelis are still unresolved issues today. While the Israelis clearly have an Israeli nation, her borders are far from resolved.

Enter — Yasser Arafat, born 1919 in Cairo, Egypt (according to his birth certificate but who claims to have been born in Gaza). He fought against Israel in the 1948 war and early in his career made the decision to become a terrorist. He was affiliated with one of the oldest and most active Islamist terrorist organizations in the Middle East, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and a militant Islamist movement that now controls Egypt, courtesy of US support for radical Islamists.

Arafat had been implicated in a multitude of atrocious terrorist attacks, from the 1972 slaughter of the Israeli Olympic athletes in Munich, Germany to hijackings and blowing up planes to murdering diplomats and a host of other terrorist deeds. He had even been implicated in the murders of competing peace seeking Palestinian leaders.

Although not necessarily an Islamic fundamentalist terrorist as his background in the Muslim Brotherhood would suggest, Arafat was more of an astute and opportunistic villain devoid of morals who delighted in seizing power and attention, and whatever else came his way, like gobs of U.S. dollars.

While Egypt and Jordan may be the only Arab nations that signed a 'US engineered' peace treaty with Israel, their intentions are far from clear.  Jordan was wallowing in over 6 billion in foreign debt, the result of the costly wars, and Egypt was also suffering financially from its own role in the Arab/Israeli wars. Was this really a peace deal or more of a “Show me the money” and then “I’ll sign anywhere” episode? They signed. American taxpayers paid, continue to pay and apparently will pay for all of eternity ($1-2 billion a year each to Jordan and Egypt).

Thus far, only Western nations have made any real attempts to broker a peace in the region. When former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak opened peace negotiations under the Clinton regime with an offer of 97% of the West Bank and part of Jerusalem, Arafat not only rejected the deal but immediately waged another intifada. Arafat the Egyptian was acutely aware of the fate of Anwar Sadat and understood full well that peace would be the equivalent of signing his own death warrant.

With arch rival warriors Arafat and Ariel Sharon long gone, the area appears to have settled down at least to the extent that we aren't seeing frequent bombings of Israel.  Still, resentment and distrust runs deep on all sides in a religious conflict so dramatically intense that a permanent political solution is out of the question.

As a matter of reflection, it is a colossal irony of Jewish Christian history that the very same Arab/Muslim conquerors of the Jewish/Christian Holy Land in the year 638 are the same people who delivered it back to the Jews, after 1,329 years of Islamic occupation. History may move at a snail’s pace but it definitely moves in strange directions.

There is nothing the US can do to resolve the situation and the only sane US foreign policy is to end all foreign aid to all nations including Israel.  However, Evangelical Christians view the creation of modern Israel as a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy and this is a very dangerous situation because America's hardcore Evangelical Christians envision the rebuilding of the Biblical Temple on the Temple Mount where Jesus is expected to return.   Even the Israelis have consistently and wisely opposed seizing the Temple Mount and rebuilding their Biblical Temple.

The first Temple was built by King Solomon in 833 BC but was sacked and destroyed by Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, in 434 BC. Ironically, it was the great Persian King Cyrus who authorized the return of the Jews from Babylonian captivity and the rebuilding of the 2nd Temple around 515 BC. The Book of Ezra pays great tribute to Cyrus for his wise and good deeds. The 2nd Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

According to Wikipedia, some Muslim scholars claim that Cyrus the Great is a Muslim, here.  It's impossible because Islam wasn't even born until the 7th century AD.
Some contemporary Muslim scholars have suggested that the Qur'anic figure of Dhul-Qarnayn is Cyrus the Great.[91] This theory was proposed by Sunni scholar Abul Kalam Azad and endorsed by Shi'a scholars Allameh Tabatabaei, in his Tafsir al-Mizan and Makarem Shirazi.
Peace in the Israel?  Don't count on it.  The forces of man and his religions trump peaceful co-existence every time because the fatal flaw of nearly all religions is that they consistently refuse to acknowledge the natural rights of any human being to be free from religious tyranny and domination.

So what else is new?

Still, the perpetual Muslim obsession with Israel and Jerusalem is fascinating as well as deeply disturbing.  Why can't they just let it go?  After all, the holiest sites in Islam are Mecca and Medina.  Moreover, no Jews or Christians have ever attempted to conquer Mecca or Medina.

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