Why History Says Jerusalem Belongs to the Jews
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It is the most controversial piece of real estate in the world -- Jerusalem's Temple Mount. It is the holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam.
Muslim tradition says that the prophet Mohammed traveled to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on his famous night journey and that tradition is the basis for the Palestinians' claim to Jerusalem.
Arabs claim Jerusalem as the Islamic city of Al-Quds, but there's no record to prove that the prophet Mohammed had ever been there. His armies didn't arrive in the city until five years after his death.
The city of Jerusalem isn't even mentioned in the Koran. However, the Bible mentions the city of David more than 600 times.
In Mohammed's lifetime, it was a fairly unimportant city in the Byzantine Empire. It was a Christian city without a single mosque.
On the spot where the Al-Aqsa mosque stands today stood the ruins of the Church of St. Mary of Justinian.
How Muslim Scholars and Conquerors Sought to Claim Jerusalem for Islam
So how could Mohammed's famous night journey have taken him to a mosque in Jerusalem that was not built until after his death?
The Koran says that Mohammed's dream flight took him to Al-Aqsa, which means "the farthest place." Early Islamic scholars interpreted this to mean a heavenly place or the courtyard of Allah.
This interpretation changed as Islam evolved into a political force. About 80 years, after Mohammed's death, Muslim ruler Abd El-Wahd restored the church on the same site. He even kept the building's basic structure, added a dome, then converted it into a mosque. He then named it Al-Aqsa, copying the name in the Koran.
During the Crusades, the Muslim General Saladin changed Islamic tradition to strengthen the Muslim Claim to Jerusalem. He stated that Mohammed's flight took him not to heaven, but to the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.
Today, the Jewish Temple Mount is known as the third holiest site in Islam behind the Arabian cities of Mecca and Medina. Muslims believe that once they claim a piece of land, it belongs to Islam forever.
Muslims Have Acknowledged that Jerusalem is Full of Jewish History
Still, at the beginning of the 20th century, Islamic leaders acknowledged the Temple Mount's Jewish history. In 1924, Jerusalem's Supreme Islamic Council published a tourist pamphlet on the Temple Mount. It says the site's "identity with the site of Solomon's temple is beyond dispute. This, too. is the spot, according to the universal belief, on which David there built an altar unto the Lord."
The pamphlet also describes the underground chamber known as Solomon's stables saying, "it dates probably as far back as the construction of Solomon's Temple. According to Josephus, it was in existence and was used as a place of refuge by Jews at the time of the conquest of Jerusalem. "
In 1927, a powerful earthquake damaged the mosque and during renovations, archaeologists analyzed the structure. They found beams make from cedar from Lebanon and cypress wood dating as far back as the 9th century, B.C., around the time of King Solomon, who had used those very materials to build the first Jewish temple.
The excavations also uncovered a Jewish ritual bath from the second temple and a mosaic believed to be a part of a Byzantine church.
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