This is the first installment of our #AskFOI series.
AskFOI is a segment on our blog where you get to participate by asking questions on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ by simply typing out a question about the Bible, Israel, or prophecy with the hashtag #AskFOI and I’ll select the most relevant to answer on the FOI Blog.
Our first #AskFOI question comes from Flora, who asks, “How did the Muslims come to have control of the Temple Mount?”
This is a great first question, with a complex answer.
First of all, the Temple Mount is by far one of the most holy sites in the entire world. It’s revered and honored by the Jews, Christians, and Muslims.
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To the Christians the Temple Mount is sacred because it’s the place Jesus was dedicated to the Lord; it’s where He taught; and where He overturned the money tables. He even prophesied against the Temple. It’s also where many of the apostles taught about Jesus in the book of Acts.
Finally, to the Muslims the Temple Mount is considered the third most holy site in Islam. In Muslim tradition it’s believed that Muhammad ascended to Allah from the Temple Mount. The Dome of the Rock is a Muslim shrine that marks the location from which Muhammad ascended. Also, the famous Al-Asqa Mosque sits at the southern end of the Mount.
This small but very sacred site has been passed from hand-to-hand over the past 3,000 years. The ancient Israelites controlled it, as have the Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Crusaders, Turks, British, Jordanians, and now the modern Israelis.
So if the modern Israelis control East Jerusalem, how do the Muslims have control of the Temple Mount?
In 1967 during the Six-Day War the Jordanians, who had control of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, attacked Israel with the help of Syria and Egypt. The Israelis pushed the Jordanians out of the West Bank and as a result took East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.
After the dust settled from the Six-Day War, Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol returned the authority of the Temple Mount to the Islamic Waqf. The Waqf are the Islamic guardians of Muslim holy sites; they watch over them and make sure they are being managed properly. Levi Eshkol returned the Temple Mount to the Islamic Waqf as a gesture of peace to the Arab world. He vowed, “No harm whatsoever shall come to the places sacred to all religions.”
So while the Muslims have authority to manage the Temple Mount according to their laws, traditions, and practices, the Israelis technically have control over the Temple Mount. The Israeli police manage the Temple Mount, standing guard at the entrances and exits. The Israeli police work with the Islamic Waqf to provide safe entrance at specific times during the day for non-Muslims to tour the Temple Mount.
There is one last thing I want you to think about. I said earlier that the Temple Mount has been controlled by different people, nations, and empires over the past 3,000 years. Even though many people lay claim to the rights of the Temple Mount, only one group of people actually paid for the property.
Second Samuel 24 says that David was commanded by the prophet Gad to erect an altar on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. King David approached Araunah and asked to purchase the threshing floor from him. Araunah refused and wished to give the threshing floor to King David. King David replied, “‘No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God with that which cost me nothing.’ So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver” (v. 24).
Araunah’s threshing floor is the site of the Temple Mount, and we have written record of King David purchasing it for a price. From what I know there is no written record of anybody else purchasing the property of the Temple Mount from King David or any of his people, which I believe makes the Israelis sole owners and guardians of the sacred Temple Mount.