Ariel Sharon's walk across the Temple Mount plaza, within sight of the seventh-century shrine known as the Dome of the Rock, has been nearly universally condemned as a "provocation," an indisputably hostile act responsible for setting off furious weeks of unstoppable Palestinian rioting. Muslims as far away as Indonesia and Morocco (and France and New York) joined in the rage against this declared affront to Islam. But it wasnot only Muslims who spoke of provocation; Western opinion widely and emphatically agreed. As a consequence, what was only recently looked on as a clash of nationalities susceptible of rational border negotiations - "two nations, one land" was the liberal formula - has been turned into an ugly assault on Judaism itself.
The reason is plain. That Mr. Sharon is consistently described as a hardliner, that he is scorned by the Israeli left, that he is accused of bad faith and narrow party motives, that he is reviled and demonized by Arabs - none of this is to the point. What has enraged Muslims worldwide is the idea of a Jewish presence, any Jewish presence, on the Temple Mount - and by "presence" is meant not simply a visit by a party official of the Jewish state, but the claim of an immemorial, authentic Jewish connection to Jerusalem. The Temple Mount is called by that name because it was the site of the Second Temple before its destruction by Roman occupiers in the year 70, an event recorded nearly six centuries before the advent of Islam. The issue, then, is not the character or intent of Mr. Sharon; it is the willed erasure not only of Jewish history, but also of Jewish faith.
The current violent challenge to both Jews and Christians is in accordance with an evolving and fanatically accelerating Palestinian fabrication:
That The Temple Never Existed, That it Is a Jewish Invention For Local Political Gain, That The Jewish Attachment to Jerusalem Is Historically And Religiously Nil.At Camp David last July, it was Yasser Arafat himself who boggled his interlocutors by this preposterous assertion, which is increasingly promulgated by influential Palestinians, whether lay or clerical. The insidious phrase, "the Judaizing of Jerusalem," is often heard in the mouth of Hanan Ashrawi, all the more absurdly because she is Christian by name. Holocaust Denial to one degree or another is rampant in all Arab societies; it is augmented now by Judaism Denial.
So far, no mainstream Christian voices have been raised against these moral and historical depredations, and one wonders why. Why has there been no Christian protest over Muslim rioting when a Jew walks upon a historic Jewish site? The government and Jewish population of Israel have fully respected and protected the integrity of the mosques on the plaza, which have always been administered by the Muslim Waqf. Why has there been no audible Christian protest over the burning of a synagogue in Palestinian-ruled Jericho, or a mob's razing of Joseph's Tomb, a Jewish shrine supposedly under the protection of the Palestinian Authority? (Its surviving dome has now been painted Islamic green.)
In view of the origin and spread of intransigent Palestinian turbulence - Hamas and Hezbollah and Mr. Arafat's negations all preceded Mr. Sharon's walk - one can be certain that if Shimon Peres or the late Yitzhak Rabin, the architects of compromise and accommodation, had visited the Temple Mount, the result would be no different. The rocks maliciously stockpiled near the Dome of the Rock would go crashing down on Jewish worshipers at the Western Wall just the same.
When Jewish history and faith are pronounced barren of any bond with Jerusalem, then Palestinians can justify their exclusionary ideology by means of unrestrained rioting, the closing of schools, the use and abuse of the young. "The stones are our jewels," Mr. Arafat announced at the start of the Intifada in 1987, and in the summer of 2000 Professor Edward Said of Columbia University, also a Christian, was photographed hurling one of those jewels from Lebanon into Israel, caught up, he explained, in the jubilation of the stone-throwers. Today, however, firebombs, guns, a lynching, and a Palestinian militia 40,000 strong have been added to Mr. Arafat's jewel box.
Perhaps Jews ought not to expect, or hope for, vocal Christian empathy. To speak up for the venerable Jewish kinship to Jerusalem during a stormy time of pervasive defamation might require going the extra mile. But should not Christians speak up for the history and central claims of Christianity? If Judaism has no roots in Jerusalem, then Christianity was never born. And yet no Christian theological objection has been lodged against the denial of the Temple's historicity.
I am a Jew who a week ago, on the holiday of Simchat Torah celebrating the ethical mandates of a 4,000-year-old tradition, opened the Gospels and read of the Christian connection to the Temple Mount. If the Temple is a Jewish chimera, as Palestinian and far-flung Muslim anger affirms, it is not only Jewish history and religion that is wiped away. The heart of Christianity, too, suffers erasure, and Christian muteness in the face of the annihilation of Christian belief becomes incomprehensible.
If there never was a Temple, then where did Jesus walk?© Wall Street Journal