In these most difficult days, we in Israel are still trying to grasp the horrifying events that occurred on the last day of Sukkot. Although the major reason the Hamas initiated this attack and its overall plan are still vague, we do know the reason, or shall we say, the excuse the Hamas and Palestinian leadership have used (as always) to incite their people against Israel and brainwash them with hatred against the Jewish people.
The whole week that preceded the attack, which were the days of Sukkot, the Palestinian media pushed the story that the Jews are storming Al Aqsa Mosque and are planning to destroy it. Images of thousands of Jews praying with the four species of Sukkot near the Temple Mount were published with captions describing it as Jewish prayer upon the Temple Mount itself. This is why the Hamas name for this operation is “The Al-Aqsa Flood”. See also Mohammed Deif speech, the supreme military commander of the military wing of Hamas.
It is true that in recent years there is a trend of more and more religious Jews ascending the Temple Mount, which is Judaism’s most holy site, but yet, the call to destroy the Mosques or expel the Muslims from the site are rarely heard and are voiced by only a very small minority.
The main political obstacle against permitting Jewish prayer at the site is that this is considered a change in the status quo. We will not enter into the political debate whether Jewish ascent to the Temple Mount or prayer there is something the government should encourage or not, but it is important to emphasize that we cannot deny the Jewish connection and rights regarding the site, and it is important to acknowledge that this is the most important location in Jewish heritage. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Palestinians today do not acknowledge this as fact and were brainwashed into the belief that the Jewish claim that the Al-aqsa Mosque is the location of the past Jewish Temple is a Zionist lie. Even some moderate Jerusalem Arabs whose services we hired at the TMSP believe this conspiracy.
Ignorance breeds conflict and hatred, while knowledge of culture and the past helps to foster better understand of one another. This is why our work, especially the scientific publication of the finds we have uncovered during the last 18 years is so important. As the saying goes: One picture is worth a thousand words. We could add that one archaeological relic is worth ten thousand words.
We are not trying to prove the existence of the Temple, or anything else. We are simply researchers with no agenda other than revealing the material culture of past generations. The fact that this was the site of the First and Second temples is beyond dispute among scholars. However, the very fact that we are researching hundreds of thousands of artifacts that pre-date the time of the founding of the Al-Aqsa mosque (the 8th century CE), attests that the site is not just important for Muslim heritage. The fact that we are also putting efforts in preserving and studying the Muslim finds, also attest that Israelis are respecting Muslim heritage and their connection to the site.
The research appearing in scientific journals eventually finds its way into publications for the general public as well. We at the TMSP have also made it our goal to release our discoveries directly to the general public, in our websites, social media, general media, and upcoming popular books.
But this is not enough, we also wish to do it in Arabic. In recent years, many Israeli books have been translated to Arabic and it appears that the Arab world (and especially the Palestinians) have a great thirst for translated Israeli publications.
We are currently working on publishing a collection of research papers from an international conference we organized a year and a half ago about new studies of the Temple Mount. We wish to translate the papers into Arabic and make them available online. For a long time we have also been considering adding an Arabic version to our website and social media pages (currently they are in Hebrew and English).
We have decided to set this as a funding goal and to start working on these translations to the extent that funding allows. Please visit our support website for further details (half-shekel.org).
We are sending our condolences to all the victims of the Hamas attack and pray for the success and safety of our soldiers. We hope that this war will eventually lead to a better reality for all the residents of our region.