Thursday, November 11, 2010

“Would Muslims Give Up Control of Mecca?”

That's the question that Jeffrey Goldberg asks in a blogpost. He writes:

…What does "Jerusalem" mean as a practical matter? Does it mean neighborhoods far from the Temple Mount that have been Arab for hundreds of years? Does it mean neighborhoods far from the Temple Mount that no Jew visits? I don't believe Israel should give up control of its holiest sites -- would Muslims give up control of Mecca? -- But the neighborhoods of East Jerusalem aren't holy, at least in my understanding of the notion.

Before I disagree with Goldberg, let me state where I obviously agree: Israel should not be building in many neighborhoods of Jerusalem.

Indeed, the proper response to Bibi's "Jerusalem is not a 'settlement'" line is "Settlements are not 'Jerusalem'." The municipal borders of present day Jerusalem do not constitute Jerusalem – certainly not the historical Jerusalem to which Jews faced when praying, nor the Jerusalem that was supposed to be internationalized according to the Partition Plan, nor the Jerusalem of the cease-fire lines of 1949. Herein lies the biggest deceit that Israel has perpetrated in Jerusalem: It has expanded Jerusalem to maximize territory and neighborhoods over the Green Line (Ramot, Giloh, French Hill, Ramat Eshkol, Givat ha-Mivtar, Har Homah, etc.), encouraged tens of thousands to settle in these neighborhoods, and has then called those neighborhoods "Jerusalem, the Rock of our Existence." If it were up to the city, Jerusalem's borders would extend to the wealthy Mevasseret Ziyyon suburb in the west, so that its yuppy denizens would subsidize the haredi male population between 20 and 45 who don't pay municipal taxes. (Full disclosure: I am writing this from a Jerusalem neighborhood from which the Arabs were ethnically cleansed in 1948)

So here are problems with how Goldberg frames the question, "Would Muslims Give Up Control of Mecca?"

First, nobody has asked "Jews" to cede control of their holy sites – if by "control" one means Jewish administration. The issue is not administration but sovereignty. The Jews shouldn't have to give up control; but both sides may have to give up claims for sovereignty.

Second, the Jewish holy sites in Israel are almost all Muslim holy sites. You will answer, "Ah, but the Jews considered them holy first." Yet there is no evidence for that at all, at least for most of the sites. The idea that the Land of Israel has permanent "holy sites" is unheard of in the Bible and the Talmud, except, of course for the Temple. It becomes prominent, if I am not mistaken, in the Byzantine period by Christians, and then later, by Muslims and Jews (I am referring to sites like Rachel's Tomb, the Cave of the Machpelah, King David's Tomb, etc.) Now, I personally don't care who was there first; both religions see these sites as important for them, and so arrangements should be made that they be shared. And if that cannot be done except through partitioning the site (such as in the Machpelah Cave in Hebron, or the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem), so be it.

Third, as for the Temple Mount, may I remind my better-known blogger that this is also a holy site for Muslims – the Noble Sanctuary. And since it is of no interest to me who came first when it comes to holy sites, or their relevant importance, something creative will have to be worked out there – e.g., Jewish administration over the Western Wall area; Muslim administration over the Noble Sanctuary. That involves a concession on both sides, and both sides have to figure out how to make it work, with the help of their friends.

Fourth, none of this has anything to do with sovereignty. Judging from the abysmal record of both sides, the Jewish and the Arab, when in control of the others' holy sites, places of worship, and cemeteries, the best solution would be to give sovereignty to neither. If they can work out joint sovereignty, fine. But the Western Wall is a part of the Noble Mount, and hence is also a Muslim holy site.

Hat tip to Ali Gharib, who reads the Atlantic.

 

 

 

 

8 comments:

Eric said...

In darkest Iran the tomb of Daniel is shared by Christians , Muslims, and Jews, The so-called Tomb of Esther and Mordecai is also shared.

pabelmont said...

Thanks for this. As to both administration and sovereignty, it looks more and more as if the UNGA (UNGA-181, 1947) had it right in making the area around Jerusalem an internationally-administered corpus separatum, just to avoid all the trouble you are discussing.

Access to religious sites should be guaranteed to all (unless there is an issue of exclusion of non-Jews from the WALL [this WALL, that is!]) and of non-Muslims from al-Haram al-Qudsi ash-Sharif.

Another question arises. If religious authorities are to determine who and how these sites may be visited and used, who will determine who those authorities are? Is this really a question of national sovereignty or of religious 'sovereignty' or of custom, in which case whose custom?

Would feminist Jews really want the current crop of orthodox Jewish rabbis to decide whether and how they may approach the wall? How would the UN run things? How would Israel?

Shall Israel allow or forbid women to pray at the wall? Secular Jews? Non-Jews? And if not Israel, then who?

Shall Palestine decide who may enter the Haram and how?

Another question for another day.

Joachim Martillo said...

I may overstate the issue of Jerusalem's lack of significance to Jews in recent times, but a few years ago a Hebrew language circle in which I took part asked me to videotape a series of Motza'ei Shabbat lectures given by Rabbi Schacter at the Brookline Massachusetts Maimonides School. Schacter used to be the Dean of the School's Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik Institute.

Schacter misrepresented the history of Jewish and Christian attitudes toward Jerusalem, but when he started to discuss Muslim attitudes he turned viciously racist and spewed lots of essentialist primordialist nonsense. He claimed that Muslims and Arabs were completely hypocritical liars to feign interest in Jerusalem now that it was once again rightfully in Jewish possession. Eventually, he made me stop recording because he did not want any electronic record of the talk.

Despite Schacter's claims Muslims have esteemed Jerusalem intensely since it first came under Islamic rule, and the city was an intellectual, spiritual and pilgramage center for the whole Muslim world. In contrast, since the 10th century at least (probably earlier) Jerusalem has had much more importance for Jews as a spiritual concept than as a physical place.

Vilna was the Jerusalem of Lithuania. Thessalonika was la chica Yerushalayim. Amsterdam was the Jerusalem of the North. While for Palestinians (and Muslims in general) there is only one Jerusalem, it probably would not be hard to come up with 50-100 cities that Jews called Jerusalem over the last millennium.

I could write a nice coffee table book with several interesting chapters on some of the most picturesque of these "Jerusalems."

The actual physical Jerusalem became, especially for ethnic Ashkenazim, sort of a dumping ground for trouble-makers or eccentrics and not a place of tremendous emotional significance or attachment. A young woman, the Virgin of Ludmir, is getting uppity and trying to play the role of a Tzaddik or Rebbe. The community sends her to Jerusalem in Palestine, and for the most part no one hears of her again.

Joachim Martillo said...

I may overstate the issue of Jerusalem's lack of significance to Jews in recent times, but a few years ago a Hebrew language circle in which I took part asked me to videotape a series of Motza'ei Shabbat lectures given by Rabbi Schacter at the Brookline Massachusetts Maimonides School. Schacter used to be the Dean of the School's Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik Institute.

Schacter misrepresented the history of Jewish and Christian attitudes toward Jerusalem, but when he started to discuss Muslim attitudes he turned viciously racist and spewed lots of essentialist primordialist nonsense. He claimed that Muslims and Arabs were completely hypocritical liars to feign interest in Jerusalem now that it was once again rightfully in Jewish possession. Eventually, he made me stop recording because he did not want any electronic record of the talk.

Despite Schacter's claims Muslims have esteemed Jerusalem intensely since it first came under Islamic rule, and the city was an intellectual, spiritual and pilgramage center for the whole Muslim world. In contrast, since the 10th century at least (probably earlier) Jerusalem has had much more importance for Jews as a spiritual concept than as a physical place.

Vilna was the Jerusalem of Lithuania. Thessalonika was la chica Yerushalayim. Amsterdam was the Jerusalem of the North. While for Palestinians (and Muslims in general) there is only one Jerusalem, it probably would not be hard to come up with 50-100 cities that Jews called Jerusalem over the last millennium.

I could write a nice coffee table book with several interesting chapters on some of the most picturesque of these "Jerusalems."

The actual physical Jerusalem became, especially for ethnic Ashkenazim, sort of a dumping ground for trouble-makers or eccentrics and not a place of tremendous emotional significance or attachment. A young woman, the Virgin of Ludmir, is getting uppity and trying to play the role of a Tzaddik or Rebbe. The community sends her to Jerusalem in Palestine, and for the most part no one hears of her again.

Devir said...

I hope this post was partly due to my email with the "60 Minutes" video attached (and never answered by you).
Well, I wanted your opinion, now I have it. The problem is I don't understand well enough your comments ( and neither pabelmont's ) due to my lack of knowledge of the places mentioned.
But that's my problem: I must study Jerusalem's geography and sites better before I'm entitled to an opinion.
But I agreed with the part I understood, namely that control and sovereignty are not the same...

bacci40 said...

jerry,

the gedolim disagree with your assessment

and thank you for allowing in, not once, but twice the idiotic post of mr martillo

mr martillo...jews pray in the PHYSICAL direction of jerusalem

when we say...NEXT YEAR IN JERUSALEM...we were never thinking spiritually

and to this day, even when praying on the temple mount, muslims pray towards mecca

access to all holy sites is indeed guaranteed by the israeli government

but jerry would love to return to those bygone days when jordan controlled the old city

oh, what lovely days those were

and pabelmont...women are not forbidden from praying at the wall

one small group is forbidden from turning the reading of the torah at the wall into a political statement

get your facts right

Joachim Martillo said...

The phrase "next year is Jerusalem" expresses wish for the Messiah to come to rebuild the Temple so that pilgrimage festivals like Passover can be celebrated with pilgrimages.

In no way, shape, or form does it a express a desire to settle the Land of Israel.

The latter interpretation is a mainstay of Zionist propaganda.

faisy wish said...

God is only one. One day all the non muslims will understand this fact.
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