The following report was prepared forCHRISTIANITY TODAYby Dr. Dwight L. Baker, chairman of the Baptist Convention in Israel, in Jerusalem:
Stories making the rounds after the Arab-Jewish war in 1948, at the time of the establishment of the State of Israel, sought to explain why Jerusalem emerged a city divided between Jews and Arabs. I talked with Israeli soldiers, including a young Palmach (commando) officer, at the time and they insisted that Israel forces had captured the Old City but were ordered personally by Ben Gurion, the first premier, to retreat to the Jewish sector and leave the old town to the Arabs.
Why? The young commando leader insisted that Ben Gurion did not want to face the theological controversy that might flare up over rebuilding the Temple and restoring Temple sacrifices. Furthermore, Mt. Moriah, on which the Temple was located, is the second holiest site in Islam. According to traditions of certain Muslim sects, it is the spot where Muhammad will someday return to earth as their mahdi (“messiah”). Mt. Moriah is also sacred to the Muslims because it was there that Abraham agreed to sacrifice, according to the Muslims, not Isaac, but Ishmael, through whom the Arabs trace their lineage to Abraham.
The Temple area has been in the hands of the Muslims since the Muslim Conquest in the seventh century. In various periods of history the Jews have been permitted to pray at the Western Wall, the only remaining portion of the Temple, more commonly known as the Wailing Wall. For centuries they prayed there for the restoration of Jerusalem and the Temple. Nineteen years ago, when the city was divided, access to the wall was closed to them once more.
Then on June 7, two days after fighting broke out in Jerusalem, the ...1
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