Sunday, May 15, 2022

How Dare Israel Rebuild a Synagogue the Jordanians Blew Up? - Hugh Fitzgerald


by Hugh Fitzgerald

Good can come of this -- or evil.


Visitors to the Old City of Jerusalem are often struck by how new all the synagogues in the Jewish Quarter look. That is because they are new, built after 1967, when Israel won back the Old City from Jordan, that had seized the area in 1948 and held onto it for 19 years. Those synagogues that have so far been built were meant to replace the 58 synagogues, some of them many centuries old (the Hurva synagogue dated from the 16th century), that Jordan systematically blew up when it held the Old City. Now Israel is rebuilding the Tiferes Yisrael synagogue on the spot where it once stood, and Jordan is furious: how dare the Jews rebuild that synagogue in the Jewish Quarter that we blew up? Apparently those dozen-odd synagogues that had previously been rebuilt by Israel did not merit the same outrage, but now, with the recent focus on the Old City, and the Temple Mount, and Arab charges that Israel has designs on dividing or appropriating Al-Aqsa being hysterically bruited about, any rebuilding of another synagogue in the Old City, especially one so famous as Tijferes Yisrael, is cause for Arab alarm.Empty stone alley street among jewish and arab quaretrs of Jerusalem old city next to Western Wall (or Wailing Wall aka Kotel)

A report on this latest Jordanian outrage – in both senses – is here: “Jordanian Royal Committee says rebuilding a synagogue (destroyed by Jordan) is a racist Jewish crime,” Elder of Ziyon, May 3, 2022:

The Royal Committee for Jerusalem Affairs of Jordan was created by the late King Hussein in 1971 and reconstituted in 1994. Its mission:

The Royal Committee for Jerusalem Affairs is working to raise awareness of the importance of the issue of Jerusalem and not to separate it from its Arab and Islamic dimension, expose the Judaization and daily Israeli violations it is subjected to, and increase efforts working to stabilize Jerusalemites, support their steadfastness and publicize their suffering.

Its website is filled with antisemitic invective, calling every Jew in Jerusalem a “colonialist.”

Here is a typical article that exposes how thoroughly antisemitic the Committee is – as well as the government that funds it. It rails against the Israeli plans to rebuild the Tireres Yisrael synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem, which was destroyed along with every single other synagogue in the Old City in 1948 by Jordanian forces.

[Israel’s] plans to start building a synagogue allegedly called Tiferes Israel, on an endowment land in which there is an Islamic historical building, about 200 meters from the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque from its western side, at a cost of $13 million, and with a construction area of 387 square meters, consisting of six floors, four of them underground and two above the ground, 23 meters high. It includes a synagogue, facilities for holding Talmudic prayers, a false Talmudic museum and public services, to be one of the largest synagogues in the world.This comes after the building of the Hurva synagogue, which was also erected on confiscated Jerusalem land and property, in implementation of an Israeli rabbi’s proposal claiming that it speeds up salvation and the coming of the Messiah and building the temple, according to their claim.

Israel is rebuilding one more synagogue in the Jewish Quarter, Tiferes Yisrael, had had been blown up by the Jordanians in 1948. That’s all. Israel has no designs on Al-Aqsa. After destroying the original synagogue, the Jordanians built their own structure on the land upon which the original synagogue was built. That land had been bought by Jews, for an exorbitant sum, in the 1840s. After the 1948 war, the Jordanians promptly destroyed the Tiferes Yisrael synagogue, as they did all 58 synagogues in the Jewish Quarter. On the site where that synagogue had stood, Jordan built what it now describes as an “Islamic historical building.” According to them, that building in the middle of the Jewish Quarter must forever remain Islamic. That “historic” Islamic building is not exactly “historic” – it was built after 1948 –more than a full century after the land for the Tiferes Yisrael synagogue had been bought. And this “Islamic historic building” has no religious or other claim to remain in the Jewish Quarter, but is in effect “squatting” on the land that was bought by Jews in the 1840s and belongs by right to the congregation of a rebuilt Tiferes Yisrael.

Apparently it is outrageous for the Israelis to build the synagogue on land that belonged to Tiferes Yisrael, which the Jordanians say is “allegedly” called the Tiferes Yisrael synagogue. Why “allegedly”? That was the name of the original synagogue and will be the name of its replacement. There is nothing “allegedly” about it. And why should the size of the synagogue matter to Muslims? The synagogue is not being built in the Muslim Quarter, or on the Temple Mount, and will be more than 600 feet distant from Al-Aqsa as the crow flies, and more than 2000 feet below Al-Aqsa’s base. It’s none of Jordan’s business what size the synagogue is, or how many stories are being built, both below and above ground.

The Royal Committee for Jerusalem Affairs stresses the danger of this alleged synagogue, as well as other Jewish centers, which are trying to obliterate the Arab identity of Jerusalem and its authentic Arab (Islamic and Christian) identity, and aims to change the space of the Arab city of Jerusalem in preparation for the expulsion of its Arab residents and the settlement of settlers, and an attempt to create an alleged Jewish climate by creating Talmudic paths and stations and building synagogues and biblical gardens in the vicinity of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque and the city of Jerusalem, which destroys peace and security in the region and ends the chance of the two-state solution to establish a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital on the 1967 borders, which was adopted by international resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative.

Why is it called an “alleged” synagogue? Such a word means the Jordanians are suggesting it may have some other purpose. Could those diabolical Israelis be building what they are assuring the world is a synagogue, but that may also have some other use, as a weapons warehouse, or an Iron Dome anti-missile site, or an IDF barracks? After all, the Arabs use their mosques — even the Al-Aqsa Mosque — to store weapons and hide fighters. Why wouldn’t the Jews do the same, these Jordanians must be thinking, with synagogues? Of course, there is no evidence to suggest that this building will be anything other than a synagogue. And there are no examples of synagogues being used as weapons storehouses or hideouts for fighters, as mosques have often been used, especially in Gaza, by Hamas, and in southern Lebanon, by Hezbollah. 

What is the terrible “danger” posed by the rebuilt Tiferes Yisrael synagogue to the Arabs? Note the use of the word “Talmudic”: the synagogue’s rebuilding is “an attempt to create an alleged Jewish climate by creating Talmudic paths and stations and building synagogues and biblical gardens in the vicinity of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque.” “Talmudic” is undefined, but the word is meant to suggest something dark and dangerous. And how will all these sinister plans for building synagogues harm the Arabs? Just how many of the 58 synagogues destroyed by the Jordanians does Israel have a right to rebuild in the Jewish Quarter? Many of us would respond “all of them.” In the past 55 years, after Jordan had systematically destroyed all 58 of those synagogues in the Old City, did Israel follow the Jordanian example and blow up mosques in the territory under its control? Not a single one. Not in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, not in the rest of Jerusalem, and not anywhere else in Israel. That should be kept firmly in mind. 

And how would Al-Aqsa Mosque be harmed by this building project, as the Jordanians claim? Al-Aqsa, after all, is built on top of the Temple Mount, that looms 2,428 feet above the rest of Jerusalem, far above the site where the Tiferes Yisrael synagogue is scheduled to be built. And the Tiferes Yisrael synagogue will not only be built on land that is 2,428 feet below Al-Aqsa, but also on land that is 628 feet distant, as the crow flies, from Al-Aqsa. Vertically and horizontally, that’s very far away.  

Israel is not trying to “obliterate” the Islamic component of Jerusalem’s heritage; there is no truth to the Jordanian claim that Israel is plotting to “judaize” east Jerusalem. There were 66,000 Arabs in east Jerusalem in 1967 when Israel took control of the area; there are 340,000 today. The Israelis are simply asserting their rights to rebuild a historic synagogue that the Jordanians destroyed. It is not preparing for the “expulsion of its [Jerusalem’s] Arab residents.” Israel has had 55 years, after all, to “expel” Arabs from Jerusalem; it has not expelled a single one.

The Royal Committee for Jerusalem Affairs affirms that the firm position of Jordan under its historical Hashemite leadership, which has historical guardianship over the Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem, will remain the defender of Palestine and Jerusalem, regardless of the cost and sacrifices as a national and national cause. The unanimous agreement that includes deterring Israel (the occupying power) to stop its crimes and violations, including hundreds of international resolutions issued by the United Nations and its affiliated organizations, including UNESCO, which affirmed the exclusive Arab identity of Jerusalem and its Islamic and Christian holy sites, and international organizations must protect human rights and humanitarian organizations ….[and expose] Israel’s racist crimes.

“Historical Hashemite leadership…historical guardianship” – this use of the word “historical” is meant to suggest that Jordan’s role in the Waqf that manages Al-Aqsa Mosque is of long duration. In fact, it began only in 1949; 73 years is not what most of us would describe as “historical.”

What are Israel’s “crimes and violations” in the Old City? What UN Resolutions have found fault with Israel’s stewardship of the Old City? Lie follows lie in this hysterical screed from the Jordanian government. Where did UNESCO “affirm the exclusive Arab identity of Jerusalem”? It has never done so.

Let’s get this story straight. It’s very simple. Israel has been scrupulous in its care of the Old City, in respecting the rights of all religions. On the Temple Mount, it has put limits on Jewish worshippers in order to accommodate Muslims, even going so far as to prohibit Jews from praying, aloud or silently, at the holiest site of Judaism. An extraordinary concession, for which Israel gets no gratitude. Furthermore, Israel allows Jewish visitors to visit the Mount for only four hours a day, and only on five days of the week, to minimize the “offense” to Muslims. Furthermore, they are instructed to remain on the perimeter of the Al-Aqsa Compound, and not to get too close to Al-Aqsa itself. 

Israel has been allowing Jews to rebuild the synagogues that the Jordanians destroyed between 1948 and 1967, right on the same spots where they had once stood. So far roughly a dozen have been rebuilt. They are being constructed with sensitivity to the surrounding buildings. The Tiferes Israel synagogue, for example, will have six stories in all, but only two of those stories will be above ground, so that the synagogue does not loom over any buildings nearby, and will be the same height above ground as was the original synagogue.

Israel has not expelled any Arabs from Jerusalem. It has not destroyed any mosques in Jerusalem or anywhere else in Israel. In rebuilding this famous synagogue that Jordan destroyed, the government of Israel has no sinister aim. The Tiferes Israel synagogue will not be a place where weapons are stored or fighters hidden – unlike what has been the case, as we all know, with many mosques in Gaza and southern Lebanon. The Jordanians can rage, impotently, over the rebuilding of this mosque, but the more they do so, the. more supporters of Israel will have an opening to remind the world of what happened to all 58 of the synagogues in the Old City during the years of Jordanian rule. It’s a story too few know, just as even fewer people know that the Jordanians pulled up tens of thousands of ancient tombstones from the venerable Jewish cemetery at the Mount of Olives, and used them to line the floors of Jordanian army latrines or to be ground into gravel. 

Good can come of this, and evil. The evil is if people fail to grasp just how absurd are every one of the Jordanian charges leveled at Israel The good can come of it if, in answering those charges, we can make sure that Jordan’s record of destroying those 58 synagogues in the Jewish Quarter, and its wanton destruction of tens of thousands of headstones at the oldest Jewish cemetery in the world, become much more widely known. Let Jordan rue the day it raised the alarm about the Tiferes Yisrael synagogue.


Hugh Fitzgerald


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