Gottfried Hutter, Theologian, Psychotherapist, Author of this Peace Initiative, Founder and Chairman of the Temple-Project Association
The idea is one of reconciliation between Jews and Muslims.
In the event of a successful reconciliation, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, “the Noble Sanctuary” of the Muslims, will no longer be a symbol of conflict; it will be a symbol of peace.
Why did this not happen decades ago? Because none of the cures then proposed matched the disease. The cures were purely businesslike, but the problem is eminently emotional, rooted in competing identities, both ancestral and religious, thousands of years old.
For more than a thousand years, Middle Eastern Jews and Christians were subordinated to Muslims. And now Jews should be suddenly accepted as lords over one of the most sacred places of Islam? Wouldn’t 1.6 billion Muslims have to be moved first, before their politicians could allow themselves to welcome Israel in their midst?
Jews migrated to the homeland of their ancestors. They sorely needed a territory where they could live in safety, and the United Nations appropriated that territory for them – all part of the vast population movements brought about by two World Wars.
Nevertheless, for the area’s inhabitants this action was a fundamental interference. The Muslim Umma experienced the founding of the State of Israel as an insult, damaging the dignity of Muslims. No material reparations could make up for that. If the Muslim Umma is to accept a “Jewish” (and democratic) State in its midst, that offense must first be healed by a strong, common gesture of esteem from the Jewish side. Only then will true peace be possible.
How? Modern Israel is strong. It can afford to offer esteem, respect, honor, empathy, and compassion where they are due, in this case, to the Muslim Umma – and thus attain reconciliation.
In the original antagonism between Isaac and Ishmael, the forefathers of Jews and Arabs, that was not yet possible. Only one generation later, reconciliation was attained through Jacob. For that he was awarded the name “Israel” – and peace with his brother Esau. Could this not be a model for the bitterly needed reconciliation between today’s Jews and Muslims? Could today’s Israel not show deep empathy for their Muslim brothers and sisters? Would the entire Muslim Umma not feel touched to the depth of their souls?
More than five hundred people were present to bear witness to Jacob’s expression of empathy, most of them soldiers. It was like a ceremony of State. Could today’s deeply needed reconciliation not likewise be enacted in a ceremony of State, one in which the entire world could take part?
At its center, Israel would express sorrow and empathy for the Muslim Umma, because they can now see that the founding of a non-Islamic State had – unintentionally – ruptured the integrity of the Umma territory and had thus violated the innermost feelings of Muslims. It had impugned their dignity – especially as the sacred territory of Jerusalem was involved.
In order to avoid such damage, Sharia commanded that all non-Muslims living in that territory must accept Dhimmi or protégé status, which modern day Israel had refused. But would not true reconciliation cancel out the ancient command? Would not Jews after reconciliation be on equal terms with Muslims, both free to “compete in virtue”, as urged by the Qur’an in Sura 5,48?
At the time when the State of Israel was founded any such step would have been out of the question. Jews were still engulfed in the trauma of the Shoah. But today’s Israel is strong; today such a generous gesture becomes possible. It may, however, need to be preceded by a step towards accommodation on the part of Muslims. Ideally, H.M. King Abdullah II of Jordan would ask the authors of the famous open letter “A Common Word” – which was originally sent to the Pope and church leaders – to send a suitably redrafted edition to leading Rabbis.
In 2013, I talked about this with Dr. Mohammad Ro’ud, deputy to the Jordanian Minister of Awqaf (who is responsible for “the Noble Sanctuary” in Jerusalem), with the former Jordanian Foreign Minister, Professor Kamel Abu Jaber (who signed the peace treaty with Israel), with three members of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate, and with three Bishops of different denominations. All of them, Muslims, Christians, and Jews alike, expressed sympathy for my taking the reconciliation of the first “Israel” as a model for today’s still unaccomplished reconciliation.
The Imam of one of the oldest mosques in Germany said that if Israelis would really do that (express their empathy and show their respect to the Muslim Umma), the entire Middle East conflict would be basically resolved. Only individual indemnifications would then remain to be negotiated. – And then Jews could even be allowed to share the use of al-Haram ash-Sharif, their Temple Mount in Jerusalem, for Jewish rituals.
Then Muslim dignity will have been restored. The Temple Mount, the “Noble Sanctuary” of the Muslims, will have become a symbol of peace. Its example of peaceful coexistence will then serve as a model for the entire crisis-shaken Middle East. It will thus even provide new momentum to the stagnating world economy; for unimaginable commercial opportunities will then open up.
Then, of course, it will become possible for the Muslim Umma, too, to express empathy for all the suffering caused by their long fight against the new Jewish homeland. Once the sorrow and the deep empathy of the Israelis have become truly tangible, even the Palestinian refugees will be able to leave the pain of their displacement behind, to have a new and better personal beginning, to accept reparations for their material losses, and even to accept Israel as a “Jewish” State.
A Brief Vita
I am a Catholic theologian, who also studied political science, lived in the USA for a few years, and found spiritual insights into the underlying unity of religions. For these I sought living confirmations. I met a Sufi master, spent a full year in his spiritual community in Cairo, and came to know Islam quite well from this trustworthy source. After that year, I moved to Munich. I started to teach Catholic religion, encountered the mystical branch of Jewish religion, and came to understand and to appreciate Judaism.
I became a psychotherapist, began to work in a psychiatric institution and wrote down the basic concept of my approach to psychotherapy, “Resurrection – before Death. Using Biblical Texts in Psychotherapy”, published in 1994 by the well-known Kösel publishing house in Munich.
For a long time I took special account of my patients’ religions – and these patients included quite a few Muslims – until 9/11 brought into focus all the experiences I had gained from the three religions that spring from Abraham. At that point, I realized that true peace must encompass the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. When I gave expression to this insight, I gained enthusiastic support, especially from internationally renowned architects, including Daniel Libeskind – for the idea was to rebuild the ancient symbol of Jewish integrity, the Jewish Temple, on a platform above the Temple Mount.
I soon came to realize that Muslims would never agree to such a solution, and neither would most Israeli Jews. I therefore sought alternatives, and the idea of reconciliation between Jews and Muslims was eventually to lead me to the biblical origin of the name “Israel” and to a vision of steps with the potential to resolve the entire conflict: a re-enactment of the reconciliation of the original “Israel” with his brother Esau.
So far, this kind of reconciliation has not occurred to politicians. Yet, could it not accomplish what everyone has been longing for: to unite all factions while simultaneously accepting their differences?
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