An Inter-Religious Vision of Peace in the Holy Land

May 2010

 

My high esteem for Judaism and Islam has led me to envision a path to peace that goes beyond anything we have seen yet:

 

The Task of the Jews in the Peace Process

Up until now neither Jews nor Muslims have, it seems, been really aware of their task in the peace process.

For instance: in their effort to secure peace, Israel’s Chief Rabbinate has declared that Muslim ownership of the Temple Mount is not to be called into question. – Yet, in spite of the good intentions behind the Rabbinic declaration, since the Jews have returned to their old Biblical homeland Muslims have feared for their sanctuaries on the Temple Mount. They know of the Jewish longing for a New Temple. In their view it is only a matter of time before the Jews take their sanctuaries from them. – Only a real New Temple  for the Jews at a location other than the Temple Mount could free them of that fear. Yet the Chief Rabbinate is announcing there will be no New Temple – unless the Messiah builds it.

But how real and pressing this Muslim fear is was shown only a few months ago when, in an opinion poll, 64 % of all Israelis (including 49% of nonreligious Jews!) said, they wanted a New Temple now. – So far the Temple Mount has been the only construction site Jews have had in mind, no alternative has been suggested. The conflict around the Temple Mount / Haram ash-Sharif is therefore highly acute, yet nobody dares talk about it. Why?

 

Trauma makes both parties blind

One major obstacle to approaching it is to be found in the traumatisms from which both parties are suffering:

The Jews are suffering from the trauma of persecution and annihilation, culminating in the Holocaust. Unfortunately this trauma has been renewed in their new homeland which once seemed to guarantee safety.

The trauma of the Muslims relates to military defeat in two World Wars and the economic disaster from which most Muslims are suffering– a fact that cannot be concealed behind the fabulous luxuries enjoyed by the few who control the oil revenues. These weaknesses prevented the Muslims from fending off the partition of Palestine. They could therefore only perceive the establishment of the state of Israel as a catastrophe and a permanent thorn in the flesh.

Peace will become possible only when both parties find a way to overcome their trauma and when they learn to accept the legitimacy of the other. But how could that happen?

 

The Role of God’s Chosen People

In my eyes there is only one way: Jews must make the first step by reflecting on what it means to be “God’s Chosen People”, and by accepting the mandate inherent to that role: that they become healers. A therapist who is working with a trauma patient needs to set aside his own traumatisms if he wants to help his patient; likewise the Jews will have to put aside their heavy trauma, at least temporarily, and ask themselves how they could effect healing in the given situation.

So far they have tried to take the lead by forcing their way, but now they will have to ask themselves what the traumatized Muslims will need if they are to become cooperative. In that self-examination the Jews will realize, that above all else, the Muslims need to be respected. Only if their honor is restored, can their trauma dissolve.

Jews will have to realize that by erecting the Jewish State in the midst of the realm of Islam, and, moreover, around one of the most sacred sanctuaries of Islam, the Muslims’ sense of honor has been injured. How can it be restored without the need to extinguish or dissolve the cause of that injury: Israel?

 

Legitimizing Illegitimate Children

In order to find an answer to that question we need to go back in history: Jews never recognized the legitimacy of Islam – just as they never recognized the legitimacy of Christianity. If they now reflect on the task of being “God’s Chosen People”, and come thereby to realize that they will have to act as healers, they will see how to pay the respect due to the Muslims, and will understand that they already have the means to bring this about. All that’s needed is to stop regarding them as illegitimate children.

It is an undisputed fact that three religions regard the Biblical father Abraham as their father – and the Jews should have every reason to feel proud of and grateful for being the root of a tradition that has brought forth so mighty a following, namely the Christians and the Muslims. Until now they have, however, been unable to feel that. They were unable to recognize the legitimacy of that mighty following because they feared dissolution in that flood; they were afraid of losing their own identity. Yet today‘s situation is completely different. The quest for peace demands of them that they legitimize their children, both Christians and Muslims, whom they once could regard only as illegitimate.

Nor will it be sufficient to make a verbal declaration, this intention needs to be expressed in a symbol of the utmost importance and significance – and here the two thousand year history of Jewish longing for a New Temple provides the perfect opportunity:

 

A New Temple for a new World

As long as both Jews and Muslims feel traumatized, every attempt to build a New Jewish Temple can only trigger fierce violence if not World War III.

But now a New Temple can prove a source of pure bliss – even reaching far beyond the parties immediately involved – provided the Jews do their homework and resume in earnest their role as “God’s Chosen People”. For then they will see that a New Temple today cannot in any way be a symbol of “we are better” – because today’s leaders must before all else be servants. If they want to have a healing effect, “God’s Chosen People” will have to serve their Abrahamic brothers and sisters, whom they have so long disowned. This is the only way to peace. The New Temple will therefore not act as an instrument of aggrandizement for themselves to the exclusion of the others, but will above all serve to unite the Abrahamic community.

Specifically and symbolically this will mean that the New Temple of the Jews will not be constructed on the Temple Mount, because in their intention to serve they will hand the place that hosted the previous Jewish Temples over to the Muslims who are anyhow already in possession of it. Instead, the New Jewish Temple will either have to constitute a bridge between Haram ash-Sharif, the sanctuary of the Muslims, which has for thirteen hundred years occupied the Temple Mount, and the Holy Sepulcher, the sanctuary of the Christians, which has been there for seventeen hundred years – or it will have to be sited in an entirely new place.

It is this very gesture of being willing to serve that will bring about the change from confrontation to cooperation.

By this gesture, the esteem of the Muslims will be restored. What is more, this gesture will bring together something like a new “tribe”, the tribe of the Abrahamites. In reality that tribe has existed for ages, but it could not function as such as long as it was not recognized. Once they know themselves to be fully recognized the Muslims will be able to stop seeing the Jews as an alien enclave in their territory; they will come to see them as brothers and sisters in their common homeland.

An Abrahamic solution

In an Abrahamic solution, of course, the Christians cannot be absent. They too need to be recognized as legitimate children of Abraham. And that, too, will be accomplished by this new Jewish Temple project.

As the New Temple will link the former Temple Mount, Haram ash-Sharif,  with the Holy Sepulcher, something like a pan-Abrahamic sanctuary will come into existence, a common sanctuary for all followers of Abraham, consisting of three completely autonomous parts. Just as the Muslims do not want to have any interference at Haram ash-Sharif, and the Christians do not want to have any interference at the Holy Sepulcher, the Jews will not need to be afraid of any interference in their part of the sanctuary, the New Temple. And, cognizant of their newly defined role as God’s Chosen People, the Jews will establish their new Temple-cult in such a way that it may serve to heal all.

 

The result of that service will be that the Jews will no longer have to fear for their existence in their new homeland. They will be able to walk on the path of their tradition in peace – and in the spirit of service which now extends well beyond the boundaries of their people. Thus their trauma, too, will dissolve – in a way that could never have been envisioned under the condition of trauma. But once the healing has taken place – and because its results are quite impressive, not only for Abrahamites, but also for other peoples far beyond – this way to resolve a conflict will become attractive and relevant for peoples all around the world over.

Through this spirit of service and healing the whole world will change and become a truly humane place.

 

The Task of The Muslims in the Peace process

The Muslims too could serve peace in a comparable way:

When the Muslims conquered Jerusalem shortly after the Prophet Mohammed’s death, they did not hand over the Temple Mount to the Jews but instead built a Muslim sanctuary on top of the Temple Mount. The Jews were again left without a Temple – which is the ancient background to our conflict today.

And then, 1200 years later, in the 19th century, as the Jews started to re-immigrate to their ancient homeland, they were not allowed to buy land – because under Sharia, Islamic law, the Jews were subject to the status of Dhimmi, which is a status of subordination under the Muslim majority. They therefore had to accept certain settlement restrictions. They could not reconstruct their Temple, nor could they build a state of their own in their former homeland.

The United Nations’ 1947proclamation of the partition of Palestine in order to allow the Jews to resettle in their former homeland, surely was a grave injustice towards the population of Palestine. This was why the Muslim nations could not recognize that decision. But besides this foreground reason another factor is active decisively, one that is never ever talked about: according to Sharia, Islamic religious law, Israel is an artificial non-Islamic entity within the realm of Islam and therefore could never ever be recognized as an independent state. From a traditional Islamic point of view no peace agreement with this new entity could ever be regarded as permanent. This is the situation from a Sharia point of view – no matter how many negotiators on both sides try to ignore the factor religion in this context; religious laws are and will be an essential part of reality, especially in this conflict. Therefore:

An Evolution of Sharia is a Prerequisite to Peace

Once the Muslims feel the need to make a substantial contribution to peace in the Holy Land, they will find an appropriate way to apply Sharia, based on the Qur’an – because, if in this matter Sharia were to refer to the authority of Suras 2,257 and 5,48, which state that in matters of faith there must be no coercion, but competition in virtue, the dhimmi-status could be abolished. Israel could be regarded as an equal.  Anyhow, the integrity of that evolved view would need to be acknowledged by a worldwide conference of Islamic scholars.

A Daring Vista: Muslims propose the solution

Once Sharia has thus been renewed Muslims will regard the Jews as their brothers and sisters. They will, therefore, allow the Jews to construct the Holy of Holies of a New Temple next to the foundations of the Holy of Holies of the former Temple – especially once they will have realized that the Jews have taken a completely new approach, namely to respect Muslims as genuine Children of Abraham, and they will therefore also respect the given ownership conditions at the Temple Mount.

Once the Muslims have seen the spirit of service on the part of the Jews they will give their consent to the new plans for a New Jewish Temple: having renounced the old Temple Mount the Jews will find a new place for their Temple. They will site it as “a bridge” between the former Temple Mount, now one of the holiest places of Islam, and the Holy Sepulcher, the central shrine of Christianity, thereby generating, without any intermixing, one magnificent Abrahamic sanctuary, which will be the final seal to a generally accepted and permanent treaty of peace between the three religions.