WASHINGTON – A week before Americans gave thanks to God for their blessings in a holiday inspired by Pilgrims who sought religious freedom in the new world, another group of mostly American pilgrims to Jerusalem was ejected from the Temple Mount by Muslim administrative authorities for mentioning that the Jewish Temple rested atop the 40-acre mount until 70 AD when it was destroyed by Rome.
That’s right – 406 Christians were forced off the Temple Mount for acknowledging that a Temple once rested there.
The incident occurred Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016, when messianic rabbi Jonathan Cahn and I led the group on a tour of the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism and one of great significance for Christians as well.
When Cahn, the New York Times bestselling author of “The Harbinger,” “The Mystery of the Shemitah” and “The Book of Mysteries,” simply referenced the Temple, his talk was interrupted by a representative of the Islamic Waqf – the clerical force that patrols the site, enforcing dress codes and often prohibiting Bible reading and prayer by Christians and Jews.
Cahn was told it was unacceptable for anyone to discuss the Temple on the Temple Mount. Muslims do not refer to the Temple Mount as such but call the site Haram al-Sharif, or Nobel Sanctuary. They contend the site is famous and holy not because of the Temple, which some of them even dispute ever existed, but because Muhammad claims to have ascended to the site from the Arabian desert in a miraculous Night Journey on the back of a winged horse.
“While I was speaking, they pulled me aside and told me I had mentioned that there was a Temple on the Temple Mount – which I did – and said I was not allowed to mention the Temple,” explained Cahn. “They also accused me of mentioning America and someone clapped, which was also true. I mentioned one of the mysteries in ‘The Book of Mysteries,’ The Tenth of Av Mystery, that contains the secret of America’s existence. They also accused me of speaking of 1948, the birth of Israel, which I never did.”
Initially, just one representative of the Waqf approached Cahn during his talk – calling him away from the group for a meeting, which was soon joined by several other Waqf members, as well as two Jewish members of our Israeli tour company and me.
“As I spoke, more of the Muslim authorities converged on me, and told me that I and the group had to leave the Temple Mount immediately,” Cahn recalled. “I went back to the group and told them that this was exactly the kind of warfare on the mount I had just told them about – but that nothing stops the purposes of God.”
While Israelis provide all security for the Temple Mount, the government allows the Waqf wide latitude on conduct in and around the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock – the two prominent Muslim shrines that now rest atop the site.
Perhaps you wonder why Israel would permit such behavior on the holiest site in Judaism.
While Israel captured the Temple Mount in the 1967 Six-Day War, administrative authority over the site was soon handed over by the Jewish state to the Islamic Waqf in an effort to keep peace and demonstrate Israel’s religious tolerance and goodwill. Ever since, it has been the site of clashes, confrontations and political theater that occasionally explodes into violence.
Twice in the 1980s, before Israeli security cleared all visitors to the site, I was chased from the Temple Mount by rock-throwing members of the Waqf.
In 2014, Muslims took to the streets of Jerusalem in a “day of rage” against Israel after the Jewish state imposed entry restrictions on the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
In the fall of 1990, some 3,000 Muslims began stoning Israelis at holiday prayer at the Western Wall and the Israeli police guarding them. At least 19 people were killed in the ensuing melee.
Some of the worst conflicts in Jerusalem have started in and around the Temple Mount over the last 40 years.
On Sept. 28, 2000, Ariel Sharon, then opposition leader in the Israeli government, visited the Temple Mount with a Likud Party delegation surrounded by Israeli riot police. Sharon was only permitted to enter the compound after Israeli Interior Ministry officials had received assurances from the Palestinian Authority’s security chief that no problems would arise. Sharon visited the site during normal visiting hours. But shortly after Sharon left the site, angry demonstrations by Muslims erupted into rioting. Israeli police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets, while protesters hurled stones and other missiles, injuring 25 policemen, of whom one was seriously injured and had to be taken to hospital. At least three Palestinians were wounded by rubber bullets. It was the beginning of what came to be called the Second Intifada, or uprising. Though the sole purpose of Sharon’s visit was to assert the right of all Israelis to visit the Temple Mount, in the coming weeks, 141 Muslim Palestinians were killed, 5,984 were wounded. A dozen Israelis were killed and 65 were injured.
Meanwhile, during the latest WND tour of the Temple Mount, Cahn spoke of the Temple Mount as the spiritual center of the world – not because of the Dome of the Rock or the Al-Aqsa Mosque, but because of the Temple and what preceded it long before Jesus was crucified nearby as the Passover lambs were slaughtered. It was also the mountain on which Abraham took his son Isaac to be sacrificed at the behest of God – a sacrifice that was called off by God with Abraham telling his son: “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” Christians see that as a prophecy of Jesus’ future death on the cross. Cahn’s address to the tour group took place in an open area north of the Dome of the Rock between the Eastern Gate and the Dome of the Spirits, which some believe was the site of the Temple. He spoke also of the destruction of the Temple, the mystery of the ninth of Av, from his newest title – “The Book of Mysteries.”
He was just beginning a message on the link between the Temple and the Garden of Eden when the Waqf officials interrupted the talk. They called Cahn to speak to them about 20 yards from the bulk of the group, with me shadowing him.
“They immediately told me I had to stop talking,” Cahn recalled. “We had to leave the Temple Mount. Meanwhile, the group watched, prayed and a few took pictures and video recorded the event. When I countered that we had done nothing wrong, they said I can’t talk about the Temple on the Temple Mount. They said, ‘This is an Islamic holy site. You cannot mention the Temple.’”
The standoff lasted about five minutes until one of the Waqf officials got louder and more agitated. At that point, Cahn agreed to leave. The Waqf officials escorted the group out the gate facing the north. It regrouped near the Pools of Bethesda, where Cahn finished his message and spoke about the nature of the spiritual warfare we had just witnessed.
“To be kicked off the Temple Mount for speaking truth was an honor,” Cahn said. “Nothing stops the purposes of God. This tour had originally planned to go from the Temple Mount to the Pools of Bethesda, but it didn’t look like there would be enough time. But, without intending to, the Muslim authorities escorted the group off the Temple Mount through a short cut that led directly to the Pools of Bethesda, allowing time to go to the very next place planned for the tour.”
Word of the incident spread throughout the Muslim quarter. According to one inside source in the Muslim community, the Waqf officials were alarmed that a rabbi was addressing a group on the Temple Mount and issued orders to follow him and listen for any words they could use to eject him and his followers from the mount.
The next day, the tour convened on the Temple steps as had been originally planned in the itinerary, Cahn ascended the steps, reciting the Psalms of Ascent, and then proclaimed the site was the Temple Mount and God’s purposes for that mount would be fulfilled. Then from the top of the steps, with a prayer shawl over his head, he sang the Aaronic Blessing (from Numbers 6). Above him, through the windows of the Al Aqsa mosque, Muslims began shouting him down. And in the middle of the ancient Hebrew blessing, loudspeakers began blasting Islamic chants for the call to prayer.
Like Cahn said, this is a site of massive spiritual warfare – and, too often, physical conflict.
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