First, it is rather pointless for Arabs and Muslims to deny the ancient history of the Temple Mount. It is not up to us to decide where Jews should have their holy site. If Jews view the Temple Mount compound as holy to them, so be it. Acknowledging the religious importance of the site to the Jews would be a smart move, as it will strip right-wing Israelis from their fundamental portrayal of Arabs as thieves of history.
In addition, although Muslims label the Western wall of the Temple Mount as the “Buraq wall,” where the Prophet Mohamed landed during his night visit to the city, there is no need to ignore the ancient history of the wall. Jews believe it is the remaining part of their destroyed Temple. The Prophet did not build the wall, it existed before him, and there are many reliable historical sources that prove how Jews used to pray at that site, even after the destruction of the Temple, and well before the rise of Islam.
On the other hand, Israelis needs to remember that their ancient history was not a perfect example of religious tolerance. Following their return from exile in Babylon, Jews excluded foreign wives and children from the membership of Israel, a harsh reminder how the holy city was in many occasions, a city of intolerance, just as in her current, modern time.
Second, acknowledging history does not necessarily mean conceding to demands for prayers at the holy site. Arabs should highlight to the world their part of the story. The Romans destroyed the second Temple hundreds of years before the Arab conquest of the city ___ a fact that Arabs should continue to elaborate and emphasize to the world after showing empathy and sympathy to Jewish claim. Christian rulers, whether in the Byzantine or crusader era, were much more unkind to the Jews than Muslims. According to the Jewish virtual library, the whole Temple Mount area was badly desecrated and was only cleared and restored after Muslim conquest.
Third, while it is smart to acknowledge the ancient Jewish history of the compound, it is also crucial to highlight the current misery of Jerusalem and the failure to achieve peace. East Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount, has technically been occupied land since 1967. Israel bars Palestinians below the age of 50 from praying in al-Aqsa. Security barriers in the West Bank prevent more Palestinians from reaching the holy compound. How can Israelis expect Palestinians to be more understanding while they live under such occupation? Arabs should remind the world how under their rule, the great Jewish scholar Maimonides visited the Temple Mount in 1165. That was an era of harmony and peace, unlike today’s tension and injustice. Israel must understand that the political deadlock compounds tension and does not leave any room for religious tolerance. Peace would strip radicals on both sides from abusing religion for political gains.
As such, I did not follow my colleague’s advice, and started reading the book as it should be read, from page one. It was an eye-opener. As Armstrong poignantly pointed out, “the history of Jerusalem reminds us that nothing ___ not even mortal hatred ___ is permanent.”