Part of the avowed rationale for the accords was to create enhanced access for all Muslims to worship at al-Aqsa Mosque.
When he dedicated the Temple he built on Mount Moriah, King Solomon prayed that God’s house would be a center of prayer for all the peoples of the world.
Now, in the wake of the recent Abraham Accords – the normalization agreement entered into by Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain – the possibility exists that Solomon’s aspiration could be recreated.
Part of the avowed rationale for the accords was to create enhanced access for all Muslims to worship at al-Aqsa Mosque. This was lofty, with humanitarian intent, and a realpolitik gesture designed to discredit both the reflex accusation that Jews were somehow attacking al-Aqsa and were “Judaizing Jerusalem.”
How might this Solomonic vision occur? Quite simply by having various Emirs and Imams from the Gulf countries come to the Temple Mount to pray. Well, a bit more than that.
It would be one thing, not terribly noteworthy, for these leaders to make a ceremonial appearance at al-Aqsa. That, of course, would be a validation and proof of the benefits accruing to Muslims for entering into the accords.
However, imagine now if those same leaders were to stand on the open spaces of the Temple Mount, alongside Jewish leaders, religious and political, to pray together.
Putting aside the exact choreography and logistics, the thought and the image are nothing short of breathtaking. Talk about beating swords into plowshares! The reality of Muslims praying alongside Jews sends an unmistakable message of reconciliation and harmony that should thrill every person who is interested in peace.
A logical question would likely be why this would happen in the first place. To answer that, we must first and foremost remember that this is the Middle East, where few things are straightforward or as they seem.
In that regard, we have to see the same combination of lofty intent and hard bitten political considerations operating here, as they do in the statements mentioned above about Muslims being free to worship at al-Aqsa.
Politically, each side gets to use the other for its purposes, and each side knows and approves that the other is doing so. As such, there are parallel motivations, but they both involve sticking a finger in the eye of the Wakf Islamic religious trust, and by extension the Jordanian rulers, the Hashemites.
The more historically interesting story concerns the Emirati motivations. Here we are dealing with “inside the Beltway” Muslim political/theological infighting that has been going on for more than 1,300 years.
THE ISSUE is the relative primacy of Mecca and Jerusalem for Muslims. It is well known that Jerusalem is never mentioned in the Koran, and its significance is based on various Hadiths, commentaries, that retrospectively grant Jerusalem significance.
The historic motivation for granting Jerusalem significance came from the Umayyad Caliphate, based in Damascus, which was involved in a primacy struggle with the leadership in Mecca. Elevating Jerusalem became a way to elevate the Umayyads in their quest to be seen as the rightful inheritors of Muhammad’s mantle.
This elevation involved not only building both the Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock shrine, but in accordance with the Aqsa interpretative significance as the “furthest mosque,” one on par with the mosque in Mecca.
So there has been rivalry and some bad blood all these millennia about this, and now in a deliciously ironic twist, the Emiratis – on behalf of their cousins, the Saudis – get to strike a blow against their longtime rivals, the Hashemites of Jordan.
Simply stated, by standing on the Temple Mount and praying alongside Jews, these Muslims are sending the unmistakable message to the Muslim cognoscenti of “Look. Would we EVER allow Jews to pray in the Kaaba? Or even to show up there? Of course not. Why? Because the Kaaba is of supreme holiness.”
Supreme also means greater – as in greater than Jerusalem, greater than the province of the Hashemites.
So interfaith prayer not only sends a great message of tolerance to the world, but also clearly orders intra-Muslim theological priorities.
For the Jews, prayer with the Muslims by definition means that Jews themselves are actually praying on the Temple Mount. This strikes an enormous blow against the Wakf-demanded and imposed status quo of no Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount.
DOES ANYONE think for a second our prime minister, a vocal defender of the status quo, would decline to worship alongside Emirati leaders on the Temple Mount? Of course not. And would the Wakf or the Jordanians dare take him to task?
For reasons of their own concern, Emirati leaders would help normalize the Jewish presence on the mount, and not only tolerate, but also participate in Jewish prayer.
And with such a hecsher (the kosher stamp), the status of Jewish prayer on the mount might just be permanently altered.
The response to all of this might be that I have just spun a fanciful scenario replete with wishful thinking. Perhaps, but couldn’t the same be said two years ago about the Abraham Accords themselves?