- Israelis eyes reconstruction of third temple on Al Aqsa compound
- Hamas’s October 7 attack to thwart the move
- Israel violates UN Security Council Resolution 242
In the aftermath of a surprise attack by Hamas on October 7, the Israeli army has significantly intensified its air and ground assaults on the Gaza Strip. The relentless airstrikes have taken a severe toll, resulting in the tragic loss of at least 12,000 Palestinian lives, including 4,412 children and 2,918 women.
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Disturbingly, the Israeli military’s actions have extended beyond targeting militants, with a notable focus on gaining control of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. In a troubling move, Israeli authorities continue to impose strict restrictions on Palestinians, prohibiting their entry to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem for Friday prayers for the fifth consecutive week.
The perceived objective of certain elements within Israel is to dismantle Al Aqsa in order to advance their interpretation of Zionist influence globally. Some argue that the use of violent tactics is anticipated to create the circumstances required for the realization of this vision. The intensifying efforts by Israel to gain control of the Aqsa Mosque are seen by some as a manifestation of their determined stance to fully occupy the entire Palestinian territory.
Violation of UN Security Council Resolution 242
The history of the Al-Aqsa Mosque is deeply rooted in the aftermath of the 1967 Six-Day War between Israel and the Arab states. According to the United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242, the Jordanian Waqf Council of Islamic Affairs was entrusted with the maintenance of the mosque’s interior, while control of the surrounding area fell into Israeli hands following the conflict. Muslims traditionally pray in the mosque, and Jews, though permitted to enter the compound as visitors during specific times, are explicitly prohibited from praying there.
However, tensions have escalated in recent years due to increased Jewish infiltration. According to a report by Al Jazeera, instances of Jews entering the mosque for prayer, often in the presence of security guards, have become a near-daily occurrence. This has further worsened an already volatile situation, with implications not only for the immediate conflict in Gaza but also for the broader issues surrounding religious freedom and access to holy sites in the region.
This year on May 21, far-right Jewish nationalist leader and current Israeli security minister Itamar Ben Gavir broke the law and entered Al-Aqsa Square with Jewish rabbis.
While the United States, the United Nations, and the EU—all calling on the Israelis to abide by the terms of the deal, Israelis are turning a deaf ear. Temple Institute chief spokesman Yitzchak Reuven said, “It was once a dream for us to be able to come here (Jerusalem). We will be able to return to Israel, it was once our dream. But now it is real. Here will be God’s house of worship—that is still our dream. But that dream will also come true.
The religious reason behind this attack
The ongoing conflict in Gaza reveals not only political complexities but also deep-seated religious motivations, particularly within the Jewish community. Central to this religious narrative is the belief in the coming of a Messiah, a redeemer who will establish Jewish dominance worldwide. Islamic interpretation introduces the concept of the Dajjal, identified as the Messiah in Jewish belief, who is prophesied to exert sole control across the globe.
The Qur’an mentions that the Bani Israel community led by Moses (pbuh) was commanded by Allah to slaughter a cow in response to an incident, similar to the red cow of the Torah. In the verses 67 of Surah Baqarah, Allah says: “When Mūsā said to his people, ‘Allah commands you to slaughter a cow’, they said, ‘Are you making fun of us?’ He said, ‘I seek refuge with Allah from being one of the ignorant.’
According to Jewish belief, the Messiah’s arrival is contingent upon the fulfillment of three crucial conditions. First and foremost, the Jews scattered all over the world must gather in Israel. The second condition, as outlined in the Talmud, underscores the necessity for the Jewish diaspora to converge in Israel, culminating in the establishment of a sovereign Jewish state. The third and final condition, central to the current discourse, involves the construction of the Third Temple precisely where the Sulaimani Temple once stood.
Jews contend that the first two conditions were met in the aftermath of World War II, with the establishment of the State of Israel and the gathering of Jews from various corners of the globe. The focus has now shifted to the third condition, and herein lies a critical point of contention—the fate of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. According to this belief system, for the final condition to be fulfilled, the Al-Aqsa Mosque must be dismantled, making way for the construction of the Third Temple.
Why it is called third temple?
According to Islamic, Christian commentaries, Jewish commentaries and historical studies, the First Temple, constructed by Prophet Solomon ﷺ, occupied the site of the present-day Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. This initial sacred structure, divided into the holy place and the Holy of Holies, housing ritual objects and the Ark of the Covenant, was destroyed in 586 BC by Bakhte Nashar, also known as Nebuchadnezzar II. Following this destruction, the Israelites were taken as slaves to Iraq.
After the defeat of Bakhte Nashar’s empire by Persian rulers, the Jews were liberated and brought back to Palestine. In 516 BC, construction began on a new place of worship atop the ruins of the First Temple, known as the “Second Temple.” Unfortunately, the Romans, after capturing Jerusalem in 70 AD, destroyed this Second Temple, replacing it with a temple dedicated to the god Jupiter.
Today, the Al Aqsa compound encompasses three mosques within its walls: the Qibla Mosque, Qubbatus Sakhra (Dome of the Rock), and Burak Mosque. The Dome of the Rock, constructed in 705 AD under Umayyad Caliph Abdul Malik Ibn Marwan, is often popularly associated with Al Aqsa. Over the centuries, various earthquakes damaged and necessitated the rebuilding of the mosque, undertaken by different rulers.
According to Jewish belief, the Romans were responsible for the destruction of the Second Temple, replacing it with the Temple of Jupiter on the Temple Mount, known in Hebrew as “Har Habait.” Some Jewish hardliners currently advocate for the construction of a Third Temple, seeking to replicate the original Sulaimani Temple on the Temple Mount. This historical and religious tapestry highlights the significance of the term “Third Temple” in the context of Jerusalem’s complex and storied past.
The Red Cow Ritual
Deeply embedded in the fabric of the Third Temple prophecy is the enigmatic Red Cow ritual, meticulously outlined in the biblical book of Numbers (Chapter 19). In Jewish tradition, the ashes derived from a red heifer hold a pivotal role in the purification rituals that precede the construction of the Third Temple. The profound scarcity of red heifers meeting the stringent criteria specified in religious texts lends an additional layer of significance to this ancient and mysterious ceremony.
Rabbinical teachings assert that only nine red heifers have been sacrificed since the time of Moses, with none offered since the tragic destruction of the second temple. A notable prophecy by Rabbi Maimonides (1135—1204) prophesies that the tenth red heifer will be sacrificed by the Messiah Himself (Parah Adumah, ch. 3, § 4). Adding a contemporary twist to this age-old narrative, the Temple Institute, an advocacy group championing the construction of the third temple, reported the arrival of five flawless red heifers from Texas to Israel on September 15, 2022. Many perceive this event as a tangible fulfillment of prophecy, marking a significant stride toward the realization of plans for a new temple.
This is the same heifer that is mentioned in Quran. However, the color is different. In Sura Al-Baqarah, Allah said, “They said, ‘Pray for us to your Lord that He makes it clear to us of what colour it should be.” He said: “He says that she should be a yellow cow, rich yellow in her colour that should please the onlookers.”
The Mosaic Law intricately stipulated that the red heifer must be “without defect or blemish” and should have never borne a yoke (Numbers 19:2). Notably distinct from other sacrificial rites, the red heifer ceremony involved a female animal, took place away from the Tabernacle’s entrance, and uniquely specified the color of the sacrificial creature.
Ongoing efforts to selectively breed a red heifer meeting these stringent requirements are viewed by many as a critical and symbolic stride toward the fulfillment of the ancient prophecy. The perceived importance of the Red Cow ritual serves to tightly weave religious beliefs with contemporary political aspirations, thereby intricately shaping the complex landscape of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Attack of Hamas and the Third Temple
The upcoming Jewish Pesach or Passover festival, scheduled from April 22 to 29 next year, holds particular significance in light of recent developments in the Middle East. This week-long festival commemorates Emancipation Day, marking the liberation of the Jews from the tyrannical rule of Pharaoh in Egypt and their journey to their ancestral home in Jerusalem.
A recent investigative report by acclaimed journalist David Hirst, published by Middle East Eye on November 4, sheds light on Hamas’ strategic considerations. The report, titled ‘Israel-Palestine War: How Hamas Sees the Gaza Conflict Unfolding and Why It Thinks It Can Win,’ suggests that Hamas possesses specific information about the upcoming Passover festival, slated for April next year. The event is expected to take place near Mount Olivet, close to Al Aqsa, where red cows imported from America will be sacrificed. Once this purification process is complete, it is believed that there will be no religious impediments to the construction of the Third Temple.
Al Aqsa Mosque stands as a paramount symbol of Palestinian identity and represents the third holiest mosque for Muslims globally. In response to perceived threats to Al Aqsa, Hamas initiated an attack on Israel on October 7, driven by a sense of urgency to safeguard this sacred site from potential destruction.
Hamas perceives Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as aligned with the interests of the West and Israel, asserting that neither he nor his group, Fatah, would obstruct the construction of a Third Temple. Faced with this perceived threat, Hamas launched an offensive on October 7, recognizing the potential loss of lives but driven by a commitment to protect Al Aqsa. In response, Israel has undertaken military actions in Gaza, resulting in a dire situation that some characterize as genocide, aimed at eliminating Hamas and preventing any potential occupation of Al Aqsa.