Source: Muslim Sunrise Spring 2017
Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
In a recent interview President Trump said about his son in law, “Do you know what? Jared is such a good guy; he will conclude an Israel agreement that no one else can do.”[i]
Dennis Ross, a counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy wrote an article for Washington Post in 2016 titled, How Trump could surprise the world on Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking. He started the article by saying, “Like many of his predecessors, Donald Trump aspires to Middle East peacemaking: ‘I would love to be able to be the one that made peace with Israel and the Palestinians,’ he said recently, adding, ‘I have reason to believe I can do it.’”[ii] [iii]
Ahmed I (1590–1617) was the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1603 until his death in 1617. Today no one would know about him except that almost everyone who travels to Turkey or Istanbul gets to visit the Blue Mosque, which was built by him and is also named after him as Ahmed Mosque, right next to Hagia Sophia in Istanbul and his name will continue to live forever.
It is hard to know if President Trump really means what he has said about the peace process in Israel or it would be like another of his statements to keep us busy and bamboozled. But, giving him the benefit of doubt, I want to contribute my two cents as to how, he could settle the dispute about the most precious real estate in the world, the thirty five acre Temple Mount in Jerusalem, which is called Haram ash-Sharif by the Muslims. For the rest of the article I will call it Temple Mount as that is how the Western readers know it.
First a little bit of the land survey for the real-estate-Mughal, President Trump. As we noted that Temple Mount is 35 acres platform, about 10 stories high from the neighboring land of the old city of Jerusalem, the site where the prophet Solomon, may peace be on him, had built the First Temple, in the ninth century BC. This site of 35 acres will be equal to 141,610 square meters and would be equal to about 20 football fields. The wall lengths are approximately 280 m (south wall), 460 m (east wall), 315 m (north wall) and 485 m (west wall).
Dome of the rock is a relatively small structure which stands in the center of this parcel of land. However in the north eastern part of the Mount there is a large empty area, which is not being used for anything and largely has trees. Reviewing a few of the pictures of the area easily available makes it easy to conceptualize what I am saying about the land survey. Obviously a far more detailed survey would need to be done before President Trump and his son in law embark on this ambitious mission.
The picture above has labeling and you can see that the north-eastern portion that I am talking about is largely wooded.
The Empire State Building took just over a year to build. The construction started in March 1930 and finished in May 1931. In other words Trump has three years for negotiation and one year for building. The Empire State Building is 1454.16 feet high, 187 feet wide and 424 feet long. Certainly something bigger and better can be built as the Third Temple in the empty space available on the Temple Mount.
Trump being a successful real estate developer, can perhaps build the Third Temple, which he could nick name as Solomon-Jesus-Muhammad and Trump Plaza, in the north-eastern part of the empty land, which would be multiple synagogues, churches and mosques combined. May be we can throw in the name of Benjamin Netanyahu in there also if he plays nice.
Rest of my article is about how to bring all the different parties around, for a 50-100 story building, with all the allure and modern amenities, worthy of being called the Third Temple.
Every Jewish, Christian and Muslim denomination that has a sizeable presence in Israel gets a floor in the plaza free of charge, as their synagogue, church or mosque and in return they provide a public relations campaign to make the project a success. The state of Israel gets to choose the leaders of those denominations, giving the state and PM Benjamin Netanyahu some stake in the process.
All these denominations could serve as public relation media to promote the peacemaking efforts of President Trump.
The rest of the stories are offices of multinationals and residential condos. So, multinationals doing business in Israel and billionaires with surplus money with genuine zeal for peace, foot the bill.
Now we are left with the two toughest parties to this negotiation, the Orthodox Jews and the fundamentalist Muslims.
Orthodox Jews want to build the Third Temple exactly where the Dome of the Rock sits these days in the center of the Temple Mount.
A picture is worth a thousand words and here is a picture from Pew Research Center from last year that at a glance gives us the demographics of different sects or groups of Judaism in Israel and in USA:
Writing for Pew Research, Michael Lipka, who is a senior editor focusing on religion at Pew Research Center, suggests about the demographics of Jews, “Israeli Jews are much more neatly grouped into four informal categories of Jewish religious identity – Haredi (ultra-Orthodox), Dati (religious), Masorti (traditional) and Hiloni (secular). Virtually all Jews in Israel say one of these terms describes their religious category.”[iv]
The Orthodox Jews are most likely to insist that the Third Temple should be exactly where the Dome of the Rock exists today the third holiest place to the 1.6 billion Muslims. Trump could perhaps convince them with the help of 90% of Jews of USA, who are non-Orthodox and 78% of Jews of Israel, who are in that category.
The Orthodox Jews can be reminded about Hillel, when asked to give a commentary on the Torah, he said, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.” They could also be reminded about some of the teachings they hold near and dear to their heart, True Fasting: A Message of Compassion and Love from the Old Testament[v] and Jewish Perspective on the Rights of Neighbors.[vi]
According to a recent Pew Research Center survey of the American Jews, many of the Orthodox Jews who call themselves Modern Orthodox skip key rituals. Ten percent of Modern Orthodox Jews in the survey said they did not fast on Yom Kippur, 22 percent don’t always or usually light Shabbat candles and 17 percent don’t regularly keep kosher.[vii] [viii] The Orthodox do make compromises for their personal convenience, can they make some compromises for the sake of coexistence, for democracy and world peace.
After all the Wailing Wall, which is not even on the Temple Mount is sacred; can we not safely assume that each and every niche and corner of the 35 acres of the Temple Mount is sacred? Additionally, I propose that we should take several buckets full of dirt from around the Dome of the Rock and sprinkle it in the foundation of the Third Temple.
If the negotiations fail, the Third Temple can still be built with the blessing of a very large majority of the Jews and the Orthodox can continue to pursue their dream that they have had since 70 CE, when the Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans.
Now I come to how to deal with the hardliners among the Muslims.
In light of the dual claims of both Judaism and Islam, the Temple Mount is of course one of the most contested religious sites in the world. Since the Crusades, the Muslim community of Jerusalem has managed the site as a Waqf, without interruption. As the site is part of the Old City, controlled by Israel since 1967, both Israel and the Palestinian Authority claim sovereignty over it, and it remains a major focal point of the Arab–Israeli conflict. In an attempt to keep the status quo, the Israeli government enforces a controversial ban on prayer by non-Muslims.
But the big struggle is about the area where there is Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque, which is in the south of the Temple Mount. I am proposing north-eastern corner for the Third Temple.
The land that is not being used by the Muslim community of Jerusalem or Waqf could be leased from them and it would be a constant source of funds for them for humanitarian causes. Perhaps Trump could use King Abdullah of Jordan, who is an ally of the West and President Mahmood Abbas for this negotiation. Trump could perhaps choose all the three previous Democratic Party Presidents, President Jimmy Carter, President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama to use their influence. Perhaps each one of them would want a story in the plaza of the Third Temple named after them.
If the Muslims are opposed to a multistoried building next to their existing holy places, they need to be only reminded of the clock tower in Mecca, right next to Kaaba.
I have shown a winning hand for all parties in the building of the Third Temple.
Now, the only possible bottle neck would be those who pretend that they want to coexist and make peace, but in fact don’t. Here, I would hope that President Trump is smart enough and strong enough to strong arm such parties.
Thomas Jefferson gave us our Declaration of Independence and our Separation of Church and State, which has ensured the prosperity of millions of Americans for more than 240 years now. Inside his memorial that was built in Washington DC during the time of President Bill Clinton there are four of Jefferson’s quotes, prominently displayed on the inside walls. One of these highlights the paramount importance of justice in our civic life, in which he used slavery as the example that existed in his time, states:
God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever. Commerce between master and slave is despotism. Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free. Establish the law for educating the common people. This it is the business of the state to effect and on a general plan.[ix]
Such a Third Temple would also serve as a foundation to achieve broader peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
If such a Third Temple or Solomon-Jesus-Muhammad and Trump Plaza is successfully built, by President Trump or his son-in-law, it would become a beacon for interfaith coexistence for the whole world and President Trump will go in history, as the greatest real estate developer of all times, for centuries to come.
I, the humble author of this article, will reminisce in my old days in a nursing home, a quote from President Truman, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”
The Jewish people, who gave us a lot of our science and technology and economics, would also have given us interfaith tolerance, not only in Israel but many other parts of the world.
Failing which the Jews, the Muslims and the Christians are showing to China, India and Japan, how petty we can all be. Patriarch Abraham, with whom we all associate, was certainly far better than that.