The Kotel, or Western Wall, is recognized by Jews the world over as all that remains of the retaining wall of the mount on which the Second Temple stood. Erected by King Herod, the site has been a focal point for Jewish yearning and prayers for close to 2,000 years ever since the Temple was destroyed by the Romans. Multiple chronicles dating from the Middle Ages attest to this.
Whereas the traditional Arabic term for the Wall is el-Mabka, or “place of weeping”, stemming from the Jewish practice of visiting the site to mourn the destruction of the Temple, during the 1920’s, Arabs began referring to the location as al-Buraq, claiming that this was where Mohammed tethered his miraculous winged horse, Buraq, which, as tradition has it, carried him from Mecca to Jerusalem.
Arab attempts to discredit any historical connection between the Jews and Jerusalem have become increasingly common in recent times. King Faisal of Saudi Arabia claimed in 1973 that “Only Christians and Muslims have holy places and rights in Jerusalem.”
The Palestinian appointed Mufti of Jerusalem was quoted in Die Welt in 2001 as having stated that “there is not a single stone in the Wailing Wall relating to Jewish history.” Yassir Arafat went one step further at the Camp David talks in July 2000 by suggesting that there had never been a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. This view reflected the statement by the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Information in 1997 that “there is no tangible evidence of any Jewish traces/remains in the Old City of Jerusalem and its immediate vicinity.”
Given this jaundiced view of Jewish history, and Arab disapproval of the importance that we Jews attach to our most important religious and historical site, which was visited by over 8 million people this past year, it is hardly surprising that the Palestinian Authority has now announced its condemnation of the approval that the Israeli government has just given to a $23m development project involving the Kotel plaza and its environs.
An Authority spokesman is reported as having stated that “Israel had no right to make changes in the conquered territories and particularly in Jerusalem…. Such a step prevents us from reaching an agreement, because any solution must include Jerusalem.”
If the Palestinians cannot accept that The Kotel and the Jewish Quarter of the Old City are part of Israel, one wonders what hope there can ever be of coming to an accommodation on Jerusalem.