: There are many people today who deny the existence of a Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

This is becoming more of a serious problem, but how did this belief actually come about?

by David Barnett

On the ninth day of the 2000 Camp David Summit, Yasir Arafat, then Palestinian National Authority President, told President Bill Clinton that “Solomon’s Temple was not in Jerusalem, but Nablus.”[1] Arafat’s remark, known as “Temple Denial,” shook the foundation of the negotiations, as the leading Palestinian figure denied the existence of Judaism’s holiest site. Temple Denial is historical revisionism that runs counter to classical Islamic tradition and archaeological evidence. Since the 1967 Six-Day War, after Muslim control over the Temple Mount was lost to Israel, the belief that no Jewish Temple ever existed in Jerusalem has developed and become internalized within Palestinian academic, religious, and political circles. Since Camp David, Temple Denial has transformed into a virulent delegitimization campaign that attempts to deny both Jewish authority and access to the Temple Mount and Western Wall (or Wailing Wall) in Jerusalem.


For Jews, the Temple Mount is the holiest place in the world. The Jewish connection to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount originates in the biblical narrative, as it is said to be the location of the binding of Isaac.[2] The Talmud, Judaism’s supreme canonical text, says that the foundation stone on the Temple Mount is the location from which the world was created.[3] In Samuel II 24:18-25, King David bought the bedrock for the Temple from Araunah the Jebusite. Subsequently, Solomon, David’s son, used the bedrock to build the First Temple.[4] Solomon’s Temple was eventually destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon in 586 BCE.

For Jews, the Temple Mount is the holiest place in the world.

Following the destruction of Jerusalem and Solomon’s Temple, many Jews were sent into exile. However, under the Persian King Cyrus, the Jews were allowed to return and began to rebuild the Temple. The Second Temple was completed in 516 BCE and expanded by King Herod in 19 BCE. In 70 CE, the Roman Empire, led by Emperor Titus, laid siege to Jerusalem and destroyed the Second Temple. Jews have maintained an unbreakable connection to Jerusalem, and the Temple Mount since that time.

Today, Jews follow a number of different customs in remembrance of their fallen Temple. When Jews pray, they pray toward Jerusalem. Within the daily liturgy, there are numerous calls for the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Temple. During the week, after meals, Jews recite a grace, which includes the recitation of Psalm 137 (“If I forget thee, O Jerusalem…”).[5] At the end of a wedding ceremony, the groom breaks a glass, which signifies the Jewish people’s continued mourning over the Temple’s destruction. In addition, many have the custom of leaving a wall in their home unfinished in remembrance of the destruction. All of these customs play a significant part in the Jewish connection to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, which former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stated “represents the purist expression of all that Jews prayed for, dreamed of, cried for, and died for in the two thousand years since the destruction of the Second Temple.”[6] In addition to the customs and ideology, the Jewish connection to the Land of Israel and Jerusalem is internationally recognized.[7]


Classic Islamic literature also recognizes the existence of a Jewish Temple and its importance to Judaism. This makes Palestinian Temple Denial all the more puzzling.

In Sura 17:1 of the Koran, the “Farthest Mosque” is called the al-masjid al-Aqsa. The Tafsir al-Jalalayn,[8] a well-respected Sunni exegesis of the Koran from the 15th and 16th centuries, notes that the “Farthest Mosque” is a reference to the Bayt al-Maqdis of Jerusalem.[9] In Hebrew, the Jewish Temple is often referred to as the Beyt Ha-Miqdash, nearly identical to the Arabic term. In the commentary of Abdullah Ibn Omar al-Baydawi, who authored several prominent theological works in the 13th century, the masjid is referred to as the Bayt al-Maqdis because during Muhammad’s time no mosque existed in Jerusalem.[10] Koranic historian and commentator, Abu Jafar Muhammad al-Tabari, who chronicled the seventh century Muslim conquest of Jerusalem, wrote that one day when Umar finished praying, he went to the place where “the Romans buried the Temple [bayt al-maqdis] at the time of the sons of Israel.”[11] In addition, eleventh century historian Muhammad Ibn Ahmad al-Maqdisi and fourteenth century Iranian religious scholar Hamdallah al-Mustawfi acknowledged that the al-Aqsa Mosque was built on top of Solomon’s Temple.[12]

This is a small sample of the Islamic literature attesting to the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount. Innumerable other writings from other faiths attest to this fact, as well.


The modern phenomenon of Temple Denial began during the Palestine Mandate. During this period, the Temple Mount was under the authority of the Supreme Muslim Council, led by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husayni. The Supreme Muslim Council published yearly guide books to the Haram al-Sharif (the Temple Mount). Drawing from those available, the 1924, 1925, 1929, and 1935 guide books all stated that the Haram al-Sharif’s “identity with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute. This, too, is the spot, according to the universal belief, on which David built there an altar unto the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings.”[13] The recognition of the Temple Mount’s importance to Jews in the guidebooks continued until 1950, two years after Israel’s establishment.[14] However, by 1954, the references to Solomon’s Temple disappeared. At some point between 1950 and 1954, the Muslim waqf (religious authority) that governed the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque inexplicably began to remove the references seen in earlier guide books.

Western WallOne of the earliest cases of Temple Denial occurred in the aftermath of the Arab disturbances of August 1929, which erupted over disputes between Jews and Muslims regarding access to the Western Wall. These riots led to the Hebron and Safed massacres and the death of 133 Jews and 116 Arabs. Following the riots and due to pressure from the Mandates Commission of the League of Nations, an international investigative body examined Jewish and Muslim claims to the Western Wall. This investigation led to the Report of the Commission Appointed by His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, with the Approval of the Council of the League of Nations, to Determine the Rights and Claims of Moslems and Jews in Connection with the Western or Wailing Wall at Jerusalem.[15]

The report acknowledged Jewish claims to the Temple Mount, noting, “It was Solomon who built the first Temple of Jerusalem.”

The report acknowledged Jewish claims to the Temple Mount, noting, “It was Solomon who built the first Temple of Jerusalem, the grandeur and beauty of which have become widely renowned, thanks to the holy books and the historians. The Temple was situated on Mount Moriah on the platform, now known as the Harem-esh-Sherif area.”[16] Despite this acknowledgement, the Muslim claim formulated within the report stated, “It is here a question about property which has belonged to the Moslems for many centuries. The Buraq forms an integral part of the Haram-esh-Sherif, not a single stone of which dates back to the days of Solomon.”[17] This claim played a pivotal role in the commission’s conclusion, which recognized the significance of the Western Wall to Jews, but deemed the site a Muslim property.[18]


During the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel launched a preemptive strike against its neighboring enemies and conquered all of the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights, and the West Bank, including the Temple Mount. Following the Israeli victory, Israel claimed sovereignty over the Temple Mount and the government immediately passed the Protection of Holy Places Law.[19] While Israel now controlled the Temple Mount, it left administrative control in the hands of the waqf. Yet Israel’s claim of sovereignty did not sit well with many in the Muslim world, sparking fears of Jewish aspirations to usurp all of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. Defending Jerusalem from the Jews quickly became the centerpiece of the nascent Palestinian political ideology.[20] The first step in denying Jewish control was denying the Jewish connection to the site. Palestinian historians soon launched a campaign to deny the importance of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount to Jews. The new writings quickly spread throughout the Arab world.

These texts typically argued that any Jewish presence in Jerusalem was less significant than the Muslim one.[21] To that end, the existence of Solomon’s Temple was denied. In cases where the existence of Solomon’s Temple was acknowledged, it was described as a minor prayer room. In addition, the Western Wall was deemed a Muslim holy site, while the Jewish connection was declared to be a falsehood.[22] These claims have only risen in popularity throughout pro-Palestinian circles in the Muslim world since 1967.

In the more recent writings, the denial of Solomon’s Temple is expressed through the use of the word al-maz’um (alleged) with al-haykal (the Temple). The use of the word al-maz’um is a direct attempt to negate the Jewish claim to the Temple Mount.[23] The main argument made by those who deny the existence of the Jewish Temple is that no proof of the Temple’s existence has ever been found. Palestinian officials have adopted this position. Former Director of Foreign Publications for the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) Ministry of Information Walid Awad stated, “The fact of the matter is that almost thirty years of excavations did not reveal anything Jewish… …Jerusalem is not a Jewish city, despite the biblical myth implanted in some minds.”[24] Jordanian academic Arafat Hijazi wrote, “42 archaeological teams excavated at al-Aqsa between 1891-1925 and hundreds have excavated since 1967, but not one archeologist has found a remnant of the Temple or any indication of the existence of Jews in Palestine.”[25] Abd al-Rahim Rihan Barakat, the director of antiquities in the Dahab region of the Sinai, further declared, “The legend about the Jewish Temple is the greatest historic crime of forgery.”[26]

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