Parshat Vayera: Do Arabs or Jews 'Own' Temple Mount?
The attempted assassination of Rabbi Yehudah Glick, along with the increasing tensions and violence in Jerusalem, has put Temple Mount firmly in this week's headlines and news commentaries.
The main issues are:
1. Who "owns" Temple Mount?
2. Is it halachikly permissible for Jews to go there?
3. Is it a good idea, practically, for Jews to go up there now?
This week's parsha, Veyera, is relevant to this debate, particularly the first question - Who Owns Temple Mount?
Abraham has fathered Ishmael, through Sarah's maidservant Hagar, in the previous Parsha, and now he is told by messengers/angels that his barren and very old wife Sarah will give birth to a son. (Gen 18:18) "For Abraham is to become a great and might nation, and through it all the nations of the earth will be blessed!"
Sarah indeed gives birth to a son, and names him Yitzhak/Isaac.
Immediately following the weaning of Yitzhak, Sarah sees Ishmail mocking. At that point, Sarah demands that Avraham should expel Hagar and Ishmail (Gen 21:10) "for the son of this handmaid shall not inherit together with my son Yitzhak". Abraham balks, but God tells him to listen to Sarah (Gen 21:12) "for in Yitzhak seed will be called unto you". "And I will also make the son of the handmaid into a nation for he is your seed."
At this juncture, Yitzhak is ascent, as the heir to Avraham's legacy, and father of the Jewish people, whereas Ishmael, though the oldest child of Avrohom, is sent into the desert, where he will become the father of the Arabs/Muslims.
Abraham is then told by God to bring Yitzhak "to the Land of Moriah" and offer him as a sacrifice.
Abraham follows God's instruction, with the active support of Yitzhak, and is stopped at the last moment by an angel, saving Yitzhak's life.
This was almost the end of the Jewish people, and a split second later could have left Ishmael as the sole heir (although Ishmail had already been disinherited - so perhaps there would have been no heir at all to the Abrahamic legacy - against God's promises that both sons would be father of nations).
The location where the attempted sacrifice of Yitzhak took place in the Land of Moriah is understood to be the Temple Mount of today.
So Who Owns Temple Mount - Answer (so far) the descendants of Yitzhak. The Jews.
According to the Jewish Bible.
However, the story from the point of view of Ishmail's descendents, the Arabs/Moslems, is rather different.
According to the Koran and Islamic lore, Ishmael was the eldest son of Hagar, and was cast out on Sarah's instruction. So far, consistent with the Biblical narrative.
The story continues that Avraham goes with Ishmael, accompanying him to Mecca, in today's Saudi Arabia, where Abraham and Ishmail build the Kaaba, the holiest site in Islam. Abraham then leaves Hagar and Ishmael in the desert there, where Ishmael almost dies of thirst; Abraham returns to Sarah, revisiting Ishmael in his adopted homeland Saudi Arabia on several occasions (according to Islamic tradition, to sort out Ishmael's marital issues).
In the Koran itself, the sacrifice of Abraham's son is presented, although the text is apparently ambiguous which son was sacrificed. A majority of Islamic commentators hold that it was Ishmael, not Yitzhak. In which case the location of the event was in Mecca, not Jerusalem.
According to Islamic tradition, Al Quds, Jerusalem, is Holy, not because it was the location of the sacrifice of Abraham's son, but because it was the location of a supernatural ascent of Ishmael's descendant, their Prophet Mohamed, the founder of Islam, into heaven.
So, even by the reckoning of Islamic tradition, the Temple Mount does not belong to Ishmail, but rather to Isaac.
Mecca, on the other hand, is owned by the descendants of Ishmail.