Friday, November 26, 2010

Fact-checking Bibi and the NYT

The New York Times reports on Binyamin Netanyahu's reaction to the PA paper saying there is no Jewish connection to the Kotel.

The "paper of record" makes a couple of mistakes, but, unfortunately, so does Netanyahu.

The Western Wall is a remnant of the retaining wall of a plateau revered by Jews as the Temple Mount, the site where their ancient temples once stood. The plateau is also the third holiest site in Islam.
Actually, it is the third holiest place in Sunni Islam only. Shiites have many other shrines that they say are more important.

In Muslim tradition, the wall is the place where the Prophet Muhammad tethered his winged steed, Buraq, during his miraculous overnight journey from Mecca to Jerusalem in the seventh century.
If you look at 19th century sources, it appears that the spot that Muslims believed Muhammed tethered his flying horse was quite a bit to the north of the Kotel. From The survey of western Palestine: Jerusalem By Sir Charles Warren:

 The "Bab al Nazir" is well to the north of the Kotel, as this map from the Aqsa.org.uk shows:
I believe that there are other Muslim traditions as to exactly where Muhammed was said to have tied his horse, but none of them included the Kotel until the Mufti of Jerusalem made that story up as part of his plan to drive the Jews out of Jerusalem.
Mr. Netanyahu, in a statement issued by his office, said the Western Wall “has been the Jewish people’s most sacred place for almost 2,000 years, since the destruction of the Second Temple.” 
He is wrong; the most sacred place remains the Temple Mount. The holiness of the Kotel and the other remaining portions of the wall around the Temple Mount derive from the super-holiness of the Mount itself. To say that the Kotel is the most important spot today is like saying that moonlight is more important than sunlight. By saying this, Netanyahu is effectively abandoning Jewish tradition and claims to our holiest site, and the fact that the prime minister of the Jewish state can make such a statement is a very sad commentary on how far we have fallen - and a very big warning as to how committed he is to other Jewish holy sites.