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Monday, May 30, 2011

Muslim Islamicization of Jerusalem - in 1872 (updated)

Sheikh Yusuf Juma Salma, the Imam of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, has once again accused Israel of "Judaizing" Jerusalem. One of his complaints was that there was an official Israeli government function in the Tower of David last week, and there happens to have once been a mosque there (in fact, the tower itself was built as a minaret.) So even though it is open to the public, with a museum and lots of events, when the Israeli government does something there it is of course sacrilegious.

One of the permanent exhibitions at the Tower of David museum is a remarkably detailed model of Jerusalem as it looked in 1872. The museum describes it this way:
A one of a kind model created in 1872 by Hungarian pilgrim Stephen Illes. The model depicts Jerusalem as it was in Illes’ time and is unique both for its many details and for the fact that it documents the city’s appearance prior to the significant changes it underwent in the 20th century. For example, the model immortalizes the Jewish Quarter before it was destroyed in 1948.

The model was first displayed in 1873 in the Ottoman pavilion at the World’s Fair in Vienna. At the demand of Ottoman authorities, the model included some deliberate distortions such as the disproportionately large minarets. From Vienna, the model traveled to various European cities and was purchased in 1878, by community leaders in Geneva. It was on display at the city’s Salle de la Réformation for some 40 years.

Forgotten for 64 years in the attic of the Geneva Public and University Library, it was rediscovered in 1984 in a comprehensive research project conducted by Moti Yair, a student at the Hebrew University.

In 1985, the model was transferred to Jerusalem and restored. It is now exhibited on permanent loan at the Tower of David Museum.

The museum page shows part of the model, that includes the Hurva and Nissan Bek synagogues whose domes visually dominated the Jewish Quarter. Here is what they really looked like in a photo from 1931:


And here is what they looked like in Illes' model, modified to make the Ottoman authorities happy:


Note the minaret next to the Hurva - a minaret that simply was never there! (UPDATE: It is there, but much, much smaller.)

The entire purpose was to make the Hurva look like a mosque, and to have a taller Muslim minaret placed next to it. In fact, given that the Jewish Quarter is on a hill, the dome of the Hurva was higher than the Dome of the Rock, a fact that Muslims could not stomach.

So it is very amusing that a Muslim leader is claiming that Israel is distorting the history of Jerusalem when we can see that Muslims have been trying to strip Jerusalem of its Jewish character since even before Zionism started as a political movement!