The History of the Temple Mount Status Quo, Which Prohibits Jews from Praying at Their Holiest Site

Aug. 11 2022

In 1967, shortly after the liberation of the Old City of Jerusalem, Moshe Dayan ordered the Israeli flag removed from the Dome of the Rock, and worked out the current arrangement for the Temple Mount, whereby the Western Wall and the plaza in front of it is reserved for Jewish prayer, and the mount itself is exclusively designated for Muslim prayer. This has led to the bizarre situation where Israeli security officers closely monitor the lips of Jewish visitors to make sure that they aren’t reciting surreptitious prayers. Alan Baker examines how this came to be:

The current issues beleaguering any hope of achieving tranquility in Jerusalem are based on an age-old Ottoman “status quo” governing custodianship, worship, and visits to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. This status quo was first established in 1757 and formalized by Ottoman imperial decrees (firmans) issued by Sultan Abdul Mejid in 1852 and 1856, freezing claims by religious communities in Jerusalem and Bethlehem to Christian holy places and forbidding any construction or alterations to their existing status.

The prohibition on Jews’ ascending to the Temple Mount area had existed . . . during Mameluke rule (1250–1516) and was maintained under the Ottomans (1516–1917). It received international acknowledgment at the end of the Crimean War at the 1856 Paris Conference, and following the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78 in the 1878 Treaty of Berlin (between European powers and the Ottomans), Article 62 of which determined that: “it is well understood that no alterations can be made to the status quo in the Holy Places.”

The same Article 62 extended that arrangement to include all—not only Christian—holy places, freezing claims by religious communities in Jerusalem and Bethlehem to Christian sacred sites and forbidding any construction or alterations to their existing status.

As Baker notes, the current situation flies in the face of all the principles of religious toleration and non-discrimination on which modern international law is built. Yet the numerous diplomats and institutions who see it as their duty to hold Israel to the demands of international law have never complained about its enforcement of the Temple Mount status quo.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: International Law, Ottoman Empire, Temple Mount

How the Death of Mahsa Amini Changed Iran—and Its Western Apologists

Sept. 28 2022

On September 16, a twenty-two-year-old named Mahsa Amini was arrested by the Iranian morality police for improperly wearing a hijab. Her death in custody three days later, evidently after being severely beaten, sparked waves of intense protests throughout the country. Since then, the Iranian authorities have killed dozens more in trying to quell the unrest. Nervana Mahmoud comments on how Amini’s death has been felt inside and outside of the Islamic Republic:

[I]n Western countries, the glamorizing of the hijab has been going on for decades. Even Playboy magazine published an article about the first “hijabi” news anchor in American TV history. Meanwhile, questioning the hijab’s authenticity and enforcement has been framed as “Islamophobia.” . . . But the death of Mahsa Amini has changed everything.

Commentators who downplayed the impact of enforced hijab have changed their tune. [Last week], CNN’s Christiane Amanpour declined an interview with the Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi, and the Biden administration imposed sanctions on Iran’s notorious morality police and senior officials for the violence carried out against protesters and for the death of Mahsa Amini.

The visual impact of the scenes in Iran has extended to the Arab world too. Arabic media outlets have felt the winds of change. The death of Mahsa Amini and the resulting protests in Iran are now top headlines, with Arab audiences watching daily as Iranian women from all age groups remove their hijabs and challenge the regime policy.

Iranian women are making history. They are teaching the world—including the Muslim world—about the glaring difference between opting to wear the hijab and being forced to wear it, whether by law or due to social pressure and mental bullying. Finally, non-hijabi women are not afraid to defy, proudly, their Islamist oppressors.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Nervana

More about: Arab World, Iran, Women in Islam