Ishmael and Israel in the Koran,
Enmity or Peace?
by Dr. Asher Eder.
Article Ishmael and Israel in the Koran, Enmity or Peace? Notes Appendix Contents of Peace Treaties with Arab Nations Addendum Another major religious issue Updated article available
I think all of us are aware that the current political peace negotiations between our two nations remain an exercise in horse trading as long as we do not get to the core of the problem plaguing our relations.
Therefore, let us begin a frank discussion about the religious motives which underly and fan the Arab-Israeli conflict. For, indeed the idea of Jihad against Israel has become hard currency in the Arab world.
Even now, in the wake of the signing of the Declaration of Principles (DOP) in September of 1993, violence and death have increased. Hamas, and the Islamic Jihad, condemned the DOP as they aim at making peace with Israel. For, in their eyes "such a peace is a grave sin and betrayal of God and of his messenger to the believers".
The concept of Jihad against Israel, even against Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel, is not new. In fact, it was invented already between W.W.I and W.W.II by Amin Husseini, then Grand Mufti of Palestine, and taken up by "The Fourth Conference of the Academy of Islamic Research" of Sept. 1968 at Al Azhar, Cairo, which issued guide lines on to how to carry it out*. One year later, after the attempt of an Australian Christian to burn down the El Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Saudi Arabia launched the "Organisation of the Islamic Conference" (OIC) especially to support the call for Jihad against Israel. In fact in 1991, after the start of the peace talks in Washington, Arafat demanded from the OIC meeting in Dakar, Senegal, to include this call into its final resolution.
These circles see their Jihad-mindedness supported by a number of Koran verses which condemn Israel harshly for her sins, or which speak out against pagans and unbelievers in general. We will expand on this in greater detail however, I would like to note here that my readings of the Koran gave me a very different picture.
I asked myself, what might have caused Arab leaders to strongly reject to any Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel (or Palestine, as it was called following the British); not to mention their staunch opposition to the establish-ment of the Jewish State? The answer to this question might provide a key not only to understanding their motivation but to finding a solution which will allow both sides to live together peacefully in self-respect as well as in respect of the othe; and in honor of the God of our common ancestor Abraham.
As far as I understand, the rejection of Israel has two roots, a religious and an historic one.
The religious root lies in an Islamic doctrine which states that a land which was once under Islamic rule, i.e. within the realm of Dar-Islam, has to be retrieved by any means so that it will not become lost (i.e. if it changed into the realm of the Dar-el-Hareb).
The historic root traces back to the 13th Century in which the Arab/Muslim countries suffered not only from the hands of the Crusaders but also from the Mongols' invasion which caused the destruction of Baghdad, then the cultural center and the seat of the Khaliphat. Till then Islam was the leading cultural power of that period. Under the ensuing Mameluk period, however, Islam hardly developed; rather it stagnated. A brief revival under the early Turkish Sultans did not lead to new and lasting developments. On the contrary, European nations gained more and more power and influence, subjecting the Muslim world to their colonial rule. Only when the European nations weakened themselves in W.W.I, could Arab national movements gain strength. Indeed, they became the dominant power - employing religious and even pseudo-religious concepts for their own purposes. While this can be understood psychologically, we also should be aware that such use, or misuse of religion for political ends often corrupts the truth.
This misuse of religion led Arab/Muslim nations to wage wars against other Arab and Muslim nations under the disguise of Jihad, and it is exactly this misuse which has distorted the Arab view of, and attitude towards the Jews and Israel.
Therefore, let us try to find the Truth, for only truth will guide us to Righteousness which will pave the way to Peace and Blessing for both sides.
Let us reflect on the two books which have determined our fates for many centuries, even milleniums. The Tanakh is the Jewish guide book, and the Koran is the Moslem guide book. Let us see if they differ in the matter we are going to research.
Some say the Moslems can't trust in the Tanakh because the Jews have distorted it. But the Koran speaks differently about the Tanakh (refered to as "The Book"):
"The Koran could not have been forged apart from God; but it is a confirmation of what was before it and a distinguishing of the Book, wherein is no doubt, from the Lord of all being" 1.
The Tanakh was canonized many centuries before the Prophet Mohammed spoke these words of confirmation. And a good indication that its original text is unchanged can be readily seen in the famous Qumran Scrolls which were written over 2000 years ago.
Moreover, the Koran recognizes the teachings of the Prophets and of the rabbis:
"Surely, we sent down the Torah wherein there is guidance and light; thereby the Prophets who had surrendered themselves gave judgment for those of Jewry, as did the masters and the rabbis, following such portions of God's Book as they were given to keep and to bear witness to".2
"O believers, be not of those who hurt Moses, but God declared him quit of what they said, and he was high honoured with God".
"We gave the Children of Israel the Book, the Judgment, and the Prophethood, and We provided them with good things, and We prefered them above all beings".
And this is what the Koran has Moses say to the Israelites about the Land:
"And when Moses said to his people, remember God's blessing upon you, when He settled the Children of Israel in a sure settlement" 3.
Indeed, Israel was even meant to fight for the Land: "...they (the Children of Israel) said to a Prophet of theirs, 'Raise up for us a king, and we will fight in God's way'. He said: 'Might it be that, if fighting is prescribed for you, you will not fight?' They said: 'Why should we not fight in God's way..?' Yet when fighting was prescribed for them, they turned their backs except for a few of them..." 4.
The special linkage of the people of Israel with their land as admitted in the Koran is reiterated in the Bible time and again. So is their return. And while the two Israelite exiles were predicted, the final ingathering in the Land of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was prophesied in "Night Journey" 4 probably refering to 5.Moses 30:4-5.
Here Moses speaks about the ingathering from the dispersion in all four corners of the earth - which had never before happened.
The Prophet Jeremiah, expounding this prophecy of Moses, says: "And I will cause the captivity of Judah and the captivity of Israel return, and will build them, as at the first; and will cleanse them from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against me; and it shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and honor before all the nations of the earth, which shall hear all the good that I do unto them; and they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and for all the prosperity that I shall procure unto it" 5.
Likewise, the Prophet Zechariah who lived in the time of the Second Temple (after the return of the first captivity from Babylon): "Thus says the Lord of Hosts: behold I will save my people from the east country, and from the west country, and I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem, and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness" 6.
Moslems are well aware of the injunction in the Koran not to make any division between the Prophets 7.
Furthermore, the Koran confirms the Psalms of David which are in fact Songs of Zion; it acknowledges him as a divine viceroy and judge on earth 8 .In his Psalms, he speaks clearly about Israel's return.
But before we read from David's 102nd Psalm, let us hear what the Koran has to say about the Psalms and their validity as prophecy:
"We sent not any before thee, except men to whom We revealed: Question the people of the rememberance, if it should be that you do not know - with the clear signs, and the Psalms; and We have sent down to thee Remembrance that thou mayest make clear to mankind what was sent down to them" 9.
Now listen to what Psalm 102 says: "Thou (O Lord) shall arise; thou shall have mercy upon Zion, for the time to favour her, yea the set time is come; for thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and favour the dust thereof. So the nations shall fear the name of the Lord, and the kings of the earth His glory. When the Lord shall build up Zion, He shall appear in his glory. He will regard the prayer of the torn, and not despise their prayer. This shall be written for the last generation..." 10.
And from the 147th Psalm: "The Lord does build up Jerusalem; He gathered the outcasts of Israel" 11.
Are these words of the Prophets not clear? Do they not show that the Land of Israel is an entity of its own, distinct from the division of the world into Dar-Islam and Dar-el-Harb? And can you not see that they are vindicated by the facts: the ingathering of the scattered Children of Israel after 2000 years' dispersion; the collapse of hostile Nazi Germany; the establishing of the State of Israel; the repeated defeats of unaccepting, belligerent neighbours? Now, it is often said by Moslems that the Jews are a cursed people, and are not entitled to the land. If one assumes that there are confused and sinful individuals among the people of Israel, do you really think this would justify Arab hostility? Or, that the hostility of the ancient Philistines was justified by King Saul's weaknesses and sins? Or was the hostility of the Arabs against the Jews and their building of the Second Temple justified?
Surely not, as one may learn from the Koran and from the Tanakh 12. Or can one think that the Koran is meant to perpetuate these hostilities? Are Moslems not rather commanded to forgive:
"God took compact with the Children of Israel... for their breaking their compact We cursed them and made their hearts hard... and you will never cease to light upon some act of treachery on their part, except for a few of them. Yet pardon them, and forgive, surely God loves the good-doers" 13.
So, if you see fault in the Children of Israel, do you think these faults would nullify God's plan and promises? God is the Almighty, the All-Merciful and the All-Compassionate, who can forgive, and establish His promise, as the Koran says: "We sent against you (Israel) our servants (i.e. the Romans) to discountenance you, and to enter the Temple, as they (the Babylonians) entered it the first time, and to destroy utterly which they ascended to. Perchance your Lord will have mercy upon you; but if you return, We shall return..." 14.
God promised that He will forgive at the time of Israel's return: "And I will bring Israel again to his habitation, and he shall feed on Carmel and Basan (the Biblical name for the Golan Heights), and his soul shall be satisfied upon Mount Ephraim (the Westbank) and Gilead. In those days, and at that time, said the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found, for I will pardon them whom I reserve" 15.
The Almighty surely will do what He has promised: "The promise of God! God fails not His promise, but most men do not know" 16.
The Arabs say, maybe the Jews will return, but there is no promise for them to establish a state, taking away our land. Muslims are even forbidden to make friendship with those who expelled Muslims from their habitations 17.
But can one prove that this land was or is rightfully Arab land? True, Islam defeated the Romans, and took it from them. But were the Romans entitled to this land? Or were the Crusaders who were later defeated, entitled to it? They were just like theives with the Jewish people delivered into their hands. Do you really think the Arabs became the proper heir of the land because they took it from theives? Weren`t they rather like a guardian and steward till the heir returns unto his own at the appointed time?
The land is assigned to the Children of Israel, even as an eternal inheritance 18, notwith-standing the two pretold dispersions. The Koran admits that, as we saw already.
After King David conquered Jerusalem from the Jebusites, he bought the place of the Moriah from Ornan, the Jebusite King, and paid the full price for it. King Solomon then built the Temple upon this purchased land. The title deeds, including their confirmation by Kings Cyrus and Darius, are documented in the Bible 19.
Can the Arabs produce documents to nullify this, or to support such claims?
They say, Moriah (the Temple Mount, with the Mosques at present) is now theirs, after the Prophet Mohammed's Night Journey there and his ascension. It even became the third holiest place for Islam. Could it really be that these events altered or canceled the revelations given previously to the Prophet, as recorded in the Koran?
Moreover, the returning Jews did not expel Arabs from their habitations. Although the Jews could claim their land, they behaved like King David, and bought the land, paying full price to those who were registered as owners. Arabs were not expelled by this process of buying land. On the contrary, the Arab population increased and prospered together with the Jewish population, because with the influx of Jews the land began to flourish.
But at the same time, Arabs under the Mufti's leadership began hostilities: the rioting in Jerusalem in 1920/1; the slaughter in Hebron in 1929; the Mufti's hostile attitude towards the Jewish people; the shootings of Jewish refugees approaching by boats from Europe, etc ad nauseum.
Was this behaviour in conformity with true Islam? Doesn't the Koran command the believer to give refuge and help to those who "have emigrated and struggled ... in the way of God" 20? Incidently, in Hebrew the very name "Israel" indicates this struggle. This is not mere semantics. Are they not aware that the Jews suffered from anti-Semitism of the very same European nations who also subjugated Arab - and other Third World nations?
Only blind hatred could cause some Moslem leaders to rather join hands with those anti-Semites than to admit Jewish refugees returning to their ancestors' land 21.
What wonder that not only European Jews and survivors of the Holocaust met their sword. Sephardic Jews also fled from their Arab host countries because of the increasing hatred and hostilities against them, especially in the years 1946-51. In these years a greater number of Jewish refugees from Arab countries immigrated to Israel than Jewish refugees from Europe. Indeed they formed the majority of Israel's Jewish population.
The attitude of the early Turkish Sultans, the Ottomans, could have been exemplary for the Arabs. They opened the doors of their empire and welcomed Jewish refugees from the Inquisition in Spain. Cities like Safed began to thrive.
But instead of finding refuge in the Land of their Fathers, Jewish refugees from the Holocaust and from Arab countries met the sword, a fact which should alarm any Arab were he to heed Prophet Ezekiel's words:
"Because thou hast had a perpetual hatred, and shed the blood of the Children of Israel by the force of your sword in the time of their calamity, in the time their iniquity had an end; therefore, as I live, said the Lord God, I will prepare thee unto blood... and will make Mount Seir most desolate... and will make thee perpetual desolations, and thy cities shall not return, because thou hast said, these two nations shall be mine, and I will possess it..." 22.
I have heard Moslems say that not in a million years can they make peace with Israel. From their point of view they cannot make peace. But from a Koranic point of view they are mistaken. And if they persist in their refusal to accept Israel, it is due to sheer enmity and hatred; it has nothing to do with true religion.
There are Moslems who now admit the existence of a prophecy according to which the people of Israel might return to its homeland - however not at this time but towards the end of the times, an event which is calculated to occur in another 250 years or so. If so, why kill off the Jews in the meantime (as demanded by Amin Husseini, then Grand Mufti of Palestine who charged: "Kill the Jews wherever you find them; this is pleasing to Allah". Similar the "Proceedings", page 122).
Moreover, are the Arabs sure that this calculation is correct? Both the Tanakh and the Koran tell us that in the eyes of God a thousand years are like a day 23. But the Six Days of Creation, or 6000 years of mankind, may well be shortened. The Koran says in view of the subject: "They will question you concerning the Hour... Say: The knowledge of it is only with my Lord; none shall reveal it at its proper time, but He..."; "Nay, but they cry lies to the Hour, and We have prepared for him whose cries lies to the Hour a Blaze... Say:
Is that better, or the Garden of Eternity that is promised to the Godfearing...?" 24. Miscalculations are meant to support hatred.
Do the Moslems really think that the Almighty will believe their arguments which contradict what is written in the Koran and the Bible? Do they really think He will help them destroy His people, whom He wants to forgive? Can they not see that their alliance with atheistic Russia - instead of normal relationship with Israel - collapsed together with that regime? Do they really think that declaring a "Holy War" against the establishment of God's promise will please Him?
Zionism and the State of Israel are not a new kind of imperialism as they have been led to believe. They are just a means in the process of establishing the promises made by God through the mouths of his Prophets, and acknowledged in the Koran.
Our hope is that they will realize that they are not only fighting against Israel. They are actually fighting against God's truth as revealed in "The Book" (Hebrew Bible) and in the Koran. They have been shown clear signs a number of times in recent years - losing war after war against Israel, despite their overwhelming advantages in numbers and weapons. Are they determined to bring about Gog and Magog, which is alluded to in the Koran: "There is a ban upon a city that we have destroyed. They shall not return till, when Gog and Magog are unloosed, and they slide down out of every slope, and nigh has drawn the true promise, and behold, the eyes of the unbelievers staring: Alas for us! We were heedless of this; nay, we are evildoers" 25.
Or ponder on this statement from the Koran 26: "Upon the day when their faces are turned about in the fire, they shall say: Ah, would but that we had obeyed God and the Messenger! They shall say: Our Lord, we obeyed our chiefs and the great ones, and they led us astray from the way, our Lord give them chastisement twofold, and curse them with a mighty curse." The next verse admonishes: "O believers, be not as those who hurt Moses, but God declared him quit of what they said, and he was high honored with God."
There is also the clear saying to leave off Israel: "Dispute not with the People of the Book save in a fairer manner, except for those of them that go wrong; and say: we believe in what has been sent down to us, and what has been sent down to you; our God and your God is One, and to him, we have surrendered 27."
"Have you considered? If it be from God, and you disbelieve in it, and a witness from among the Children of Israel bears witness to its like, and believes, and you wax proud - God guides not the people of the evildoers" 28.
Surrender to God is never shameful, for it is really what "Islam" means; but pride and stubbornness and their evil consequences are shameful. Why should the Arab follow Pharoah's way, which led to destruction?
Both Jew and Moslem believe that God is merciful. His mercy is intoned in the daily prayers of both their religions. I believe that God does not want their destruction, nor Israel's. And don't both believe that He wants to be honored by love, and by peace. After all, the Koran says29: "It may be God will establish between you and those of them with whom you are at enmity, Love. God is all-powerful; God is all-forgiving, all-compassionate."
And this tallies with Isaiah's prophecy: "In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land, whom the Lord of Hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt, my people, and Assyria, the work of my hands, and Israel, my inheritance" 30. (Interestingly enough, modern Syria understands itself as the heir of ancient Assyria).
This saying of Prophet Isaiah also explains very beautifully the phrase "from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates" 31. It does not speak of an imperialistic conquest to be made by Israel (as some leaders allege); it rather means to say that a just and lasting peace shall prevail between Egypt, Assyria, and Israel, under the sovereignty of the God of Abraham.
This prediction of Isaiah opens the most wonderful perspective for the future of our whole area. You may find support for this in the Koran: "...and We delivered him (Abraham), and Lot, unto the land We had blessed for all beings" 32.
Should we - the Jew and the Arab - the descendants of Abraham - not better unite in peace and build up a culture of our own, instead of fighting each other and feeding the war industries of other nations?
The Jew and the Arab are related by faith and blood. The different rites we observe should not lead to enmity between us. On the concontrary: According to the Koran: "If God had willed, he would have made you one nation; but he may try you in what has come to you. So be ye forward in good works; unto God shall you return altogether, and he will tell you of that whereon you were at variance"33.
It is from God that we follow different rites: "We have appointed for every nation a holy rite that they shall perform" 34.
The Koran distinguishes even between Abraham/Isaac/Jacob on the one hand, and Ishmael on the other:
"Remember also our servants Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - men of might they and of vision. Assuredly We purified them with a quality most pure, the remembrance of the Abode, and in our sight they are of the chosen, the excellent. Remember also our servants Ishmael, Elisha, and Dhul Kifl; each is among the excellent" 35.
According to these verses, the three Patriarchs are described as purified, chosen, and excellent while Ishmael, being counted amongst the excellent, is not mentioned as chosen. Obviously, the chosenness of the three Patriarchs has to do with the Land Covenant the Lord of all Beings made with them 36. While every nation has its own distinctive characteristics, it is exactly this Land Covenant which forges the people of Israel into something special, unique in mankind's culture and history. The Koran stresses this fact over and over again: "(Allah) gave you such as He had not given to any being. O my people, enter the Holy Land which God has prescribed for you..."; "Children of Israel, remember ... that I have prefered you above all beings" 37.
Notice also this distinction between the calls and the levels of Abraham's sons Isaac and Jacob and that of Ishmael: "We gave him (Abraham) Isaac and Jacob, and each We made a Prophet; and We gave them our mercy, and We appointed to them a tongue of truthfulness, sublime... And mention in the Book Ishmael, he was true to his promise, and he was a messenger, a Prophet. He bade his people to pray and to give alms, and he was pleasing to his Lord" 38.
True, of Abraham it is said that he "was not a Jew, neither a Christian; but he was a Moslem and one of pure faith" 39. He "named you Muslim aforetime" 40, and the MOslem are admonished to "follow the creed of Abraham, a man of pure faith and no idolator" 41. But could he have uttered the creed of Islam as it was established later on: "There is no God besides God and Mohammed is his Prophet"? The term "he named you Moslem aforetime" shows that the word Moslem is understood here in its ethymological meaning (the one who submits to God), and not in a narrow ritual or nominal sense. This is brought out also by the ensuing admonition to "perform the prayer and pay the alms and hold fast to God" as the ghist of Abraham's creed described in those passages.
It is probably in this train of thought that the Koran speaks also of the Prophtes of Israel as those who have surrendered to God, i.e. as Moslem 42, notwithstanding the fact that they, and with them the people of Israel, had and have to observe ordinances and rites that are different (as mentioned above).
An example of such differences is the Shabbath. This day of rest and sanctification is for the Children of Israel also a sign of God's covenant with them 43. The Koran, of course, confirms this, and even castigates those Jews who do not observe it, by slandering them as apes 44. But so far, the Shabbath was not ordained for the Arab.
The Moslems claim the universalism of Islam - with the idea that all the others, including the Jews, would have to adopt their present version thereof. The above shows that in the language of the Koran the concept of Islam and of being Moslem is much wider: it includes the people of the Shabbath, Israel, as well. This must be necessarily so; for if otherwise, there would have been no need for Abraham to have two children, Ishmael and Yitzhak (the father of Jacob/Israel).
I am well aware that the above quotations stress those sayings of the Koran which are favourable to Israel. Most of them were given before the Hejira. They are contrasted by very harsh and even insulting accusations against Israel which were given after the Hejira, or after Mohammed's disappointment with the Jewish tribes of Medinah who refused to fight on his side against Mecca and to accept him as their Prophet. Yet, nowhere in the whole Koran will you find any saying that would abolish Israel's special status, or that would annul the promises involved therein. This should not surprise you; for, prophets of the One God cannot contradict one another. Consequently, the Koran is also in this respect in line with the Tanakh.
But you may be surprised to hear that the Prophets of Israel from Moses through Zechariah rebuke Israel more for her sins and more extensively than the Koran does, but they always stress the all exceeding forgiveness, grace and mercy of the Lord, so much so that the Covenant He established with Israel would indeed come to its fulfillment. It is exactly this prevailing of His grace which would bring the nations to finally praise His Name, as said: "Praise the Lord, all ye nations; praise him, all ye people; for his grace did prevail over us, and the Lord's truth is for ever. Praise ye the Lord" 45.
So, why concentrate on those passages which can be misused for whipping up hatred instead of those which foster mutual respect and peace? Does hatred against Israel honors Allah's name more than submitting to his Prophets?
Alas, hatred; it is like a black hole. Once opened it devours everyone coming near. Can the Arab not see this verified in their own recent history? Those who started to hate Jews and Israel want to outdo one another in their hatred, competing, vying, even fighting against one another. Some of these Jew-haters go even so far as to describe us as the embodiment of the cosmic evil. Are they not aware that they replace the Islamic confession "There is no God besides God...", by a dualistic world view which is clear idolatry? Beware of that, and prevent this kind of teaching, it may have dire consequences.
Don't think I am indulging in Zionist propaganda. Rather mind what is said in that context: "Have you considered? If it be from God, and you disbelieve in it, and a witness from among the Children of Israel bears witness to its like, and believes, and you wax proud - God guides not the people of the evildoers" 46.
There are, moreover, historic events which prove my point. Let me mention three of them:
Many Moslem scholars from earlier times can be quoted. They would have been banished or killed by the Jihad fanatics of our days.
By their intense hostility, by teaching their children to hate Israel, and the constant preparations for a war of annihilation, the Arabs will not destroy the State of Israel. They will only prevent the blessings in store for them. Study all the sources. Do not automatically accept the hatred preached by their leaders who happen to be in power not because they are necessarily pious or good.
It is up to each Arab to choose with courage -
between hatred or neighbourliness,
between forging Islam into a battle sword or living up to its true values,
between destruction or blessing.
*) ARAB THEOLOGIANS ON JEWS AND ISRAEL - extracts from the proceedings of the Fourth Conference of the Academy of Islamic Research (held at Al Azhar, Cairo, 1968), introduced and edited by D.F.Green; available from Editions de l'Avenir, 10, rue de l'Avenir, 1208 Geneve, Switzerland.
Note: The Koran quotations are taken from "The Koran Interpreted", by Arthur J. Arberry, Oxford University Press, London 1964.
Some Koran editions show different numerations of the verses. In case you can't find in your edition the verse under the number given above, please, look some verses before or after the respective number.
See also the author's "The Star of David - an ancient symbol of integration", Rubin Mass Publ.Ltd, Jerusalem, 1987.
Contents of Peace Treaties with Arab Nations.
It would be a grave error to limit peace treaties to the questions of military security, save borderlines, trade, resettling of refugees, and the like. As said above, the present Islamic concepts about the people and the land of Israel were and are the foremost cause for the Arabs' rejection of Israel as an independant nation in its land. Consequently, a basic change of these concepts needs to be an integral part of any Peace Treaty worthy this name.
This change of Islamic concepts must include also the change or obliteration of Omar's Rules concerning the dhimmi status of the Jews (in our context it is irrelvant whether these Rules were issued by Omar the Khaliph, or by Omar the Ummayad king. As Jews we also have not to deal here with other groups subjected to these Rules).
Neither we nor someone else could justly say that the State of Israel is not entitled to interfere with the religion of Islam and its concepts practized in Islamic countries. In our opinion as well as in the eyes of the Muslem world Israel is the State of the Jews, notwithstanding its present secular shape.
However, the State of Israel is not only a haven of refuge for Jews who feel threatened or persecuted in other parts of the world; it is also obliged to extend its protecting power to Israeli and non-Israeli Jews all over the world as far as possible.
The reducing of the Jews to the dhimmi status as codified in Omar's Rules is actually contradicting the spirit and the letter of the Koran, as can be gathered from the above. In case a peace treaty should not deal satisfactorily with the dhimmi problem, it could well happen that any Muslem state, even one we are in peace with, may demand from Israeli visitors to adhere to the Rules of Omar (e.g. by donning the dress prescribed for Jews) under the pretext that the peace treaty, by not touching upon these Rules, implicitly acknowledges them still as valid. This should not be seen as an unrealistic vision or a minor problem, for besides this possibility, the Rules of Omar if left untouched could in the course of time again become the source for Islamic fundamentalists and fanatics to stirr up new wars against Israel to wipe it out.
Of course, the State of Israel can't interfere with religious teachings in Islamic countries; but it can well oblige the governments with whom it concludes a peace treaty, never to effect those Rules; to prevent their teaching; and to enhance the teaching of positive sayings of the Koran instead.
Besides, there is also the principle of reciprocity: the Jews in Arab (Muslem) countries should enjoy at least the same status Israel grants its Arab citizens or subjects.
Moreover, our insistence on abolishing those Rules would draw the world's attention to the whole dhimmi complex and its implications for the Jewish people and the State of Israel.
Dr. Asher Eder
Another major religious issue not discussed so far in the context of peace treaties is the status of the Temple Mount - Haram-El-Sharif. It is a fact that the Jewish religion places one of its major hopes on the restoration of the Temple of Jerusalem, and that there are Moslems who are thus worried of Jewish take-over of this site and the destruction of the El-Aksa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. It is also true that at present most Jews, both the religious establishment and the secular majority, are not pressing for a change in the status, yet this is not an issue that can remain unattended, and is bound to errupt sooner or later.
The present arrangements are patently temporary. The State of Israel refrains from declaring the site a holy place for Jews, even though everybody knows that this is the holiest place on earth for the Jews (in religious terms, there is no comparison between the sanctity of the Temple Mount in Judaism, for which it is central, and in Islam, where, when searched to its sources, is rather incidental). Under the present temporary arrangements, not only are Jews prevented from building the Temple, they are even prevented from praying in their holiest site. Clearly this is a temporary situation which a permanent peace treaty should rectify. The issue is complex and so far has been avoided by all parties.
Updated article available:
There now exists an improved version in this article, as a brochure containing also an introduction by Professor Abdul Hadi Palazzi, director, Cultural Institute opf the Italian Islamic Community. This brochure can be obtained from the Root and Branch association Ltd. P.O.Box 8672 Jerusalem 91086. e-mail email@example.com.
The Hayut Foundation, on its part, is preparing studies which could lead to deeper and more compre-hensive understanding of the issues involved, including a scheme that shows how a new type of a Temple can be built upon this sensitive site without disturbing the existing buildings. This could alleviate much of the fear and apprehension about the ultimate Jewish intentions. Please contact us if interested in these studies.
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