The Temple Mount’s Not-So-Quiet Arab Takeover

On the most explosive real estate on Earth, the delicate status quo is being challenged.

A Middle Eastern king calls for the capture of Jerusalem. From the Old City walls flies a banner of jihad. Mosques are built to claim Haram al-Sharif for Islam. Infidels are commanded to leave. A clash is brewing between the Arabs and their Western enemies. It has the potential to spiral out of control and involve the whole world.

This isn’t a scene from a medieval crusade. This is happening right now in Israel. And the stakes are higher now than at any time during the Middle Ages.

The main focus of tension is the Temple Mount. Jews venerate the site as the location of the Western Wall, which they believe is a remnant of the ancient temple complex. It is the holiest site in Judaism. Muslims call it the Haram al-Sharif: It is the site of the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, from which they believe Mohammed journeyed to heaven. Israel gained military control of the Temple Mount from Jordan after the 1967 Six-Day War. But that hasn’t stopped Israel’s Arab population from staging uprisings to get control of the site.

To preserve the peace, Israel enforced a status quo on the Temple Mount beginning in 1967. The Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, a Muslim religious trust sponsored by Jordan, would control religious administration of the Muslim holy sites, while Israel would control Temple Mount security. Muslims have not mounted a violent occupation of the Temple Mount—yet. But many prominent Muslim groups are chipping away at the status quo, gaining more and more control over the mountain. Israel is doing little to nothing about it.

Since 1967, Muslims have constructed four new mosques. The Dome of the Rock, which was a shrine, became a mosque. Solomon’s Stables, an ancient structure used as stables during the crusader period, has also been converted to a mosque. A third mosque, Ancient al-Aqsa, was constructed underneath the original al-Aqsa Mosque in 1998. In 2019, a prayer area was set up near the Temple Mount’s Golden Gate and later converted into a mosque.

One of the reasons for these expansions was the changing definition of the Temple Mount. The name “al-Aqsa” referred only to al-Aqsa Mosque; the compound as a whole was known as Haram al-Sharif. But many Muslims began calling the entire mount itself “al-Aqsa,” implying Muslim control over the whole area.

Jewish access to the mount has been steadily whittled away. Originally, Jews had unrestricted access to the Temple Mount for most of the day and could even enter the mosques. But one by one, the Waqf closed different gates of entry to non-Muslims. Now, non-Muslims can enter only through the Mughrabi Gate at the Western Wall. Jews can only visit Sunday through Thursday for 4½ hours each day.

The authority of Israeli law is constantly challenged. Jerusalem municipality workers are no longer allowed in the area. The Israel Antiquities Authority cooperates with the Waqf to preserve the Temple Mount’s ancient heritage. But the Waqf has plowed ahead with construction projects of its choosing, at the expense of disrupting tons and tons of artifact-filled earth.

In 1967, flags of any sort were forbidden to fly on the mount. The flag ban is still enforced—when it’s an Israeli flag. But on May 2 the terrorist group Hamas was able to unfurl a gigantic banner wishing Muslims a happy Ramadan with an image of a rocket launcher. Israeli flags have been allowed if they’re carried by Arab protesters for the purpose of desecrating and burning them.

Bolder Moves

Perhaps sensing weakness, Jordan’s King Abdullah ii is trying to take complete control of the Temple Mount. Jewish News Syndicate wrote on April 29, “Jordan reportedly submitted a letter to the Biden administration, demanding the Waqf (Muslim religious guards) be given total control over the Temple Mount. It wants to institute a dress code for non-Muslims, as well as limit visitors to groups no larger than five people. Jordan is also demanding that Israel Police no longer be allowed on the Temple Mount, even if rioters attack Jewish worshipers at the Western Wall or visitors to the site itself.

“Its demands also include giving the Waqf the authority to severely restrict non-Muslim visits to the Temple Mount, requiring non-Muslims to apply to visit in writing in advance, and setting restrictive tour routes of no more than 500 feet (150 meters) in each direction for non-Muslim visitors.”

Abdullah’s requests are bold. But the Biden administration has a history of backstabbing Israel, especially regarding Jerusalem’s relations with its Arab neighbors. Jordan could be seizing its chance while Joe Biden is in the White House. Another potential motive could be Israel’s friendship with the United Arab Emirates. The U.A.E. is a wealthy state with a strong military that has been more supportive of Israel’s policies at the Temple Mount. Abdullah may worry Jordan could lose its influence.

Even if Biden pressures them, the Israelis are unlikely to concede to these demands. But the momentum is definitely with the Arabs.

This is not a minor local issue. Wars have been waged over the Temple Mount recently and for thousands of years. The Middle East is the world’s most volatile region. Jerusalem is its most crucial city. And the Temple Mount is, arguably, its biggest powder keg.

Muslims like King Abdullah, Hamas leaders and others are lighting matches and daring the world to deny their demands.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s coalition is weak. It controls a minority of the Knesset’s 120 seats, and some of those seats are controlled by Ra’am, an Arab-Israeli party with Islamist sympathies. Bennett cannot afford to lose their support, which might explain his soft response to the recent terrorist attacks on Israel.

One source says the conflict in Israel, especially in Jerusalem and especially at the Temple Mount, is about to become far more violent. That source is the Bible.

What Prophecy Says

“Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city” (Zechariah 14:1-2). The context of this prophecy is prior to the Day of the Lord, a coming global catastrophe (see Joel 2:31 and Revelation 6:12-17). Before the Day of the Lord arrives, half of “the city” (referring to Jerusalem) is to fall into captivity.

Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry writes in Jerusalem in Prophecy: “The nation of Israel was established in 1948. At that time the Jews only had roughly one half of Jerusalem. The Arabs had East Jerusalem. Zechariah 14 is also a prophecy that the Jews would conquer all Jerusalem, because in order for half the city to be taken just before Christ returns, the whole city must be controlled by the Jews just before that time! The Jews did take full control in the 1967 war.”

The prospect of a violent Muslim takeover of half of Jerusalem is sobering. The major bloodshed that will follow in Jerusalem and around the world is terrifying.

But the same Bible that prophesies of Jerusalem’s coming fall also foretells what will follow that event—and it shows that the ultimate outcome is spectacular.

Verse 3 continues: “Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.” Jerusalem means “city of peace.” For most of its history, Jerusalem has not known peace. But the prophecy in Zechariah 14 reveals that the fall of half of Jerusalem is a sign of the greatest news for both Jews and Arabs: God Himself will stop the violence!

“And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles” (verse 16). The conflict over religion in Jerusalem will result in Jesus Christ Himself taking over not only religion, but worldwide political rule.

Zechariah’s vision is amplified by a prophecy in the book of Isaiah: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isaiah 2:2-4).

Soon, Jerusalem won’t belong to Israel, Jordan or any other modern country, but to God. Everyone will receive the opportunity to worship the true God, the right way, inside this precious city.

Watch this current tension and violence on the Temple Mount—and maintain perspective. Keep in mind the vision biblical prophecy supplies about where these events will ultimately lead our world.