Temple Mount in Jerusalem © epa Jim Hollander
For the theologian and archaeologist Prof. Dieter Vieweger is surprised by the UNESCO resolution to define the Temple Mount in Jerusalem exclusively as a Muslim holy site. He fears that this resolution will add fuel to the fire.
Interviewer: Isn't this resolution fuel for the already explosive situation in Jerusalem??
Prof. Dieter Vieweger (Theologian and Biblical Archaeologist): I guess you can say that, because you can always ask high institutions like UNESCO to be balanced. And the first paragraph of the resolution sounds also first of all wonderful. It is said that it is right to always remember in Jerusalem that the three monotheistic religions have their value and their sanctuaries there, and that they have to live together. But we have a situation here since 2014, which is around the Temple Mount resp. around the Haram Al-Sharif (Note.d.Red.: "the exalted sanctuary", Arabic name of Temple Mount) escalates.
Interviewer: Why is the situation at the Temple Mount escalating??
This is a big domestic problem in Israel, because the Haram Al-Sharif in the modern development with the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque has actually been given to the Waqf, the Islamic foundation, and only Muslims are supposed to pray there. But since 2014, legal courts in Israel have enforced the belief among the population, about 2.5 percent, that Jews should also be allowed to pray and worship there. This demand is based on history, because the Jewish temple once stood there. The problem is that UNESCO is making a sweeping gesture in the other direction and completely ignoring Jewish rights.
our site: Did this resolution surprise you??
Vieweger: Yes, completely. Because I can't imagine that thinking and enlightened people can just argue one-sidedly politically. Politically correct is: In paragraph 9 of the peace treaty 20 years ago, Israeli Prime Minister Rabin and Jordanian King Hussein stipulated that the Haram Al-Sharif would be administered by the Muslims and that the Jordanian king would also be the custodian of these Islamic sites. In this respect, the attempts of Jewish groups to gain a foothold on top of the Temple Mount and to celebrate religious services are against treaty law.
our site: And what is UNESCO doing wrong now?
Today, when I walk across the square where the Dome of the Rock stands and where the Jewish temple once stood, they are not even allowed to mention it there anymore. Muslim clerics say that this has always been Ours, there has never been anything Jewish there. Here is really falsification of history committed. So here problem meets problem. And there UNESCO should not take only one side, but mediate.
our siteWhat are the consequences of this resolution??
Vieweger: This is not yet foreseen. I hope not, but I have read that Israel is putting the cooperation with UNESCO on hold for the time being. That would already be something very negative, because we have many cultural sites that are worth protecting, where UNESCO is an important player. If it is no longer involved, nothing good will happen here. We need the mediation of UNESCO.
Interviewer: And moreover?
And then the Islamic people could feel even more right with their historically untenable thesis that there never was a Jewish temple. All you have to do is go to the Wailing Wall. There the Jewish history is palpable. And I am afraid that there may be new clashes, which have never stopped – even with deaths and injuries. So, we already have a difficult situation, in which now hopefully will not be thrown another fuse.
The interview was conducted by Silvia Ochlast.