HOT TOPICS: International affairs

Tradition In Action

The Beginning of the Religious War

Atila Sinke Guimar�es
November 11, 2000

The events in the Middle East overstep the temporal sphere into the religious ambit. The recent turmoil began when Israeli leader Ariel Sharon resolved to "visit" the Temple Mount, a site that is venerated by both Jews and Muslims. Until now, the media has not fully explained what it was that Mr. Sharon did there. Be that as it may, it was considered highly offensive to the Muslims.

The Jews are well aware that in the past this was the site of Solomon's Temple. After its destruction, a second Temple was built by Esdras and Hehemias, and reformed by Herod. The two Temples were destroyed by the Babylonians and Romans respectively. In the 4th century, Julian the Apostate tried to rebuild the Jewish edifice in order to prove that the destruction was not a divine chastisement. Fire and earthquakes prevented his plans from being realized. The Jews weep at the absence of the temple at a wall that properly speaking did not make up part of the building, but seems to have been only an exterior protective wall that kept the surrounding mountain ground from sliding into the valley.

In this same open space, the Muslims built two mosques: the mosque of Omar, known as the golden Dome of the Rock, which was constructed upon the rock from which the Arabs believe Mohammed ascended into heaven and back. The other mosque, called Al-Aqsa, is considered the third most holy place of Islam, after Mecca and Medina. It was at this site, where the angel Gabriel supposedly brought Mohammed during a dream, that he would have received a part of his revelations.

It has been reported that the Jews are making plans to rebuild their ancient religious edifice on its original site. For example, Time Magazine (October 16, p. 72) says: "Rabbi Haim Richman, who works at the Temple Institute in the Jewish quarter, explains: 'When the Temple is rebuilt, it goes right here and only here.' Richman's researchers have re-created the priestly garments and tools that will be needed in the 'Third Temple': a silver mizrak to collect blood from sacrificial animals, even a million-dollar menorah."

However, in order to reconstruct the Jewish temple, it seems that it will be necessary to destroy the aforementioned mosques. According to a Palestine website (, there is an Israeli TV documentary "showing that Al-Aqsa would soon collapse as the result of an earthquake which will strike the area within two years. Moreover, the [Jewish] excavations will help in this process, having already weakened its foundations, and because geologists have confirmed that the area is one of the most active for earthquakes to take place." If this program has indeed been shown on Israeli TV, it is curious to note the exact forewarning of the destruction that a future earthquake would make.

With these presuppositions set out, one understands that the base of the present-day convulsion in the Middle East is a religious question. Will the Jews renounce the reconstruction of their temple? Will the Muslims permit the destruction of their mosques? There will only be a lasting peace if the Jews renounce the construction of the temple or if the Arabs permit the destruction of their mosques. At the moment, nothing points to either solution. On the contrary, animosities are becoming more intense than in the past. Which is to say, we seem to be witnessing the bloody beginning of a religious war, which issues from a historical incompatibility between the descendents of the two sons of Abraham: Ishmael and Israel.

The atmosphere that results from this religious exaltation and the augment of bloodshed naturally tends to spread through all of Islamism (more than one billion followers) and all of Judaism.

Let no one forget that Islam has more than 15 million immigrants in Europe, who are potential guerrillas of a new intifadeh. If the wick were lit close to this powder keg, everything leads one to believe that an order given from Muslim headquarters against Christian Europe could destabilize the beautiful continent, so jealous of its peace and its good life. A significant detail: a large part of the world's petroleum is in the hands of Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia, which uses its gold to finance the religious guerrillas.

Let no one also forget that the Jewish financial power block controls a good part of the Western banking system.

Thus, it is verified that the "visit" of Mr. Sharon had the magic touch of transforming the international ambience. The climate changed to that of war between two old religions, supported by two economic giants.

In this climate, the doves' peaceful plans for a new world order and the progressivists' plans for a pan-religion begin to be disrupted.

CATHOLIC PATRIARCH'S FLAMED STATEMENT � In this tense atmosphere a new factor worthy of attention appears. Patriarch Michel Sabbah, the principal Catholic Prelate of the Latin rite in Jerusalem, made a pronouncement. He said that the only way to prevent the conflict is to create a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. Here are his words: "These sorrowful and painful events prove to all that there is no choice but to have justice for the Palestinian people, who must be given back their entire freedom and their own independent state with Jerusalem as its capital. This will lead to real stability for both Israelis and Palestinians and the entire region" (National Catholic Reporter, October 13, p. 10).

Now, it is known that the Jews unilaterally declare Jerusalem as their capital, and admit no compromise on this point. Thus this pronouncement of the Catholic Patriarch is a clear-cut position against this Israeli pretension because if the words of the Prelate transcribed by the press are correct, he is suggesting that in the Palestinian state, the city of Jerusalem should be the capital exclusively of the Palestinians. It is a new idea, quite provocative, of the type to pour more gasoline on the fire.

CATHOLIC CARDINAL'S PEACEFUL STATEMENT � The head of the U.S. Bishops' International Policy Committee, Cardinal Bernard F. Law of Boston, called on Palestinian and Israeli leaders to exercise "moral leadership" and to "unequivocally" condemn mob violence as a first step to resolving the crisis in the Middle East. Cardinal Law called for such actions in an October 16 statement titled "Wounded Peace: Conflict in the Holy Land."

"This is not the time for blame and recrimination," the Cardinal said. "It is time to break the escalating cycle of violence, and to uncover the embers of hope that remain for a just peace" (The Tidings, October 20, 2000, p. 2). This statement proposes a solution which is the exact opposite of that given by Patriarch Sabbah. Why this difference in orientations in the highest level of Catholic Prelates? Would we have a dispute between the doves and the hawks in the Church? Or would these Prelates have only the aim of adapting themselves to the dominant opinions in their particular areas of influence? We hope to see facts revealed that would permit a response to these questions.

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