The Big Lie: The Muslims, Jerusalem and Archaeology

By Rabbi Leibel Reznick

Originally published:

The Arab onslaught to erase the Jewish people's historical connection with the Temple Mount. 

In his 1925 autobiography, Mein Kampf, Adolph Hitler wrote that people would assume that an outrageous lie must be true because no one would have the audacity to have made it up. Later, that propaganda technique evolved into: If a big lie is repeated enough times it will become widely accepted as truth.

This bit of Nazi propaganda is being used today by the Palestinians. Their Big Lie is preached from the pulpits of the mosques and in the classrooms of their madrasas -- and more and more of the untutored masses are believing it.

What is the Palestinian Big Lie? Palestinian Authority Mufti Ikrama Sabri was quoted in the Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam (November 22, 1997) as saying that the Western Wall is part of the Al-Aksa Mosque and the Jews have no connection with it. The same newspaper (July 18, 1997) reported that Hamad Yusef, head of the Institution for the Rejuvenation of the Palestinian Heritage, referred to the "false historical claim of the Jews in the holy city, a claim which they were unable to prove in all of the (archaeological) excavations conducted by foreign groups for the past hundred years."

In other words, the Jewish people have no historical connection with the Temple Mount, including the Western Wall, or with any part of old Jerusalem. No archaeological evidence has ever shown otherwise. So they claim.

The absurd assertions continue. Islamic Movement chief Raed Salah stated in 2006, "We remind, for the thousandth time, that the entire Al-Aksa mosque [on the Temple Mount], including all of its area and alleys above the ground and under it, is exclusive and absolute Muslim property and no one else has any rights to even one grain of earth in it."

Sheikh Yusef Kardawi, one of the most influential Muslim clerics, denies that the Jews of old ever lived in Jerusalem and that they are nothing more than invaders from Europe who seized Arab land in the 20th century.

The Palestinian Minister of Muslim Affairs, Sheikh Yusef Salameh, embellishes the ridiculous claims with absurdity: The Al-Aksa Mosque on the Temple Mount was built 40 years after the construction of the mosque in Mecca by Adam, the first man. The former Jordanian Minister of Muslim Affairs, Abed al-Salaam al-Abadi refers to the Muslim prophet Abraham as the builder of the Al-Aksa Mosque 4,000 years ago. Egyptian archaeologist Abed al-Rahim Rihan Barakat writes, "The myth of the fabricated [Jewish] Temple is the greatest crime of historical forgery.(Source: Nadav Shragai, "In the Beginning was Al-Aqsa," Haaretz, November 27, 2005.)

The Saudi royal family , the Palestinian archaeologist Dr. Dimitri Baramki, Sheikh Kardawi, and a multitude of Syrian clerics all identify the ancient Jebusites (from whom King David bought the Temple Mount, see Samuel II, chapter 24) as an ancient Arab tribe that wandered from the Arabian peninsula, together with the Canaanites, around 3,000 years BCE and therefore predated the Jewish presence in the land.(Source: Nadav Shragai, "Christian Zionists See US Devastation as 'A Home for a Home'," September 13, 2005.)

On August 27, 2009 the Jerusalem Post reported that the Palestinian Authority's chief Islamic judge, Sheikh Tayseer Rajab Tamimi, boasted that there was no evidence to back up claims that Jews had ever lived in Jerusalem or that the Temple ever existed. Israeli archeologists, he said, have "admitted" that Jerusalem was never inhabited by Jews.

To deny the historical connection between the Jewish People and Jerusalem crosses the border of the rational into the realm of absurdity.

This assault on the traditional connection between the Jewish people and their holy city of Jerusalem continues on a daily basis. It is not possible to convince those who believe such foolish assertions otherwise. As Albert Einstein said, “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity. And I'm not sure about the universe.”

To deny the historical connection between the Jewish people and Jerusalem crosses the border of the rational into the realm of absurdity. The Hebrew Bible details the history of the Israelites and Jerusalem throughout its pages. This is tangibly documented in the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were written 600 years before the Koran was committed to parchment. Carbon-14 dating verifies the antiquity of the scrolls. The Hebrew Bible mentions Jerusalem and the City of David more than 700 times. The Koran does not mention Jerusalem even once.

The number of ancient, non-Jewish sources, documenting the presence of Jews in Jerusalem is impressive:

  1. The Taylor Prism, named for its discoverer, Colonel Taylor, was found in the ruins of Nineveh, Iraq, in 1830. It was composed for the Assyrian king Sennacherib, and details the story of the Assyrian assault against “Hezekiah, the king of the Jews and his capital city, Jerusalem.”

  2. The Babylonian Chronicles a collection of ancient tablets recording major events in Babylonian history (presently found in the British Museum), also tell of the Jews and Jerusalem.

  3. One of the Elephantine Papyri, (circa 500 BCE) composed in the 17th year of King Darius, talks about the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and its priests.

Many Greek and Roman historians likewise confirm that Jerusalem was a Jewish city.

It is irrational to think that all of the above sources, many of whom were anti-Semitic, were part of some Zionist plot against the native Arab-Canaanite population.

Perhaps the most impressive piece of documentary evidence are the histories of the first century CE historian, Josephus Flavius. In Antiquities and Wars of the Jews, he devotes hundreds of pages to the plight of the Jewish People in Jerusalem and the eventual destruction of their Temple. Josephus’ attention to detail, architectural and geographical, is well known and time after time his veracity and accuracy is borne out by archaeological discoveries.

To claim that the great number of Jews were relative late-comers to Jerusalem, some time during the 20th century, is contrary to the facts. Every few years, beginning in 1844, a census was taken in Jerusalem. The census counted separately the numbers of Jews, Arabs, and Christians. In every single census, the Jewish population was the greatest number. In many cases the Jewish population outnumbered the Arabs and Christians combined.

2. The absurd notion that there is no archaeological evidence to indicate a historical Jewish presence in the Holy City is to deny reality. A detailed presentation of all the archaeological evidence would require the pages of a large volume but I shall relate just of few of the archaeological items in brief merely to satisfy our own natural curiosity -- rather than to dispel a falsehood that does not need to be dispelled.

Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world and, as would be expected, contains a wealth of archaeological finds. However, evidence of an ancient structure, be it a house, palace, or fortress, does not prove it to be Jewish. Ancient pottery or spearheads by themselves do not show their Jewish origin. We must limit ourselves to the archaeological finds that are unquestionably Jewish in nature. With that constraint understood, we can proceed.

The Temple Mount

1) Ashlars: The Second Temple was completely rebuilt several years before the beginning of the Common Era by the Judean tyrant, King Herod. The Temple complex was built entirely from large stone blocks called ashlars. Herod decreed that the Temple ashlars were to be unique in design and no other building in Jerusalem would be allowed to have that design. Each face of the ashlar was to be smooth and framed with a recessed border. On the Temple Mount today, these ashlars can readily be seen all along the Western Wall, Southern Wall, and parts of the Eastern and Northern Temple walls. These stones are in situ, in their original positions.

These four walls are retaining walls for the Temple 

Mount. The wall around the Temple Mount rests on solid bedrock and the height of the wall varies greatly depending on the contour of the bedrock. The height of the wall at the Western Wall Plaza is about 107 feet (33 meters) from bedrock to the top. The wall tapers as it rises. (See Talmud Tractate Yoma 28b.) It is about 12 feet thick at the bottom and about three feet thick at the top. Over the centuries, various invaders tried to tear down the wall in order to erase any signs of a previous Jewish presence in the city. However they were only partially successful along the upper regions of the wall due to the fact that the wall increases in thickness as one goes farther down.

If one observes the large ashlars along the bottom of the wall, one can readily see the Herodian (i.e. Jewish) design on these stones. As one looks up toward the mid-height of the wall, smaller ashlars can be seen but these ashlars are missing the Herodian design. 

These stones were part of a ninth century CE reconstruction of the wall by the Arabs and are consistent with Arab style ashlars. Near the top of the wall, even smaller stones can be seen, also lacking the Herodian design. They are of a later Arab reconstruction of the wall in the 16th century. The unique Herodian ashlars which are in situ testify to the Jewish presence on the Temple Mount.

2) Temple's Courtyard Wall: A number of years ago, part of an inner courtyard wall (azarah) of the Second Temple was discovered near the Dome of the Rock. It too had the tell-tale Herodian design. 

When the Muslims realized that evidence of a Jewish presence on the Temple Mount was discovered within a stone’s throw of their holy site, they had the tell-tale signs of the courtyard wall covered with cement. However, earlier photographic evidence confirms the fact that the wall is there.

3) 12 Steps: The Talmudic tractate Middot, dealing with the structure of the Second Temple, describes a flight of 12 steps that led to the main Temple courtyard. Through the millennia, some of the steps of the destroyed Temple could still be seen. 

As time passed, the steps were dismantled and used by the invaders for other construction works. However, as late as the end of the 19th century, three of the steps remained on the Temple Mount, a bit south of the Dome of the Rock. They did not lead up to anything; they were just there and were ignored by the Arabs. When the Muslim authorities realized it was evidence of a previous Jewish Temple, the steps were buried and blocked from view by a stone wall. A photograph from the late 1800’s of these Temple steps still survives.

4) Stone Markers: The first century historian Josephus Flavius records that on the Temple Mount, at the base of the steps, were a series of stone markers with inscriptions written in Greek and Latin. The inscriptions warned non-Jews from passing beyond that point (Josephus Wars, 5:5). In 1871 one of the stone markers was discovered near the Temple Mount and is presently kept in the basement of the Istanbul Archaeological Museum. 

The Turks are not too keen to display proof that the Temple Mount was the site of the Jewish Temple and hence the marker is not on display. However, photographs of the marker are readily available. In addition, in 1935 a fragment of another marker was discovered and is presently on display in Jerusalem’s Rockefeller Museum.

5) "Korbon:" A piece of pottery, more than 2,000 years old, bearing the Hebrew (as opposed to Arabic) inscription korbon (Temple offering) was unearthed in the late 1960’s near the Temple Mount. It is difficult to explain why a piece of dried clay with the Hebrew word for Temple offering would be found next to the Temple Mount if there never had been any Jewish Temple in the city.

6) Shofar Inscription: The Talmud (Sukkah 53b) tells us that in Temple times a shofar was sounded in the Temple on the eve of Shabbat to signal when all labor must cease. During excavations carried out by the Israel Antiquities Authority after the unification of Jerusalem in 1967, a large stone was found with the Hebrew inscription Beit HaTokiah, the Place of Shofar Blowing.

7) "Elders:" Those who served on the supreme court of the Jewish people were called the Elders. This term is used countless times in the Hebrew Bible (Tanach). Beginning in the time of King Solomon, when the First Temple was constructed, the seat of the Supreme Court was established on the Temple Mount. During the Second Temple Era, the Elders were commonly referred to by the Greek word Sanhedrin, assemblage, based on the verse “Assemble for Me 70 men, the Elders of Israel” (Numbers 11:16). During the Israel Antiquities Authorities excavations, a few fragments of an exquisitely engraved plaque was found. It bore Hebrew letters but only one word could be deciphered from the few fragments: zekayin, Elders.

8) Bar Kokhba Coins:

 During the Bar Kokhba rebellion against the Romans, circa 132 CE, Bar Kokhba regained control of Jerusalem and issued coins proclaiming the freedom of Jerusalem. Many of those coins have been found in Jerusalem and one was recently discovered in some debris that came from the Temple Mount.

9) Mikvas: Many mikvas (ritual baths) have been found in close proximity to the Temple Mount. They all conform to the strict regulations of Jewish law as detailed in the Talmud. Based on the pottery shards and coins found in and around the mikvas, they clearly date to the Second Temple era. Any Jew who wished to go to the Temple had to be ritually clean, which entailed immersing in a proper mikva. If the Temple Mount had never been the site of a Jewish Temple and if their never was a Jewish presence in Jerusalem, it would be difficult to explain why a number of kosher mikvas would be found next to a mosque.

10) Hasmonean Coins:

 The story of Chanukah recalls the miracle of the Menorah burning for eight days and the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrian-Greeks. The Maccabees founded a royal dynasty called the House of the Hasmoneans. They ruled from the mid-second century BCE until a few decades before the common era. Hasmonean kings issued coins bearing their names. Thousands of these Jewish coins have been found in and around Jerusalem.

11) Four Gates: Josephus Flavius, who served as a Temple priest, describes four gateways in the Western Wall of the Temple compound (Antiquities, 15:11, para. 5). All four of these gateways have been found and they are exactly as Josephus described them. Traces of all four can be seen today.

12) Menorah Engraving: Shortly after the Old City of Jerusalem was restored to Jewish hands in 1967, archaeological work began. The remains of a mansion were discovered, dating back to the era of the Second Temple. On one of its walls was an engraving of a seven-branched menorah depicting the Temple candelabra exactly as depicted in the Torah. The engraving is presently on display in the Israel Museum.

13) The Israelite Pool:

 Adjacent to the northern wall of the Temple Mount was a great cistern, constructed when Simon the Just (Shimon HaTzaddik) was the high priest, around 320 BCE. It was filled in during the British Mandate due to health concerns. Numerous photographs and drawings of the great cistern exist. For over 2,000 years it was known by its Hebrew name -- the Israelite Pool (Braichot Yisrael).

14) Quote from the Waqf: And now for the clincher. In 1925, the Supreme Muslim Counsel of Religious Affairs of Jerusalem (Waqf) published a small booklet, a guide to the Temple Mount. On page 4, it reads, “The site is one of the oldest in the world. Its sanctity dates from the earliest times. Its identity with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute (emphasis added). This, too, is the spot, according to universal belief, on which David built there an altar unto the Lord.”

The above quote from the Waqf was published around the same time as Adolph Hilter’s Mein Kampf (i.e. the Nazi's Big Lie) was being published. It is no wonder that subsequent editions of this Waqf pamphlet omit the quote.

I must reiterate that the purpose of this article is not to prove anything other than satisfy an intellectual curiosity regarding the historical and archaeological indications of a Jewish, Biblical and medieval presence in the Temple Mount. The real proof is found in the passages contained in the volumes of the Prophets and in the tear-stained pages of the Hebrew prayer book. They contain the history of our Holy City and its glorious Temple. They tell of its heart-rending destruction and of our 2,000-year-long yearning for its rebuilding and for the day of universal peace.

Jerusalem's Population

Israel a Short History

Related Articles

US Ambassador David Friedman

The settlements in the West Bank

Excerpt from a speech (January 2020) in which US Ambassador David Friedman discusses the one issue that is still on the table — the settlements in the West Bank.

Read the story

Rodney Mazinter

Israel - A Short History

With much being written about the Middle East it was inevitable that much hyperbole, if not outright distortions, lies and propaganda would flourish. The arguments and counter-arguments that have been bandied about are not to most Jews a debate or an intellectual exchange of ideas, but rather a matter of life and death. .

Read the story

Rodney Mazinter

History of finding peace between Jews and Arabs

A dossier of authenticated historical reports that gives a coherent picture of Israel’s honest efforts to find that peace only to be stymied at every turn by an Arab programme filled with lies and subterfuge, and propaganda.

Read the story