Nov 24, 2008


By Jim Fletcher

Last week’s announcement that archaeologists uncovered evidence that Jerusalem’s Al-Aksa Mosque was once a Byzantine church brought back an interesting memory. An old collection of photographs taken from investigations in the 1930s seems to indicate that a Byzantine mosaic was uncovered. If so, that would seriously damage the Muslim story that the Al-Aksa was always Islamic. It is also a very important peek into the Arab mindset.

A decade ago, I happened to visit the Temple Mount (known as Haram al-Sharif by the Arabs — the “Noble Sanctuary”). I was there with about 20 fellow Christians. Unknown to me at the outset, we were also going to be given a very rare tour of the area underneath the Mount, the area known as “Solomon’s Stables.” This is an underground mosque that has been created for thousands of worshippers; it is also a key reason much of the Temple Mount compound walls almost buckled in the last decade.

To give you some idea of the area, if you stand in front of the Al-Aksa, just to the left is what I can only describe as a “cellar” doorway, like those old-fashioned cellars found on your grandparents’ farm. We were instructed to take our shoes off, and then descended down a sloping pathway covered by Oriental carpets.

The meandering passageways were like something out of an Indiana Jones movie. Presently we stopped at the end of one such passageway. Before us was an area sealed with a fence. Inside the fence were clear ruins: pillars and slabs. Our Palestinian guide told us about the Islamic version of the story — Muhammad came here on his “Night Journey” to Jerusalem, astride a winged horse. A friend with me pointed to the pillars and indicated he’d talk to me once we got back outside. It was clear that much of the rubble was Roman and Byzantine architecture.

Our Palestinian guide pointed to a doorway in a wall behind the fence. “This is the doorway that the Prophet [Muhammad] entered when he came to Jerusalem.” Folks in our party nodded, but the comment didn’t really register. It did when we got outside and my friend explained things to me.

“Did you notice his comment about Muhammad entering that door? If that’s so, how could this have been a mosque? That would mean that it was a mosque before Muhammad implemented the religion of Islam itself.”

Do you see? The point is — the reality is — this was a Byzantine church before it was taken over and conquered for Islam. Think about it: the Palestinians, the Muslim Arabs, are so intolerant that they distort history and invent history. The poor guide who chattered on for us underneath the Temple Mount either didn’t realize the distortion, or didn’t care.

The Palestinians officially claim that there was never a Jewish temple on the Temple Mount! This is good-faith negotiation? This is tolerance? And the international community lets them get away with it.

The recent discovery of the site’s Byzantine roots says volumes about the Arab-Israeli conflict. True history is this:

David bought the site from a Jebusite. His son Solomon built the first Temple. A succession of regional empires (Assyrians, Babylonians, etc.) conquered the Hebrews and the Babylonians destroyed the First Temple. Herod rebuilt it. The Romans destroyed that one. As the Roman Empire eventually embraced Christianity, the Byzantines built churches in the Holy Land; this is the origin of the Al-Aksa Mosque. Then the Muslims conquered the area and built the Dome of the Rock, while also converting the church into a mosque.

This is essentially the same situation today. But our State Department, White House, and various liberal Christian denominations believe we can negotiate in good faith with the Arabs.


If someone denies your very identity, what makes you think they’ll be reasonable with anything else? The Arab-Israeli conflict has reached a rotten mess because A) the Arabs are supremely arrogant and B) the Western nations in particular have coddled them.

In the past 10 years, the Palestinians have hollowed-out a large area under the Temple Mount, and then dumped truckloads of dirt (with Jewish artifacts) into the Kidron Valley. But this very affront to Jewish culture also holds a key to God’s sovereignty.

We as Christian supporters of Israel decry this illegal excavation, which shows such contempt for Jewish culture. Yet it could serve a future, holy purpose.

Between the Al-Aksa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock is a terrace of steps that lead downward, into the underground mosque. This new area created by the Palestinians is just behind the famous Golden (or Eastern) Gate, which Scripture tells us will receive the Messiah when He comes to Jerusalem.

Outside the walls, below the Gate, is a Muslim cemetery. They built the cemetery there, expressly to “prevent” the Jewish and Christian Messiah from entering, theorizing that He wouldn’t cross over a Muslim cemetery!

In point of fact, the Muslims have unintentionally prepared the way for Him. I can just see Him on that day, entering the (now) sealed Gate, then ascending the steps built for Muslim worshippers, before entering the Temple Mount. Glory!

Once again, whenever we feel that evil is “winning,” we have only to remember that it is the Creator who bends everything in the universe to His will, for His own purposes.