Muslims and Jews dispute the ownership of the Burak (known to the Jews as the Wailing Wall). The Burak is sacred to Muslims because it is the site where our Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven. It is named “Burak” for the winged horse that the prophet rode from Mecca to Al Aqsa Mosque. The horse was tied to the Wall when Muhammad ascended to heaven.
The dispute over this Wall is increasing. Below, I share observations about the archeology and history of the Wall, which I hope will make clear the parameters of this conflict.
The Burak is approximately 180 feet long and 65 feet high, and it contains seven layers of underground stones; these stones are considered the most ancient stones in the area. One third of the Wall is buried beneath the soil. The pavement in front of the Wall rises about 2,322 feet above sea level, which is the lowest part of the Old City.
The area facing the site was excavated to reveal its hidden parts. These excavations showed that the old wall consisted of seven stone layers from the time of Emperor Herod (37-4 BCE); four other layers are from the 2nd century, and the stones on the upper part of the Wall date back to the Byzantine era, the Umayyad (8th century), and the Mamluk periods (13th century).
During the Mamluk Period (1291-1516), Muslims took care of the Wall. Although Jews claimed that the Wall and its environs were part of King Solomon’s Temple, Muslims considered it to be a part of the Al Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site for Muslims. It has remained under Muslim control (under the jurisdiction of the Waqf) even during the time of the Ottoman
invasion (1516-1918) of the land, when the Turks allowed Jews to pray near the Wall as a gesture of tolerance.
In 1929, following a long-running dispute between Muslims and Jews over access to and modifications near the Western Wall (setting up chairs and a screen, or a barrier for prayer, which violated an Ottoman ruling), violence erupted. The Burak Uprising began after the Jewish holiday of Tisha B’Av (August 15, 1929), when several hundred right-wing Jews, many members of the Betar youth organization, marched to the Wall, raised the flag, and sang “Hatikva,” the national Jewish anthem. The next day, a demonstration organized by the Supreme Muslim Council marched to the Wall. Over the course of the next several days, after inflammatory leaflets and sermons had been disseminated, much violence ensued, including twelve attacks by Jews on Arabs and seven attacks by Arabs on Jews (according to a Jerusalem police report).
After the occupation of Jerusalem in 1967, the Israeli army destroyed and demolished the Ottoman and Muslim buildings near the site and in the Moroccan area (known as the Mugrabi Quarter) in order to build what became the plaza in front of the Wall.
Israelis have also excavated the area facing the Al Aqsa Mosque and destroyed the historic underside of the path near the mosque. They created what is called the “Hashmonaim Tunnel,” which starts from the southern side of the Burak and reaches the Ghawanmah Door in the North. There is another tunnel that reaches Silwan to the south of Al Aqsa, and some believe that this tunnel runs beneath the mosque itself.
The Israelis are now considering demolishing a hilly area near the Moroccan Door in order to enlarge and widen the southern part of the Wall and build a new bridge in the Burak square that leads to the door through which thousands of pilgrims enter. Some observers fear that this plan includes a rebuilding of the Jewish Temple in that area adjacent to Al Aqsa Mosque.
According to the Christian gospel, Jesus Christ used to go to the Temple to teach his disciples, which angered the Jewish leaders at that time. The Muslims also believe that the prophet Muhammad used to pray facing the Al Aqsa Mosque while still in Mecca. This would mean that the Wall of the Burak existed even before Allah (God) took the Prophet Mohammad from Mecca to Jerusalem and then to heaven around the year 620 C.E.
Jerusalem is considered the closest city to heaven according to the three monotheistic religions, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. The Burak is considered an Islamic holy site. Jews also consider the Wall a Jewish sacred place. As Muslims, we know we will never be able to gain the sympathy of the world to our cause if we deny the existence of Israeli holy places and historical facts. We hope the world will consider Jerusalem as a place to reconcile the millions of believers. Emotion is of course extreme in such a place where religious holy sites and people intermingle. It is for this reason that we must reach a peaceful agreement that depends on peaceful coexistence and mutual recognition of one another.email print