Thousands of Palestinians, chanting “Allahu Akbar!” (Allah is great) and waving Palestinian flags broke through into the Golden Gate area that leads up to the Temple Mount over the weekend.
Israel had closed the area by court order in 2003 after Hamas and the Islamic Movement activists engaged in subversive activities against the state. Sheikh Abdel Azim Salhab, chairman of the Islamic administration of the Muslim religious areas on the Temple Mount, praised the Palestinians for using force to enter the Golden Gate site. He said they were now moving to open the way for Muslims to enter on a daily basis.
Abdel Kader, the senior Fatah (PLO) official, said that Friday’s events on the Temple Mount were part of an effort “to stop settlers from defiling al-Aqsa Mosque.” He said that the Palestinians who stormed the Golden Gate, “scored a big victory on behalf of all Arabs and Muslims.”
The area known as the Golden Gate is one of eight gates in the walls surrounding the Old City of Jerusalem. The Golden or Eastern Gate faces the Mount of Olives and allows the most direct access to the exact spot where Solomon’s Temple stood. In Hebrew it is called Sha’ar Harachamimi, “Gate of Mercy,” because of its proximity to Holy of Holies and the Mercy Seat. To this day it remains one of the most important places for Jewish prayer.
The gate was sealed by the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman in 1541 to prevent the return of the Jewish Messiah through the gate as foretold in the Hebrew Bible. Jewish literature details that when the Messiah (the promised deliverer of the Jewish nation as prophesied in the Jewish bible) arrives, he will enter Jerusalem through the Eastern, or Golden Gate. The Turkish invaders also planted a Muslim cemetery in front of the gate to keep Jews away, as it is considered unclean for a Jew to enter a Muslim cemetery.
Jesus entered Jerusalem through the gate around 30 A.D. (long before it was blocked by the Ottomans) as he came down from the Mount of Olives and entered the Temple according to Luke 19:28-48. Once inside the city, Jesus said that he would not be seen again until Jerusalem acknowledges him as Messiah (Matthew 23:37-39).
The Golden Gate is presently considered by the Arabs to be their exclusive property. It remains sealed up and blocked off and Muslim authorities refuse to allow Jews to pray in the area. Crashing through the gate and shouting Allah is Great may feel like a victory to Palestinians concerned with mundane political disputes. According to biblical prophecy, however, one day the Messiah’s feet will touch upon the Mount of Olives and he will walk straight down and right through the Golden Gate to set Jerusalem free from her bondage and bring an everlasting peace, for both Arab and Jew.
PHOTO: The Muslim cemetery in front of walled-up Golden Gate. (Uri Lenz / Flash90)