Land of Israel and Jewish heritage
A series from the book written by Naveed Anjum
Jewish Life in the Land of Canaan, cont’d
The Promised Land, cont’d
In 638 CE, the Byzantine Empire lost control of the Levant. Under Caliph Omar, the Arab Islamic Empire conquered Jerusalem and the lands of Mesopotamia, Syria, Palestine, and Egypt. Under various regimes, the Arab Muslims massacred Jews and forced them to flee the inland villages toward the coast. After the Arab Muslims destroyed those coastal towns, they forced the Jews to turn back inland. In spite of the Arab Islamic Empire’s efforts to the contrary, the Jews still controlled much of the commerce in Palestine. According to Arab geographer Al-Muqaddasi, the Jews worked as “the assayers of coins, the dyers, the tanners and the bankers in the community.” Indeed, during the Fatimid period, many Jewish officials served in the regime. Professor Moshe Gil has documented that, at the time of the Arab conquest in 7th century CE, the majority of the region’s population was Jewish.
Muslim tradition claims that when Muslims entered Jerusalem under the leadership of ’Umar, he asked the Patriarch to lead him to the place of the old Jewish Temple. ’Umar was shocked to find the site covered in rubbish. This was because, after Hadrian’s suppression of the Bar Kochba revolt and as a visible sign of contempt and disrespect for Jewish values and sensitivities, the Romans began customarily using the Jewish Temple site as a refuse heap. ’Umar is reported to have knelt down immediately and begun clearing the area with his own hands. When the Muslims saw what their leader was doing, they followed his example. Before long, they had cleaned up the area. Muslim tradition claims that ’Umar was then led to the site of the Foundation Stone by Rabbi Ka’ab al-Ahbar, who had converted to Islam and was ’Umar’s closest advisor. They placed a fence around the rock. Several decades later, an Umayyad Caliph, Abd al-Malik, built the Dome of the Rock over that site. If we pay careful attention, we see that Muslim tradition, itself, proves that a Jewish temple existed even before the advent of Muslims occupying Jerusalem and their construction of the Dome of the Rock.
(To be continued…)