Highlighting the permanent Jewish presence and the relevance of Jewish contributions in Eretz Israel as well as the continuous connection between Diaspora Jews and Eretz Israel throughout the centuries between the Destruction of the Second Temple and the onset of modern Zionism, through a series of one-page notes distributed weekly.
DID YOU KNOW THAT... for most of the first century of Islamic rule over Jerusalem, there was an active synagogue in the Temple Mount? In 638 CE, as the Muslims armies finished the conquest of Jerusalem, Caliph Omar I visited the city to formally accept the surrender of the Christian forces. Upon visiting the Temple Mount, he found it a rather undignified state, having been for centuries in use as a garbage dump. Greatly dismayed by the situation, he immediately ordered its thorough cleaning. According to Mujir al-Din al-Ulaymi (1456-1522), a highly respected Islamic scholar and historian of the city of Jerusalem, Jews played a prominent role in cleaning the area. Jews played also a critical role in helping Caliph Omar identify its holy sites. Subsequently, Jews worked as servants and cleaners of the mosques erected in the area. Mujir al-Din conjectures that the Jews did so in order to gain access to the site and to pray “in the place where their Temple once stood”, quoting his own words. Be it as it may, Jews were for the first time in over 600 years granted access to the Temple Mount. At this time, Muslims did not consider a Jewish presence on the site problematic, as it had not yet been designated as sacred under Islam. In fact, several medieval historians state that at this time Jews received permission to build a synagogue on the Temple Mount. Bishop Sabeous, a seventh century historian, claims that the first wooden structure built on the site of the Temple, which eventually became the site of the Dome of the Rock, was a synagogue. He writes that before it was completed the Muslims expropriated it and gave the Jews another site on the Temple Mount as a substitute. The completion of the Dome of the Rock in 691, located approximately where the Temple stood, and of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in 705, in the south area of the Temple Mount facing Mecca, changed everything. In 720, the Umayyad Caliph Omar Abd al-Aziz (r. 717-720) banned Jews from praying in the Temple Mount.