The Chief Sephardic Rabbi, Rabbi Shlomo Amar, Minister of Education Gideon Saar and Kotel Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich lit the first candle of Chanukah at the Kotel – or Western Wall – Wednesday evening.
Saar referred to the Palestinian Authority's latest claim denying that the Kotel is truly a Jewish holy site. “The Palestinians are busy denying the history of this land and of Jerusalem,” he said. “He who denies history is not interested in building a peaceful future.”
He added: "The present government rejects [former Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert's offers to cede Israeli sovereignty in the heart of Jerusalem – at the Temple Mount, the Old City and the Mount of Olives – and hand them over to international control.”
In a report last week, Taha Al-Mutawakil, Deputy Information Minister of the Palestinian Authority, wrote that there was no historical evidence that the Western Wall was the retaining wall for the ancient Jewish Temple; instead, he wrote, it is a Muslim relic called the Al-Buraq wall, where Mohammed tied his donkey before ascending to heaven from the Temple Mount. “This wall has never been a part of what is called the Jewish Temple,” the report said. “It was Islamic tolerance which allowed the Jews to stand before it and cry over its loss.”
The Western Wall is known to be part of the wall that surrounded the Temple compound and not claimed as part of the Temple itself. It is, however, the only remnant of that compound that was not destroyed by the Romans who burned down the Temple in 70 A.D. so as to prevent Jewish resurgence..
The Kotel is not the holiest Jewish site. However, the holiest site – the Temple Mount itself,– has been under the Muslim religious authority's occupation since the seventh century CE. Israel conquered the Temple Mount in the 1967 Six Day War, but control over the area was given up by Israel's government, at the request of then-Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, and handed to the Muslim religious authority, known as the Wakf,. Jews who ascend the Mount today are not allowed to pray there.