For Jerusalem Day, Story on Muslim Ties
In honor of Jerusalem Day, which celebrates the Jewish connection to Jerusalem, Israeli news site Ynetnews made the curious editorial decision to carry a weeks-old Associated Press story about the Muslim connection to the city. The story left out many details suggesting that Muslim ties to the city were not as historically strong as the Palestinian Authority argues.
The article states that Muslims visited Jerusalem on the way to Mecca “for centuries,” but that the pilgrimage route was disrupted when Israel “captured” much of Jerusalem in the Six Day War. However, as historian Daniel Pipes has shown, historical sources have largely described Jerusalem in the centuries of Muslim rule as a backwater with few visitors, suggesting that pilgrimage to the city was not comparable to that to Mecca.
The writer also claims that the first Muslims “prayed toward Al-Aqsa and only later turned their prayers east to Mecca.” While Muhammad’s followers did initially face toward Jerusalem in prayer, the site known as Al-Aqsa was only constructed many decades later, after Muhammad had instructed them to face Mecca instead.
Blogger Elder of Zion commented that "AP, by implicitly claiming that the Al Aqsa Mosque was a holy site during Mohammed's time, is denying the Jewish claim to the site and upholding a false interpretation of the Koranic story of Mohammed's mystical night journey, where he says he traveled to 'the farthest [al-Aqsa] mosque' on a flying horse, a site not identified as Jerusalem in the Koran itself."
AP did note that the city, and the Temple Mount in particular, is holy to Jews.
The Palestinian Authority has urged Muslims to visit Jerusalem in order to strengthen the PA demand to form a new Arab capital in the eastern half of the city. Few have answered the call; according to AP only 2,000 came in 2011 compared to almost 3 million Jews and Christians.
Many Muslim clerics have told their followers not to visit Jerusalem, arguing that to do so would be to show recognition of Israel’s sovereignty.