A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, June 7, 2010

June 7: The Day The Central Symbol Changed Hands

Today marks the 43rd anniversary of a day that, if not in fact the central focus of modern Middle Eastern history, then is at least the symbolic focus. It was on June 7, 1967, the third day of the six day war, that the Israel Defense Forces captured Judaism's most famous pilgrimage site, the Western Wall (once, but not since, known as the Wailing Wall), but also, with it, Islam's third holiest sanctuary, the Masjid al-Aqsa, and the adjacent Dome of the Rock, which themselves seit on the great platform where the First and Second Jewish Temples once stood. The site Muslims call al-Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary) and Jews know as Har Ha-Bayit (The Temple Mount) has become a symbol of the problem: Of the making of peace plans for Jerusalem there is no end, and many of them deal creatively with the Haram, but the sheer direct-claims to the same holy site aspect of the place, the zero-sum, one side must lose when the other gains, makes it such a potent symbol. We've talked about the potency of religious sites before, but this is the one where it all comes together.

This YouTube video captures the triumphal mood of the Israeli side on that day,with stills of the events and recorded broadcasts:

But, of course, it was a tragedy for the Muslim world, and in that conundrum lies the central symbol of the problem.

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