The Muslim Waqf, which was granted a custodial role on the Temple Mount, responded to a Knesset initiative to teach Jewish children In Israel about the Jewish Temples that stood on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and arrange school trips to the site. In its statement published in Arabic language Safa News, the Waqf refereed enigmatically to “the Aqsa Mosque”, the grey domed mosque at the southern end of the Temple Mount compound, as having “an area of 144 dunums, with its squares, corridors, and prayer halls above ground and underground.” The Waqf uses a narrative which uses the name of the prayer structure to refer to the entire compound and has recently used “al Aqsa” to refer to all of Jerusalem.,
Al Aqsa Mosque, literally ‘the further mosque’“, is a reference to Muhammad’s “Night Journey” from Mecca. Al Aqsa was located in Al Ju’ranah (also referred to as Jeharna), near Mecca in Saudi Arabia. It was called Al-Aqsa (the furthest) Mosque because there is another mosque in the region built by one of Mohammad’s benefactors known as “al-Masjid al-Adna, “the Near Mosque”. Al-Aqsa is mentioned once in the Koran, and Jerusalem is never named even once. Since the Haj pilgrimage is one of the five basic Islamic commandments, the Umayads were forced to choose Jerusalem as their alternative for a pilgrimage site. In order to justify choosing Jerusalem, the Umayyads rewrote the story told in the Koran, moving the al Aqsa mosque to Jerusalem, and adding, for good measure, the myth of the night-time journey of Mohammed to al Aqsa. This is the reason the Sunnis now consider Jerusalem their third holiest city.
In its statement, the Waqf emphasized that “Al Aqsa [i.e.the entire Temple Mount] is a purely Islamic mosque that belongs to Muslims alone and does not accept division or partnership. [The Waqf] stressed that the claim of non-Muslims that the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque is part of their heritage is a false and slanderous claim in order to storm it and disrupt the historical, religious and legal situation that has existed in it for a long time. The Council warned of what the extremist Jewish groups are doing with the support of the extreme right-wing government in violating the holiest sanctities of Muslims, the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque, with the aim of igniting the region with religious wars that have a first and not an other. The government of ‘Israel’ bears all the consequences.”
The word ‘Israel” is in quotation marks because the Muslim Waqf does not recognize the state of Israel and usually refers to it as “the occupation.”