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Memorandum Tracing Historical Connection of Jews with Wailing Wall Submitted to Wailing Wall Commiss

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A memorandum tracing the historical connection of the Jewish people with the Wailing Wall, a source of contention between the Jews and Moslems in Palestine, from the destruction of the Temple of Solomon, of which it is a vestige, to the present day, was submitted today to the international Wailing Wall Commission at its first public sitting. The Commission is here to investigate the Moslem and Jewish claims to the Wall.

Prepared by Dr. Cyrus Adler, president of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and of the American Jewish Committee, the 100-page memorandum was presented with minor recommendations and augmentations on behalf of the Jewish Agency, the Jewish National Council and the united rabbis. The changes were made by the rabbinical committee entrusted with the preparation of the Jewish case.

The session opened with an address by Dr. Mordecai Eliash, chief of the Jewish Counsel, who scored the Moslems’ forensic move in claiming that the Jews do not have any rights at the Wailing Wall. When Dr. Eliash began speaking there were present in the room the white-turbaned Moslem scholars, prominent Arabic advocates from Damascus and local Moslem leaders in addition to the Moslem lawyers. On the Jewish side sat Col. Frederick Kisch, Rabbi Meer Berlin, Ben Zvi, David Yellin and Rabbi Blau. The four seats assigned to the representatives of the Jewish public were occupied by Dr. Judah L. Magnes, Herbert Bentwich, Solomon Horowitz and M. Enda. On the desk of the Commissioners were copies of the British White Paper of November, 1928, dealing with the Wailing Wall, the Koran, the Scriptures and the report of the Palestine Inquiry Commission.

Referring to the White Paper of

November, 1928, Dr. Eliash pointed out that the Grand Mufti, the Moslem’s religious leader, had accepted the White Paper and praised its impartiality. Questioning whether the Wall really was part of the Moslem Wakf, Dr. Eliash urged the commissioners to consider not merely the existing but pre-existing rights. He insisted on Article 13 of the Mandate which guaranteed free access to the Holy Places, the free exercise of worship as well as the preservation of existing rights.

Quoting authoritative British and Jewish statements repudiating the stories of Jewish designs on the Moslem shrines, Dr. Eliash cited the Palestine Inquiry Commission’s opinion that the Moslem’s fear that the Jews sought the Moslem shrines was a cause of last August’s riots, was unfounded. He also quoted the statement of M. Van Rees, a member of the Mandates Commission, who said that the British had not shown sufficient solicitude for Jewish rights at the Wailing Wall when the screen separating men and women worshippers was forcibly removed.

APPEALS TO COMMISSIONER

Dr. Eliash appealed to the commissioners as “representing the conscience of mankind” to apply a even higher standard than “the Turkish idea of decency.” He produced photographs of chairs and screens customarily used by Jewish worshippers at the Wall and reviewed the Moslem innovations at the Wall since last year, namely, the Zahwieh, a new staircase, the Zikhr ceremony, and the calling of the muezzin to annoy Jewish worshippers. These he cited to prove that the Moslems profaned the Wall which should have been sacred to them “as a sister nation to whom God willed that the site of the Temple should fall.”

He went on to mention the Jewish tradition that the Divine Presence never departed from the Wall and recalled that Jewish worshippers wore the stones of the Wall smooth with kisses and caresses. Dr. Eliash read British documents dating from the time of the British occupation of Palestine which do not dispute Moslem ownership but respect the rights of Jewish worshippers. He appealed to the Commission to uphold the immemorial right to pray with dignity, decorum, veneration and respect.

DR. ADLER’S MEMORANDUM

The following is a summary of the memorandum as submitted by Dr. Cyrus Adler:

SUGGESTS LEASING APPROACH

A proposal that the Moslem Supreme Council should vacate the properties now occupied by the Mughrabi Wakf along the approach to the Wailing Wall and accept in place of it new buildings of an equivalent size upon some eligible site in Jerusalem is suggested in a memorandum on the Wailing Wall prepared for the Wailing Wall Commission of the League of Nations by Dr. Cyrus Adler on behalf of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, and which was presented to the Commission at today’s hearing.

The memorandum recognizing the peculiar sentiment attached to the Wakf suggests that the ground be leased for a long term to the Palestine government in order that it may be used for the purpose of prayer and that new property which the Jewish Agency should, through the government provide for the houses of the poor, should equally be leased for the Wakf of the Mughrabi Community.

This proposal means that the Moslem Supreme Council should vacate the properties now occupied by the Mughrabi Wakf and accept in place thereof, new buildings of equivalent size upon some eligible site in Jerusalem, in order that the wish of Abu Median, whose purpose was to provide dwellings for the poor of his country, Morocco, shall be carried out.

Other suggestions made by the memorandum with regard to the Wailing Wall are that the Commission give recognition to the immemorial claim that the Wailing Wall is a holy place to the Jews, that they should have the right of access to it for prayers to be conducted in accordance to their ritual in a decent and dignified manner, and recognizing that the Wailing Wall is a holy place not only for the Jews who live in Jerusalem or Palestine but for the Jews of the entire world, and that these requests are based upon immemorial uses which have never been denied within 1,200 or 1,300 years except during the political and racial excitement.

STATUS QUO UNSATISFACTORY

The memorandum, which points out that Great Britain as the Mandatory power undertook to maintain the status quo with regard to the holy places says that concerning the Wailing Wall the status quo has been unsatisfactory. It recalls that up to 1912-13 the status quo was fairly established when there was a dispute; it reverted to the older customs during 1917-1918 and from 1920 on “there have been occasional disputes culminating in the difficulty of 1928 in which it cannot be said that either the Jews or the Moslems or the British government were really endeavoring to ascertain what the status quo was over a long period of years and maintain it.”

On this point the memorandum recalls that no claim has been set up by the Christian community of the sanctity of the Wailing Wall, although in view of the fact that the Holy Scriptures are equally sacred to the Christian church as well as to the synagogue, “any relic of the days of the Scriptures must have high veneration in all religious communities.” Hence the memorandum asks the Commission to view the Wailing Wall as the most ancient of the sacred places in Jerusalem and as one which would by its imposingness and great history, interest every civilized man.

DESCRIBES TEMPLE ARCHITECTURE

The memorandum opens by referring to the building of the Temple as told in the Bible and gives a description of its architecture and area based upon the reports of eminent French scholars. To indicate that the description of the splendor of the Temple was not confined to Christian scholars or Jewish historians the memorandum also quotes from Roman sources, such as Tacitus, Dio Cassius, and others.

The memorandum then goes on to establish that the ruins of the Temple were always holy to the Jews. Passages from the Talmud and the Midrash are quoted to indicate that at least from the third century A. D. it was believed that the Divine Presence dwelt at the Wailing Wall.

CHRISTIAN SOURCES QUOTED

Turning then to Christian sources the works of the Dominican fathers, Vincent and Abel, are cited to indicate that in the very early period after the destruction of the Temple, Jews came and wept at the deserted Temple enclosure. This is further attested by the report of the Bordeaux pilgrim who visited Jerusalem in 333, and by the church father Gregory of Nazianzus, who lived from 329 to 389. Jerome, who translated the Bible into Latin is also quoted.

Jerome is quoted as saying, “Until this very day faithless inhabitants… are forbidden to enter Jerusalem, and that they may weep over the ruins of their state they pay a price, purchasing their tears, so that not even weeping is free to them…. They lament over the ashes of the Sanctuary and over the destruction of the altar, and over their state formerly fortified and over the lofty heights of the Temple….”

MAIMONIDES SET LAW

Jewish sources are quoted in great detail, beginning from 940 A. D. Emphasis is laid on the fact that Moses Maimonides who came to Jerusalem in 1165 fixed the law governing prayers at the Wailing Wall. Maimonides said, “Although because of our sins the Temple is desolate today, everyone is in duty bound to reverence it even as he did while it was established, for it is said: (Lev. 19,30) ‘Ye shall keep My Sabbaths, and reverence My Sanctuary.’ Just as the keeping of the Sabbath is eternal so also the reverencing of the Sanctuary is eternal. Even though it is desolate it retains its sanctity.”

Dr. Adler’s memorandum explains that “this may be taken as the final and authoritative statement with regard to the Jewish attitude and belief toward the sanctity of the place, since all succeeding generations have recognized the authority of Maimonides, who ranked with Thomas Aquinas as one of the greatest minds of the Middle Ages.”

JEWISH AUTHORITIES CITED

Many names of Jewish authorities are presented to indicate that the usage of prayers before the Wailing Wall was carried on in all centuries. Rabbi Petahiah of Regensburg who came to

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