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Serge Schmemann

Error (New York Times, Serge Schmemann, 8/26/02): In 1757, to put an end to the endless squabbling [regarding holy sites in Jerusalem], Turks, then Jerusalem’s rulers, proclaimed a status quo for all holy sites in the city, which was confirmed in 1852 and has been enforced by all succeeding conquerors–including, since 1967, Israel.

Fact: Between 1948 and 1967, when Jordan controlled the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, including the Old City, there was, in fact, gross violation of the “status quo” with regard to Jewish holy places. Fifty-eight synagogues, the oldest built in 1267, were destroyed or desecrated. Many of the tombstones in the ancient Mount of Olives cemetery were ripped out and used as building material in Jordanian military facilities. The Tomb of Simon the Just was used as a stable.

Although the Jordanians had signed an agreement (Article 8 of the 1949 Israeli-Jordanian Armistice Agreement) specifically guaranteeing access for Jews to the Western Wall, Jews were prohibited for 19 years from going there, the first time since the Roman conquest in the first century that Jews were subject to such a restriction.

In addition, Christians and Muslims resident in Israel were prevented from visiting their holy sites. While these were open to visitors from outside Israel between 1948 and 1967, the thousands of Muslims and Christians in Israel could not, for example, visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Dome of the Rock or the Al Aqsa Mosque.