I wrote this for a different context.
In the beginning, G-d created the heavens and the earth.
When he got to creating earth, he started with a single rock.
That rock, according to Jewish tradition, is in the most
heavily contested 10 acres on the planet. For the last several
months negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority
have concentrated on them. Those acres have spent the last several
millenia gaining a mystical significance to members of three
religions, but in this century they also gained a sordid
The soap-opera of Jerusalem began on a day in 1928.
The Western Wall, for centuries a retaining wall for the
mosque above it, was at the time running along a narrow alley.
Jews came to it for various ceremonies, but only at the whim
of the Muslim authorities, and Muslim youth enjoyed standing
on the mosque yard above and pelting the Jews below with trash.
On this particular day, Yom Kippur, attendance at the alley was
high, and the Jewish community had for years been recovering from
the famine of 1915, which had cut it in half. So for the first time
it was necessary to put up a screen across the alley, to separate
the men from the women. This gave a Muslim leader his first
Haj Amin Al Husseini became Jerusalem's chief Muslim
cleric years earlier both despite and because of a reputation
for rabble rousing. His ultimate ambition was to be a
president of a republic containing Israel and most of Jordan.
His way to achieve this would be to start a religious war
and win it. So, on that day in 1928 he spread a rumor all around
Jerusalem: the Jews were plotting to undermine the Al Aqsa mosque
by dismantling the retaining wall, and were hanging up that
curtain in order to conceal their work.
It is amazing (and ironic) to think that Muslims would believe
Jews would dismantle Judaism's holiest shrine, but
the word of Jews cannot be allowed to stand over that of a
Muslim clergyman, even if he is a snake in human
guise. The rumor turned to brawl
within an hour, and a British crackdown commenced within two.
The Palestine High Commissioner warned Husseini to pipe down or face
"dire consequences," and pipe down he did. That is, until 1929,
when the High Commissioner was replaced by a new one. On the
day of the changeover Husseini revived the rumor with a vengeance,
spreading it not just in Jerusalem but sending messengers
on motorcycle all over the region. Hundreds were murdered.
The massacres of 1929 made the explosion of 1948 well-nigh
inevitable. By 1948 Husseini had made himself an outlaw in
British Palestine, arranged the assassinations of over 3,000
Palestinian civic leaders, escaped to Baghdad, caused a massacre of
Jews there in 1941, escaped to Iran, then, just days ahead of
his reputation, he finally reached Germany.
There, Husseini helped Hitler by recruiting Bosnian
Muslim soldiers for an auxiliary
division of the S.S. This was enough to give Husseini a prominent
place among the defendants in the war crimes trials following
Germany's surrender, but he narrowly escaped and reached Cairo,
where he safely watched the gathering firestorm.
The civil war of 1948 ended with Old Jerusalem in
the hands of the Hashemite monarchy. King Abdullah I despised
Husseini and never allowed him to return. For this he paid
with his life. One of Husseini's henchmen killed him in
the Al Aqsa mosque in 1951. This didn't get Husseini any
closer to returning. He spent the rest of his life in Beirut,
dying in 1974.
The Old City came to Jewish hands in 1967, and a
set of houses was torn down to make the plaza that you see
today in front of the Western Wall. These houses belonged to
the Husseini family. They didn't protest much. As if only
to prove Husseini a liar, Jews stubbornly continue not
to dismantle the shrine. There's even a web cam to show
that much. Just to add the final soap opera touch, the houses
that were torn down include the purported birthplace of
Yasser Arafat, whose real surname is, you guessed it, Husseini.
There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South