WPost wants to know: So who built the Second Temple?

Kudos to the Washington Post for moving quickly to correct an error in Wednesday’s article on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

In a story entitled “An audacious plan at the Western Wall”, the WaPo reports on plans under consideration by the Israeli government to double the space available for worshipers at the Western Wall to accommodate the fissiparous Jewish community.

The story is well written, well researched, and offers views and statements from all parties concerned. There were, however, two things that caught my eye when I first read the story. When the article moved from  current events to background it stated King Solomon built the Second Temple. A bell went off in my head when I read that.

According to 1 Kings chapters 6-7 in the Old Testament or Hebrew Scriptures, Solomon built the first temple on Mount Zion. The Bible goes on to record its destruction by Nebuchadnezzar in 2 Kings 25. Archaeological and rabbinic opinions differ as to the period of the temple’s construction and destruction offering dates of 10th century BC to 587 BC v. 832 to 422 BC. The Old Testament goes on to state in Ezra chapter 5 the Temple was rebuilt and completed during the six-year of the reign of King Darius the Great — approximately 517 BC.  Flavius Josephus records that Herod the Great completely rebuilt the Temple In the first century — and it became popular known as Herod’s Temple. In 70 AD the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and leveled the temple. The lower levels of the Western Wall are all that remain of Herod’s Temple.

I jotted down this error onto a notepad thinking I would return to it later in the day for a GetReligion piece. When I returned that afternoon to the web version of the article I found a correction had been posted at the top of the story. It read:

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that King Solomon built the Second Temple. Solomon built the First Temple. The story has been updated.

The body had been corrected to say that Herod built the second temple. Not quite – – still a mistake but not as big a brick as the first printing. I put the story to one side to move to pressing business and when I returned to the article on Thursday I thought it’d been corrected once more. The new correction states (and is at the top of the article as the date of this post):

Correction: An earlier version of this article misidentified the Jewish temple built by King Solomon. Solomon built the First Temple, not the Second. The article also incorrectly referred to Herod as the builder of the Second Temple. Although the temple is sometimes called Herod’s Temple in honor of his expansion of it, the original construction occurred centuries earlier.

The body of the story was corrected a second time too. I give them credit for fixing this error so swiftly, but it did rob me of a GetReligion story.

Did I not mention that I saw the second problem? The Washington Post fixed the GetReligion issue but left a GetPolitics problem. Just after the Herod/Solomon confusion comes this paragraph.

Muslims call the same site the Noble Sanctuary, where they built the Dome of the Rock shrine and al-Aqsa mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam, after capturing Jerusalem in the 7th century. The mount is administered by the Islamic Waqf trust, headed by the grand mufti of Jerusalem, who is appointed by the Palestinian Authority. Armed Israeli security forces that often patrol the site are a source of constant friction.

Is it fair to say that the Israeli security forces are the source of friction? Does that not place the blame the tensions on Israel? One could just as easily say Palestinian political agitation and protests, mixed with the occasional stoning of Jews worshiping at the base of the Temple Mount by Palestinians on the top, is the cause of  the tension.

The Washington Post just can’t seem to get a great a break with this story. Muslim activists claim there is no historical link between the Jews and the Temple Mount — and dispute the history set forth above and as recorded in the current version of the article. It is impossible to satisfy everyone when reporting on Israel. But apart from the two small items I mentioned, this article does a pretty good job.

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  • Jerry

    A thanks for helping me learn a new word: fissiparous. It fits very well.

    I was also struck by your delicate understatement: It is impossible to satisfy everyone when reporting on Israel. In the middle east, if one side commented on the sun shining, others would run to get flashlights and umbrellas.

  • Sari

    Is it fair to say the Israelis are the source of friction? Only if you’re a paper that supports the Palestinians and their allies in their quest to eradicate the Jewish State. The WaPo and NYT have a long history of supporting the Palestinian cause.

    Thanks for telling me that I belong to a fissiparous faith. In 5000+ years, we have divided into what, four major groups? Are Christians, with their multitude of distinct denominations, many of whom won’t share bread with the others, all that different? Sorry, but I found the comment offensive.

  • Guest

    Personally, I think ‘contentious’ is a much better adjective than ‘fissiparous’. Jews have maybe – MAYBE – over two thousand plus years, seen around ten or twelve ‘divisions’. Compare Protestant Christianity if you want ‘fissiparous’ – how many denominations are there now? Over 400?

  • mcg1969

    I think it’s important to point out that the article does not call the Jewish faith fissiparious, but rather the Jewish community fissiparious. And by my reading, the community referred to is the community who regularly visits the Western Wall. The purpose of the word is to explain why the Western Wall area is being expanded: to accomodate differences in worship style there.

    Given the context of the linked WaPo article I think the word, even with its undertone of contentiousness or divisiveness, is appropriate:

    This month, thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews, including children, tried to block members of a group called Women of the Wall from donning prayer shawls at the site and singing aloud, in defiance of tradition. Protesters hurled insults, eggs and chairs. The national police chief called the scene “a battlefield.”

    There is general agreement that if anyone can bring the bickering tribes of ultra-Orthodox, traditional, liberal and secular Jews in Israel and the diaspora together, it is Sharansky, who heads the Jewish Agency for Israel.

    It seems to me that your beef here is with the Washington Post. The word accurately reflects the tension described by the article among the Western Wall worshippers.

  • RoamingChile

    No, it isn’t fair to say the security forces cause the tension. It is much more complicated than that.

    The Waqf forbids non-Muslim prayer on the al-Aqsa complex. When a Jew or Christian is thought to be praying, it is Israeli police who escort the offender off the site. It is Israeli police who prevent visitors from entering the site with Christian or Jewish bibles, prayers books.

    The police are also there to quell any unrest that may start. Earlier this month, a group of Jews visited the site. When one appeared to bow in prayer, Muslims on the mount began throwing rocks and chairs at visitors and police. Police arrested the Jewish men. Police then later detained the mufti as they had suspicions he had encouraged the rock and chair throwing.

    The police also keep certain Muslims from the site at particularly tense times. If there is word that a demonstration-easily-turned-riot is planned, then Muslim men under 50 are not allowed to visit the site for prayers.

    One thing that is not reported often is that in 1967, when Israel reunited Jerusalem, it was a great triumph for them to retake the Temple Mount. However, to prove they wanted peace, Israel allowed the Islamic Waqf to maintain control of the site. The Temple Mount remains technically under the authority of Jordan. Which is why Jordan recalled it’s ambassador to Israel early in May when the mufti was questioned for 6 hours.

    • Sari

      Jewish community refers to all of Jewry, not just to those who worship at the Wall. And it was very clear from the article that the W.o.t.W. are not regulars but travel in to worship.

      From the article:

      “This month, thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews, including children,
      tried to block members of a group called Women of the Wall from donning prayer shawls at the site and singing aloud, in defiance of tradition.”

      What the writers call tradition (minhag) is what the observant (many of whom are not ultra-Orthodox) call Law (Halakhah). Either they took one side’s perspective as fact or they are ignorant–of how traditional Judaism operates and that the vast majority of Jews lived within the Halakhah until relatively recently. Those who object do so because they feel the women transgress G-d’s Law, not because of tradition. Both sides should have been presented, and in an equal fashion.

      “Two-thirds of the space is reserved for men and one-third for women, who worship in silence.”

      Women do not worship in silence, unless my trip two weeks ago was anomalous. The difference is that women do not pray as part of a minyan (quorum of ten men). Those prayers which require a minyan are also those which must be spoken aloud (Kaddish, for instance). It also means that women pray at their own pace. Many choose to recite T’hillim (Psalms). Prayer is much more individualized and much less formal than it is in the men’s section.

      Lastly, the article referred to it as the wall. It should be the Wall, capitalized, since it is used as a proper noun.


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