Synagogue Debate Adds to Tension in Jerusalem

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JERUSALEM - Sporadic violence erupted in and around Jerusalem, Tuesday, after Hamas called for a "day of rage" following the rededication of a centuries-old synagogue in the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem's Old City.

The Hurva Synagogue has been described as more than a house of prayer, but as a venue for historical events and a symbol of the yearning of the Jewish people for a return to their homeland.

Palestinians clerics claim the rebuilding of the synagogue is a provocation.

One Jewish tradition says once the synagogue is rebuilt, Jews would then begin to rebuild the temple on the Temple Mount -- site of the Al Aksa Mosque and golden Dome of the Rock.

Click play for Chris Mitchell's report followed by analysis from CBN News Senior Editor John Waage.

CBN News also spoke with Middle Eastern affairs expert Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.  Click here for his comments on the growing tension in Jerusalem and between the U.S. and Israel.

The Hurva Synagogue was first built in the early 1700s and destroyed in 1721. It stayed in ruins until 1864 when a new synagogue was built. The Jordanian legion destroyed that synagogue during Israel's 1948 War of Independence.

The name Hurva - which means ruin - stuck all those years.

"Now the Jews have returned in fulfillment of prophecy. They've rebuilt their synagogue, a place to give glory to God," said Jewish editor Moshe Kempinsky. "You don't need more significance to that."

He feels the uproar over the synagogue doesn't make sense.

"The whole world is actually having a very difficult time with it and calling it a provocation even though that's illogical," he said. "The greatest provocation was destroying a house of God not rebuilding it."

The dedication of the Hurva reinforces the connection of the Jewish people to Jerusalem.

It comes in the midst of the worst crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations in decades sparked by a building project in a Jewish neighborhood in the eastern part of the city. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state and the U.S. is demanding Israel halt building in Jewish neighborhoods in the eastern part of the city.

In an interview with Israeli Army Radio, Elliot Abrams -- former advisor to Presidents Reagan and Bush -- blamed the Obama administration for the crisis.

"The administration was very hostile to the Netanyahu government. They were hostile before he did anything," he said. "So one argument you can make is that they really don't like dealing with the Netanyahu government and that they want to see if they can get rid of it and bring down the coalition."

In the meantime, Netanyahu says every prime minister since 1967 has built in the Holy City and he won't stop either. Given the stand-off, it appears there could be tough times ahead for U.S.-Israeli relations, and in Jerusalem.

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CBN News
Chris Mitchell

Chris Mitchell

CBN News Middle East Bureau Chief

In a time where the world's attention is riveted on events in the Middle East, CBN viewers have come to appreciate Chris Mitchell's timely reports from this explosive region of the world. Mitchell brings a Biblical and prophetic perspective to these daily news events that shape our world.