From Will at THE OTHER NEWS:
The story is told in great detail in the Book of Maccabees I and II, which, originally written in Hebrew, now survives in Greek and Latin versions in the Christian Bible. The Jews have kept the story alive through the Hanukah festival itself and the retention of the scroll of Hanukah (the Megillat Antiochus).
The story of Hanukah is the archetypal story of the fight for religious freedom. It has been adopted and celebrated by American presidents at the White House for more than a decade, as an American tribute to the biblical roots of the country’s national dedication to freedom.
For 2,000 years religious Jews, Christians and Muslims, and later secular scholars, have all believed that the temple ruins lie beneath the two Muslim mosques that were later built upon the Temple Mount by conquering Arabs after the death of Muhammad — and that the surviving pre-Islamic “Wailing Wall” is the outer wall of the Temple courtyard that existed in Roman times during the ministry of Jesus.
However, 13 years ago, the late Yasser Arafat (and since then his political heirs have taken up the cause) abruptly decided that there is no evidence that there ever was a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and, therefore, that Jews — and ipso facto Israelis — have no right to claim Jerusalem as their religious, historical and political capital. A wave of Temple denial is now sweeping the Arab and Islamic world and many fellow intellectual travellers in the journalistic and archaeological world are joining the bandwagon.
The historical, archaeological and literary evidence for the existence of the sacred Jewish temple underneath and beside the two Mosques that now bestride the Temple Mount is overwhelming. It includes thousands of scholarly articles and books supported by scores of archaeological digs and studies of historical documents. The best introduction to the topic is Cambridge Professor Simon Goldhill’s most readable book, The Temple of Jerusalem.
For over a decade the Muslim authorities (the Waqf) who now control the Temple Mount have been despoiling its archaeology through illegal excavations and site destruction.
Nevertheless, the physical evidence that they have discarded, and which Israeli archaeologists pore over like forensic scientists at a crime scene, shows signs of the temple’s existence, the most recent being coins minted by the Hasmonean rulers of Judea who were the royal and priestly heirs of the Maccabees, as well as coins minted during the first Jewish revolt against the Romans in 70 AD.
It was these pagan conquerors who burnt the temple and brought its sacred treasure back to Rome, and whose golden menorah was beautifully reproduced on the Arch of Titus. A three-dimensional copy of this menorah now stands in front of the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, walking distance from where the original once stood, 2,000 years earlier.
Abu Abdallah ibn al-Hasan, also known as Hamzah al-Isfahani (from the city of Isfahan in what is now Iran) was a Persian Muslim scholar who was born in 893 AD and died around 971 AD. He wrote extensively about the pre-Islamic history of pagan Persia. Although he wrote in Arabic, historians believe that he had access to Iranian court chronicles and epics whose originals no longer exist. He was also fascinated by the history of the Jewish people. In his book called, The Chronicle of the Israelites, Al Isfahani wrote:
“… between the construction of the Temple by Solomon and the reign of Alexander, 717 years intervened; then between the destruction of the Temple by the Persians and the death of Alexander, 269 years passed. The appearance of the Messiah (peace be upon him) occurred in the 65th year since the reign of Alexander in the 51st year from the beginning of the Arsacids. The birth of the Messiah (peace be upon him) had occurred during the 42nd year of the reign of Augustus, king of the Romans. Then followed the destruction of the Temple at the hands of Titus, son of Vespasian, King of the Romans… after the warriors had been killed and their children had been taken captive to the city of Rome, and the Temple was demolished until not a single stone remained on top of the other … From the destruction of the Temple by Titus until the end of the reign of Constantine 272 years passed.”Al Isfahani wrote during the height of what scholars of Islamic history call “classical Islam,” when Islamic intellectuals and scientists were most open to the intellectual and scientific heritage of the Greeks that they had adopted. In the above passage we see a scholar who is knowledgeable about the following things: historic periods; who conquered whom; what the chronology was; the trials and tribulations of the temple; the birth of Jesus; and the Roman conquest, which not surprisingly corresponds closely to Josephus’s description in his Jewish War (written shortly after the Roman destruction of the temple) and other historical sources. The existence of the Jewish Temple of Jerusalem is never in doubt.