07 December 2018

Jordan has asked Israel to allow it to build a fifth minaret at Masjid al-Aqsa, on its Eastern Wall, facing the Mount of Olives, the Zionist Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs has reported. According to the report, the Jordanian request is not new, and as far as it is known, at least at this stage, Israel does not intend to allow it.

This issue has again been put on the public agenda, along with other matters relating to the ties between Jordan and Israel at al-Aqsa, in light of Jordan’s decision not to renew the lease agreement for land in Naharayim and the Arava, which Israeli farmers have been working for the past 25 years.

Israel intends to open a general dialogue with Jordan on security, intelligence, economic, and agricultural issues related to diplomatic ties between both countries. Jordan seeks to include within this discussion – at least formally – the issue of al-Aqsa.

The issue of the “fifth minaret” has reportedly been on the agenda as part of a series of discussions with Jordan about the al-Aqsa for a long time. Jordan is said to have now renewed its request as a means of entrenching its custodianship of the Old City and al-Aqsa.

Currently, there are four minarets at al-Aqsa:

  • The al-Fakhariyya Minaret, which was built by the Mamelukes in 1345 as a square tower with three floors.
  • The Silsilah Minaret, which is the most important minaret at al-Aqsa, constructed by the Mameluke governor Tankiz in 1329.
  • The al-Ghawanima Minaret in the northwest corner of the Masjid, a four-story tower built at the end of the Mameluke period.
  • The Minaret of the Tribes, an engraved minaret that is round rather than square. It is the only one on the northern wall that was built in 1368.

Jordan’s reported desire to build a fifth minaret is intended to assert its influence and status at al-Aqsa in an official manner for generations. The last time Jordan managed to acquire a similar symbolic influence was during the 1980s, when King Abdullah’s father, King Hussein, invested millions of dollars in renovations and gilding of the Mount’s Dome of the Rock. At that time, protracted ceremonies and celebrations were held in Jordan, and the Arab world marked this event, which was widely applauded.

Jordan’s connection with al-Aqsa has a long history. After World War I, the Hashemite dynasty lost the role of guardian of the Islamic holy sites in Mecca and Medina to the Saudis, but “comforted itself” with being the secondary guardian of the Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem. Hussein bin Ali, who served as the sheriff and governor of Mecca, was a descendant of the Hashemites, whose ancestors believed that they were descendants of the prophet Mohammed. He died in 1931 and was buried at al-Aqsa. His son, King Abdullah I, succeeded him, and he became the first king of Jordan, which was established as a country in 1946. Abdullah I was murdered in the al-Aqsa mosque on July 20, 1951, by an agent of the Mufti Haj Amin el Husseini because of his contacts with the leadership of the Jewish administration in Israel. His grandson, King Hussein, who succeeded him shortly afterward, witnessed the murder.

ADAPTED FROM Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs