Other Voices: Middle East a sensitive issue | TheUnion.com

Other Voices: Middle East a sensitive issue

I submitted a letter to the editor, attempting to convey the idea that our leaders could have avoided the war in Iraq if they had been more knowledgeable about Middle East and Muslim cultures.

I received 50 comments on the Internet without any of them addressing my thesis. I didn’t know if it was my lack of writing skills or comprehension deficiencies. I would have included my view – if we hadn’t set up military bases near the sacred cities of Mecca and Medina, we may have avoided 9/11 – but was limited to 200 words.

Middle East culture is extremely complex and before going to war, our leaders should have been well educated in this area. I have read many books on this subject before and after the first Gulf war and still have only a basic understanding of the history of Islam and the Middle East. It seems our leaders could have obtained this same information with little effort.

One example of the complexity I wasn’t aware of was Gershom Gorenberg’s theory in his book, “The Last Days,” that World War III would be ignited in Jerusalem because of 35 acres of land containing The Temple Mount, the Dome of the Rock and a couple of sacred Mosques. Israel gave administrative rights of this area to the Muslims after the Six Day War.

The reconstruction of the temple would cause violence because The Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount is sacred to the Muslims, as this is the place where Muhammad ascended to heaven. According to Muhammad’s biography by Karen Armstrong, after his death, Gabriel took Muhammad on a white steed to the Temple Mount to ascend to heaven.

Some Rabbis ruled that Jews should not enter the gates of the Mount, as under religious law every Jew presumed to have had contact with the dead are unclean until they have the ashes of a red heifer to purify them.

This leads to the story of the Red Heifer, which I wasn’t aware of in my reading of the Bible. Some conservative Orthodox Jews believe, according to Numbers 19, the ashes of a perfect red heifer will purify the unclean Jews so they can rebuild the temple that was destroyed in the year 70. Gershom’s theory is that if a red heifer is found and the temple is rebuilt, we will have WWlll.

I have only touched on a few complexities and vulnerabilities of the area we have invaded as a demonstration of the possible volatility of this region.

We must be careful with our actions in the Middle East, as we have stirred up enough problems there. Patriots must question charismatic religious leaders as well as politicians.


Don Cooks lives in Nevada City.

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