Thursday, March 31, 2005

What's the Temple Mount called again? 

I came across an old post on Ribbity Blog that reminded me of a pet peeve:


Why do Western journalists insist upon adding the words "the Holy City" to the name of Najaf every time they mention it. To the best of my knowledge, none of the Western news services reported that a Palestinian tried to cut the throat of a Jewish policemen [sic] in the Holy City of Jerusalem; or that the Palestinian bomers [sic] who were intercepted a few days ago were attempting to carry out an attack against hte [sic] Holy City of Haifa (it is the Bahai world centre); or that al-Qa'ida are threatening massive terrorist attacks in the Holy City of Rome.

Why does the Shi'ite Holy City merit this unique epithet?

A comment following up in his blog points out that the Arabic name is ("allegedly") actually "Najaf al-Ashraf," or "Holy Najaf". Fine, but that doesn't explain why western journalists call it that in English. After all, they don't write about the "Vapid State of California", even though that's what it's really called in Arabic.

But seriously folks, I've got my own media-language nitpick that I haven't seen mentioned. Here is one example, although I've seen it over and over and over in the mainstream media:

What the Jews call Temple Mount, Moslems call Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary).

Sometimes it says "What the Israelis call Temple Mount..." but there seems to be an agreed upon template that is slapped into every article to clearly explain how the religious fanatics on both sides of this pesky little conflict label the core of their irrationality.

There is one thing we are intended to take away from this sentence every time we see it (and we see it a lot): the Moslems actually have this place embedded in their language. To them it is noble. It is native. And that's even before we point out that its the 3rd holiest shrine in all of Islam!

The Jews, clearly, are colonialist interlopers who have come along and plastered up their quicky English-language signage, marking the spot like some tacky Disneyland exhibit -- when in reality, it is the ancient, noble, 3rd-most-holy piece of real estate in Islam. What will those Israelis do next, put up a Blockbuster right next door and turn the thing into a strip mall? Have they no respect for ancient peoples?

Oh wait a second, let me clear my head. . That's better, the fog is lifting.

What needs to be pointed out, before we all rush over to the Haram al-Sharif and go bottoms up in admiration of its holy nobility, is that the Jews don't call it the Temple Mount (unless they are reporters for mainstream media of course). They call it Har haBayit. Which is Hebrew -- a little known language spoken only by an obscure religious sect. You see, the "Temple Mount" is kind of embedded in the Jewish language (and soul, and holy literature, and history) too.

The Jewish people have been attached to their holiest site (yes, actual Number 1) -- Har haBayit -- since before even those misty, ancient times when the word jihad still just meant talking back to your parents.
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