Gershom Gorenberg, an expert on the mount, said the site had predictably ended up as the core of the conflict not only because of its religious importance to both sides but also because of its ”mythic value” in their historical narratives.
For secular Israelis, capturing the mount was a pinnacle of Zionism, which made the Jewish homeland more solid by reclaiming the sacred center of Judaism after two millenniums. Religious Jews saw it as the first step toward redemption. For the Palestinians, in contrast, losing the mount became emblematic of all the other losses; regaining it became a driving goal of their nationalist movement. […]
No Arab leader, Mr. Arafat said, could give away the rock from which Muhammad is said to have leapt to heaven. No Jewish leader, Mr. Barak said, could give away the rock that more or less marks where the temple once stood.
the true stumbling block was and remains the need for followers of both religions to accept the legitimacy of the claims of the other: ”If an agreement is reached, then in religious and national terms, the two sides will have agreed to the idea of more than one truth existing in Jerusalem — that there’s more than one way up God’s mountain,” Mr. Gorenberg told Ms. Sontag nearly ten years ago. ”But,” he added, “that’s a big if.”