IDF chief rabbi Rafi Peretz downplayed Muslim religious ties to Jerusalem, and said that the majority of the followers of the Quran know nothing of its contents, in comments brought to light Wednesday.
According to a transcript of a lesson at the Otzem pre-military yeshiva, published on the Kipa website on Wednesday, the military rabbi said on November 3 that Jews were more well-versed in the Quran than Muslims.
The IDF said in response that the remarks had been taken out of context, but apologized nonetheless.
“In the Quran, there is not even one reference to the word Jerusalem. Not even a hint. The Arabs are imagining things. Ninety percent of them don’t know what’s written in the Quran. We know far better than they do,” Peretz said during a lecture on the biblical book of Genesis.
Other than the al-Aqsa mosque, the rest of the site — including the Dome of the Rock — contains no religious significance to the worshipers, he added.
When they pray, facing Mecca “their backsides face the Temple Mount,” he said. “So what are they doing on the Temple Mount?”
The Temple Mount site — the holiest in Judaism, and the third-holiest in Islam — has been a source of increased tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, which have led to a number of violent clashes, Palestinian acts of terrorism, and the attempted assassination of a Temple Mount activist in just under a month.
The riots and terror attacks in Jerusalem and elsewhere were touched off in part by Palestinian fears that Israeli lawmakers would seek to change the status quo on the compound, called the Haram al-Sharif or al-Aqsa by Muslims.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on several occasions that Israel had no intention of changing the status quo at the site.
A statement from the IDF spokesman maintained that the comments “were taken out of context and do not reflect the position of the IDF chief rabbi. The rabbi is sorry if his remarks offended the Arab population.”