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B'siyata d'shmaya - With the help of Heaven
In Defense of the Mosque That Should Not Be Built at Ground Zero

by Shelomo Alfassa*

(October 4, 2010)

Many people started to question the use of the 'Jewish star' in the building's design, after the 'Cordoba Institute' issued a photo-an architectural representation-of what the proposed Islamic center and mosque would look like. And while there are many serious reasons to question the building of this mosque, there should be no reason to question the 'look' of the proposed building.

This type of architecture is known as Mudejar. It is representative of a period of decoration and art which saw fruition from the 12th to the 16th century, in the Islamic portions of the Iberian peninsula (in what is today modern Spain). Elements of this ornate architecture includes elaborate and complex shapes and repetitive symbols.

One of these oft-repeated symbols is the hexagram or what Jews call the 'Magen David' (Shield of David). This star, made up of two intersecting triangles, has been included among the preponderance of Jewish symbols for hundreds of years. This star has been seen not only in architecture from Islamic Spain, but also in North Africa, predominantly in Morocco, where it has been used as a common design motif for at least 1,000 years. In both Spain and Morocco, the hexagram has been included as a decorative motive not only on mosques, but also on synagogues. Mudejar architecture was cherished not only by Arabs in Spain and Morocco, but also by the large Jewish communities which once existed there.

The star has come to represent the State of Israel, after it was selected to be used on the flag of the country during the mid-20th century. The actual origins of the hexagram as a 'Jewish' star, or 'Star of David' remain unclear. The star is not mentioned in the Torah or the Talmud (bodies of Jewish religious law), and the great 12th century medieval Jewish scholar, Maimonides, never mentioned it, nor did the Zohar, the renowned 13th century master book of kabbalah. However, the symbol itself has been found on Jewish tombstones and other objects since at least the 3rd century CE. In actuality, it seems this star was not a Jewish symbol at all, but was one of many universally accepted 'magical' symbols that the Jewish people adopted in the 19th century.


The author is a scholar of Judaic life in Islamic Spain and is the former U.S. Director of 'Justice for Jews from Arab Countries.' He was also a rescue worker at Ground Zero. He has recently established a Congressional Exploratory Committee to run for the US House of Representatives as a Congressman from New York.


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© Shelomo Alfassá