Like many sites in Jerusalem, the Temple Mount is sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians and still remains as an obstacle in peace talks. Originally, it was the site of the great Temple of Jerusalem, the holiest place in Judaism and the site of the Holy of Holies, which housed the Ark of the Covenant. It was also considered the dwelling place of the Divine Presence (Shekhinah). For Muslims, it is the site of the Prophet Muhammad's journey to heaven described in the Qur'an and for Christians it is a reverent place frequently visited by Jesus and where he threw the money-changers out of the temple.
We were asked not to display any cross as a symbol of Christianity as we stood in the line to enter the Temple Mount and notice a sign from the Rabbinate of Israel banning Jews from entering any part of the Temple Mount for fear of desecrating the Holy of Holies, whose exact location is unknown, but is believed to be situated somewhere in the Temple. Jewish people proceed through a separate, left entrance, directly to the Western Wall, the holiest Jewish site in the world.
At the Temple Mount, we saw some of the eight gates to the Old City, and the Dome of the Rock, built in 691 AD and the recognizable gold dome with blue mosaic tiles in the picture for today’s post. It is a Muslim shrine and is believed to be the site of Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22).
We then walked over to the Western Wall, putting prayer requests into the wall and praying with men on the left side and women on the right. As we exited the shrine, we could hear the chants of Muslims over loudspeakers coming from a near-by mosque and also observed the loud, exuberant songs and dancing of family members that were celebrating Bar Mitzvahs for their young boys.
I was saddened by the extreme tension between the religions, all vying for the same small piece of land and trying to out-shout each other. Rather than quiet respect for the differences, each religious group seemed to be competing with the other, not out of love and respect, but rather out of a need to be superior through power, authority and force.
As Christians, just as we should be ashamed how we have fractured Jesus’ early church, we should also share in His disappointment of how three religions share the same God, but do not share God’s love, mercy and grace for each other. It is most obvious at the Temple Mount that we have a long way to go to restore God’s kingdom.
Blessings, my friend,