Get a Piece of the Rock!

Get a Piece of the Rock

This is no sales pitch and I promise there is no ulterior motive to channel you toward a Prudential agent. I’m not even sure I know one…and that’s not an invite to call. Therefore, it’s okay to relax and keep reading.

Bags must be smaller than a typical backpack and placed on the conveyor. You must go through the metal detector. Military guards armored with automatic assault riffles- intensely serious looking- might watch you closely. I even saw explosive sniffing dogs closeby. These people do everything they can reasonably do to make you feel as safe as they can to ensure your safety on your flight. Except…wait! At this check point you cannot wear Christian jewelry or even carry Christian literature let alone a Bible. They say it is propaganda. This is not the airport. This is the non-Muslim entrance at the entrance to Temple Mount: the site of the Dome of the Rock.

The sign over the entrance reads:

This blog hopefully clarifies why some of the problems exist in Israel between the Jewish nation, Israel, and its Muslim inhabitants and neighbor nations. You, too, can be like Marty McFly jumping into Doc Brown’s time machine (that’s a Back to the Future reference / DeLorean vehicle for those of you who are too young to……..never mind). Fasten your time machine seatbelts, this stuff is both fascinating and tragic.

We hear about it on the news; we select politicians based on their views on it, but we truly are far removed from the issue(s). On Tuesday evening, Thaedra and I were privileged to join Bishop Farley from the Kentucky Conference of the United Methodist Church (yep- that’s your boss, Brandon D.) and his son, a Providence Sr. High grad, to have dinner in a private home in Palestine. After talking with this family and listening to the struggles they face, the division among factions here seems all the more real. The photo below is of Therese, Roed, their twins, Mais & Majd, Bishop, his son, Brandon; Claire and Lauren two U.S. exchange students. I’ll follow up on this in “final thoughts” at the end.

I have taken my notes from touring in both 2016 and again today and compiled them. Written simply, I hope this post gets to the down low of the most the highly recognizable of Middle Eastern sites. I’d dare say here is where much contention began, Isaac & Ishmael excepted—-and I know that’s a HUGE exception folks!

Back in the day King David bought the property where Temple Mount exists. We now recognize this property by it’s prolific gold dome. It is the Dome of the Rock. You remember David, the one who watched Bathsheba taking a bath from his Palace’s terrace (then sent her husband Uriah to the front lines of battle knowing he’d be killed so that David could have Bathsheba for himself—-another story altogether).

(King David’s Tomb on Mount Zion.)

King David’ son, King Solomon, built the first temple on this site. The Arc of Covenant was placed here in the section call the Holy of Holies. In 586 B.C. Babylonians conquered the region and exiled the Jews. The Arc of Covenant was lost. For you movie fans, Indiana Jones & company spent a lot of time racing against Nazis looking for the Arc (spelled Ark; Hollywood style). For reference, it is believed the Arc contained the remaining pieces of Moses’ stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments.

70 years later King Herod rebuilds a new temple. He used no slave labor. Rather, he employed 10,000 men to rebuild and expand the temple mount. This temple is the one where Jesus, Joseph and Mary would have visited. It’s where He overturned moneychangers’ table, sat among the teachers, and taught on the steps (this picture is my 2016 group on the “teaching steps” originally one of the main Temple entrances in use during Christ’s life. Mary, Joseph & Jesus would have walked on these steps (pictured below). Clearly, some are restored; some are not. The original walls behind us have been sealed over the centuries.

Eventually, General Titus conquered and destroyed Herod’s new Temple.

Islam was begun by Muhammad (born in 570) . The Koran says God took Muhammad (accompanied by the Angel Gabriel—-yep, same one) on a journey to the furthest mosque. Interestingly, nowhere in the Koran does it specify this event happened in Jerusalem. However, based on the surroundings described, the Muslims built there mosque on the spot where they arrive. The stone under the dome of the rock is the stone where Muhammad landed on the winged horse. The story goes that he stood on the rock before ascending into heaven and meeting prophets (including Jesus—-who is acknowledge by Islam as a prophet) from this very place. During this meeting Muhammad received instructions to pray five times daily (in case you ever wondered where this tradition of Islam originated).

This place is the 3rd holiest place in Islam. It is both ironic AND interesting to me that Allah decided that he needed this holy site to be built on a place so pivotally important to Jews (and subsequently to Christians).

The Byzantines (Christians) who controlled the area up to this point were a weak sect. They were overtaken by a Muslim conquest. In 691 the dome of the Rock was built. 90% of what one sees today is original. Other mosques and surrounding buildings were constructed around 705. It is spectacularly beautiful; but as a Christian I feel eerily blasphemous (not sure this is the correct word) for being here.

A Muslim dynasty become well established by approximately 710.

For the Jews the Temple Mount is the #1 holy place because the Holy of Holies (Arc of the Covenant) stood where the rock is. They have no access inside the domed mosque. Jewish people (any non-Muslim for that matter) cannot access the area inside as non-Muslim prayers are banned from the Temple Mount.

The closest Jews can get to the site of the Temple Mount is the Western Wall. They call it the Wailing Wall because they pray and wail there at this closest place they are allowed to the original Temple site until the 3rd temple is built. It is a beautiful hope and expectation revered by approximately 10 million Jewish people worldwide.

Muslims protest when Jews ignore Torah Law and come to walk the grounds. Jewish presence causes violence and protests from both sides. Thus, the reason there are guards, security precautions, riot shields and everything else you see.

To go into the problems about the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Syria, Jordan and the real estate surrounding Israel (Jewish, democratic/Theocratic) far exceeds the scope of this post. Suffice it to say that Israel wants to claim / reclaim more land while other nations (Muslim, essentially non-democratic/dictatorships and monarchies) want to claim / reclaim more land in a part of the world where land is tight and natural resources make people rich. Just as importantly rooted in this is religious pride and national sovereignty.

Just for fun I’ll point out an interesting fact when we see an image of the dome we see it’s gleaming gold roof. It has not always been as bright as it is today. In the late 1980’s King Hussein of Jordan, a Muslim, ordered and funded the installation of the 5000 glittering solid gold plates we see today adorning the dome. Incidentally, there is an American tie. King Hussein’s 4th wife, Queen Noor, was born Lisa Najeeb Halaby in California. She was an American citizen and worked as Washington, D.C. urban planner until their marriage.

I do not know the answer to the problems among the factions (and I’ve only mentioned two). The emotionally charged history runs deep. The one thing I know for certain is in the era when the U.S. has committed to move it’s embassy from Tel Aviv, Israel’s diplomatic capitol, back to Jerusalem, the historic capital, the Jerusalem story, the Temple Mount story will continue to unfold. Everyone, it seems, wants to get a piece of the Dome of the Rock!

Final thoughts: On the surface the division here does not seem to impact family life on one side of a wall or the other. The revealing truth is that all people here are severely impacted. A few things we learned at dinner with our new Palestinian friends:

-Israel controls the flow of water (I’m talking in pipes that service individual properties). Water is only turned on by the governments sporadically and it is typically unannounced. Thus, water conservation is a HUGE issue. Private homes have storage tanks on their roofs so that residents can fill up and stockpile water in hopes they don’t run out between open flow periods.

-Palestinians and other “non-Israel” residents must obtain a pass to be able to cross through security check points at the international borders. This is much stricter than a Passport issue. For example, the family we met currently has a pass, but can only get one per year to cross into Israel. This is a big deal if you want to buy furniture, see a particulate doctor, attend school, and just about anything else.

-Even in predominantly Christian communities…everywhere here for that matter the mosques play Muslim prayers aloud…VERY LOUD so that they can be heard all over the place.

-West Bank, Gaza Strip, Bethlehem residents, cannot fly out of Israel even though it is the closest airport. They have to drive through the mountains to get to Jordan to fly anywhere.

-Israeli 18 year olds are required to service in the military before seeking higher education and other personal goals.

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