Held sacred by many religious, Jerusalem is probably
the most holy city in the world. To the Jews it is Zion,
the City of David and Solomon's temple,
and the heartland of the Israelite nation. The Jews call this
sacred site in Jerusalem's Old City Temple Mount after
the temple built by Solomon in the 5th century BC to replace
Herod's 10th century constructed temple. Herod's temple was
destroyed by Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon who plundered the temple
for the enshrined Ark of the Covenant. They believe
the site is where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac,
and some claim that this is the 'Holy of Holies' because when
God created the world, light first shone here.
Around the birth of Christ (0AD), Jerusalem became the subject
of a long period of Roman rule, and the temple was enlarged
and the Western Wall created. After many battles and
wars, with short but brief period of Jewish freedom between,
the city was captured in 638AD after the death of Islamic
Prophet Muhammed by the Muslim Caliph Umar I who cleansed
the Temple Mount and built a mosque for Muslim worship. So
this place, so holy to the Jews, is also considered very important
place for followers of the Islamic faith, not only in Israel
but around the world, because it is the third holy place for
Muslims after Mecca and Medina. They call it The Dome of
the Rock, and constructed a magnificent Mosque.
The Dome of the Rock shrine was in the place of the supremely
important Christian Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and
where had previous stood the Roman Jupiter temple.
This magnificent temple not only proclaimed the supremacy
of Islam but also ensured followers of Islam would not be
tempted by the memory and visions of Christianity. They interpreted
the site as being the place of the "Night Journey"
written of in the Qu'ran, where Muhammad journeyed from Mecca
to Jerusalem then into the heavens on a ladder of gold. It
represents the unity and continuity of the Abrahamic faiths
- Judaism, Christianity and the Muslim faith and contains
early examples of Islamic Art. The dazzling light of the Palestinian
days and nights create an amazing, supernatural aura giving
rise to the believe that this place is like paradise itself,
echoing the words of the Qur'an, "than men of faith will
know paradise as their eternal home". Known in Arabic
as Qubbat as-Sakhrah, it is not a mosque of public
worship but one of pilgrimage. Islam believes that if a Muslim
is able to reach the mosque to pray, it is the equivalent
in piety of praying 500 times elsewhere.
The dome itself is made of wood and was later covered in
gold, which creates the amazing glitter effect. The dome is
set upon a drum, which rests on an octagon, representing the
earth. It is constructed harmoniously of proportion and equal
parts, a harmony of sight and mood. The stunning glass mosaics
and dominant blue colours become lighter in colour as it ascends,
representing Muhammad's ascent to the other world. The roof
is made of elaborate scrolls, arabesques and ancient purple
mosaics, inscribed throughout its interior with the word of
God. The dome symbolises Muhammad's vision of the celestial
vault, showing the colours of light of the Seventh Heaven.
The Dome of the Rock remained a place of worship for both
Islam and Jews until around the start of the 2nd Millenium
when the Egyptian caliphs destroyed all synagogues and Jewish
churches, and shortly afterwards the Seljuk Turks took control
of the city and closed Jersualem as a route of Christian pilgrimage,
which contributed to the Crusades and the Christian capture
of the city. Then in the 12th century, the Dome of the Rock
became a Christian shrine and the Church of the
Holy Sepulchre was rebuilt. From the 13th to 19th centuries
the monument's control passed from Muslim to Turkish, with
the Jews returned en masse throughout these 6 centuries until
1980 when Jerusalem was made capital of Israel.
Next to the Dome of the Rock is the Western Wall, otherwise
known as the Wailing Wall. It's called the Wailing
Wall because it's claimed that Jews come here to mourn the
destruction of Solomon's Temple. But they also come
here to pray and on Shabbat (the Sabbath) the place is packed
with worshippers. The Wall is the only remaining structure
of the ancient Temple of Jerusalem created by King Solomon.
The wall itself is thought to be the closest point to the
temple's holiest room, the "Holy of the Holies".
The site is a point of fighting between Islam and Judaism
over its ownership. Jews come from the world over to pray
at the wall and attach messages to it between the cracks.
They say you can hear the wall wailing for the loss of their
Jews attach great importance to having a bar mitzvah
at the Wailing Wall, and families travel from around the world
to join in the celebration. At thirteen a Jewish boy becomes
'bar mitzvah', an adult subject to Jewish law. On the Sabbath
after his birthday he reads from the Torah for the first time.
If you visit the wall be prepared for a security check and
show piety - bring a hat and modest clothing. No pictures
should be taken on the day of the Sabbath.