Saturday, April 30, 2011

Something I Learned in Jerusalem

I have been to Jerusalem three times now and I’ve seen the Western Wall (sometimes known as the Wailing Wall, which is something of a misnomer: the reason it got the name is that when Orthodox Jews pray at the wall, they do so with their eyes shut and rock back and forth so as to keep their balance). The Western Wall is all that remains of the Second Temple. King Solomon built the first Temple, and the Babylonians destroyed it centuries later; after the Babylonian exile, the Persians permitted the Israelites to reconstruct the Temple. The second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. Almost 600 years later, the Muslims built the Dome of the Rock mosque directly on top of the Temple site. The Dome of the Rock, Muslims believe, was the spot where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven. To put it mildly, I’m skeptical of the veracity of that account. It seems to me Jerusalem is not particularly important to Muslims for its own sake. It’s more important insofar as it’s something they want to deny to Jews and Christians.

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