Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Jerusalem Part 3: The Dome

On Sunday mornings, tourists are allowed to visit the Dome of the Rock, on what was once known as the Temple Mound (because it was once the location of the Jewish Temple).

I went back to Jerusalem with my group from the archaeological site. One of the people traveling with us suggested going to see the Dome of the Rock, and I was instantly all for going. I have always wanted to travel up and see the site, not only the Dome of the Rock but also the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the scenery up there.

So what makes this spot holy? According to Jewish literature, it was the rock here where Abraham placed his son Isaac to sacrifice. It is also believed this is the site of the Holy of Holies, and the first and second temple.

The Dome of the Rock is the most Holy site for the Islamic religion in Jerusalem. It was built from 688 to 691 CE by the Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik and was not intended to be a mosque, but a shrine for pilgrims to commemorate Mohammad’s ascension into heaven after his night journey to Jerusalem. This is when God told him to pray five times a day.

Another idea is this site was built a site to compete with the Christian Churches, and to be a symbolic statement to Jews and Christians of the superiority of the new faith of Islam.

The Arabic inscription around the octagonal part of the Dome of the Rock are versus from the Qur’an. Just below the gold dome (which is gold leaf today, donated by King Hussein of Jordan) are tiles featuring Arabic inscriptions telling of the Night Journey of Mohammad.

The Dome of the Rock sits directly above the most Holy place for the Jewish Religion, and commemorates a very important moment for the Islamic Religion. I don’t want to get into the controversy of this site, because there is a lot of controversy. If you are able to put it all aside and see the site for what it is, you are certainly in for a treat.

The site is breathtaking. Up close, you can see the detailed decoration on the outside. It is ornate, detailed and breathtaking. Each time I looked at the site I felt like I was seeing something new.

I wish I could have looked inside; visitors are no longer allowed to go visit the inside, which was something I was unhappy about. The only glimpse I saw was through a small crack between some doors, but what I saw rivaled the outside. This website has some fantastic images of the inside of the Dome of the Rock

I am so glad I took the time to visit this site. It is spectacular, and is a place I wanted to see up close. The Dome of the Rock is probably one of the most iconic images in Jerusalem; the gold dome is seen through the city. And personally, I was glad I could see the holy sites of all three religions. It was a truly meaningful experience.

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