Saturday, April 19, 2014

Holy Week in Jerusalem - Divisions

It’s Holy Week in Jerusalem again. It’s also the tail end of Passover for the Jewish people. It's also Easter for the Christians.  And the place which is at the center of both holidays is Jerusalem, which is also home to the Islamic religion. Have you ever stopped to consider the conundrum created by this close proximity of the world’s 3 largest faiths? 

The photo above is of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site where Christians believe Jesus was buried. It's only a stones throw away from the Western Wall, which is just a stairway away from the Dome of the Rock. It's a volatile situation. 

The Hebrews’ have fought there against the Romans, who wanted to take away the concept of a religion based on One God; this was before they became Christians and added the New Testament to the Old. The Christians, in turn, have fought there against the Islamics; who wanted to amend the New Testament with the Quran. And that’s just the religious element.

The settlement the Jewish people in what would shortly become Israel after the Second World War brought a new conflict to the area. And this conflict, between the Jewish people against the Islamic; while over land rather than religion; shows no sign of abating anytime soon.

Just take a look at the events of last Wednesday as an example of the obstacles to be overcome before there can ever be peace in the Mid-East. The story takes place at the Western Wall; Israel’s most Holy site; which is located at the bottom of the Dome of the Rock; which is Islam’s most Holy site.

The Wall is the physical location of the first two Hebrew temples, the spot where in 70 A.D. the Romans destroyed the second temple. The top of the wall; and the Dome of the Rock; is the spot where tradition holds that the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven. The Jewish people believe that a third temple will rise there someday. The Christians expect the Apocalypse to begin there, as foretold in Revelations.

So, while the Jews expect that their religion will be the dominant force in the area, the Islamic believers expect that their God will prevail; which leaves the Christians, who are waiting for it all to be destroyed because we all fall short of God’s Glory. Have you got all that?

The events of last Wednesday are the result of the Islamic fear that Israel is chomping at the bit to take over the Dome of the Rock. This belief is bolstered by the fact that Jews are permitted to worship at the Dome; though not inside; while the Arabs are banned from the Wailing Wall below. The part which probably irks the Islamic side so much is that traditionally Jews have considered the top of the rock; where the Dome sits; to be so holy that no Israelis have ever really been encouraged to pray there. Until recently, that is.

The Orthodox Jews in Israel; who don’t believe they have the obligation to serve in the Israeli Army; apparently have no qualms about escalating the tensions in the world’s most volatile spot. Increasingly they have demanded to be allowed to pray at the Dome, which has many Arabs angered and concerned. And I can understand that.

Last Wednesday, as tempers flared again over this contentious issue, the Arabs worshiping at the Dome of the Rock staged a demonstration, barricading themselves in a part of the holy site. At the same time they began to hurl stones down on the Jewish people below who were worshiping at the Western Wall.

This, in turn, sent the Israeli Police and Military to the Dome of the Rock; which they control as a result of the 1967 “Six Day War”, in which Israel was the victor and so won control of Jerusalem. At the time Jews were not permitted to worship there, as it was under the control of the Islamic side. The Police had to actually enter the Dome to quell the disturbance, which only fueled the anger of the Islamic worshipers.

Jerusalem is the holiest city to the world’s three major religions. No one should own it, or control it. It should be under some sort of international stewardship. Millions come from all parts of the world each year to see and touch their heritage. Surely this is one spot on the earth where differences of faith should be set aside for the further glory of all people, of all faiths.

The stakes are high; after all, if something so small cannot be accomplished by the people who are most affected by it, what hope is there really for Peace in the Mid-East in general? Maybe the Christians have it right; perhaps it all needs to be destroyed before we can ever really get along with one another.

Somehow I just can’t bring myself to give up hope that human beings will someday be able to respect one another and share the world. I’m just not holding my breath any longer.

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