What makes Jerusalem so special across major spiritual faiths?


IN the last fortnight, those who followed global news on major TV networks were certainly alarmed by the bloodshed in Jerusalem, which is globally revered by the three major spiritual faiths in the world today– Christianity, Islam and Judaism- as a “holy” place.

Intermittently, there were outbursts of deadly violence that had spread around Al Aqsa mosque, as Israeli forces attacked worshipers around the area, literally occupying the mosque and the worshipers, majority of whom Palestinians chose to pray en masse in the streets close to the mosque as a way of protest.

Those who watched the scenes on television, regardless of their spiritual faiths, were certainly moved by the violence around the mosque, considered one of the holiest by Muslims.

It was only after Israel removed the metal detectors from the mosque that throngs of Muslims resumed praying at the Al Aqsa mosque in the intervening week.

That mosque, located in East Jerusalem was once under Jordanian administration before the 1967 Middle East war, which saw Israel, annex the area in a move that was never internationally recognized.

Under a delicate arrangement that has governed the area for decades, Jordan is supposed to exercise a custodian role for the area, as reaffirmed in a peace treaty between the two countries, Israel and Jordan signed in 1994.

But in practice, the Kingdom of Jordan is nowhere around- as the state of Israel is in charge, to the chagrin of Palestinians who consider East Jerusalem, the capital of their future independent state alongside Israel.

Now what has prompted this perspective on my part is not exactly the bloodshed that has been around the mosque considered by Muslims allover the world as a holy one, but what this ancient city revered by the world’s major religions represents and the need for the state of Israel in charge in the area to exercise maximum responsibility.

That responsibility should certainly start with respecting and protecting worshipers from the same area and those from the international community outside Israel’s borders.

For, one is certainly sure how much a Christian anywhere would long for a visit to Jerusalem to be at the spot where Jesus Christ was crucified and later resurrected and for a Muslim to pray at Al Aqsa where Prophet Muhammad led a prayer with fellow prophets-and not far away- the Dome of the Rock, from where the Prophet ascended to Heaven.

Now follow me in reading a report by BBC’s Erica Chernosky in a recent article as reproduced On Line: Jerusalem–its name resonates on the heart of Christians, Jews and Muslims and echoes through centuries of shared history.

Known in Hebrew as Yerushalayim and in Arabic as Al-Quds, Jerusalem is one of the best-known cities in the world. It has been conquered, destroyed and rebuilt time and again.

While it has often been the focus of stories and division and conflict among people from different religions, but these people are united in their reverence for this holy ground: Jerusalem.

At its core is the Old City, a maze of narrow alleyways and historic architecture which characterizes its four quarters–Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Armenian.

It is grounded by a fortress-like stonewall and home to some of holiest sites in the world. Each quarter represents its own population. The Christians have two, because Armenians are also Christians - and their quarter- the smallest of the four is one of the oldest Armenian centers in the world.

The Christian Church in Jerusalem: Inside a Christian Quarter is the Church of Holy Sepulcher, visited by a significant number of Christians allover the world. It is located on a site, which is central to the place of crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.

According to most Christian traditions, Jesus was crucified and resurrected. Representatives of different Christian denominations manage the church jointly. It is one of the main pilgrimage destinations for millions of Christians worldwide.

The Mosque–Al-Aqsa: There is also a Muslim quarter in the compound. The Muslim Quarter is largest of the four and contains the Al-Aqsa Mosque on a plateau known to Muslims as Haram Al-Shariff Sanctuary.

The mosque is the third holiest site in Islam and is under an administration called “The Waqf”. Muslims believe Prophet Muhammad traveled from Mecca to this place and led a prayer with all past prophets.

A few steps from here, the Dome of the Rock is located where Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven, according to the Islam faith. Muslims visit this site all the year round and every Friday during the holy month of Ramadan-hundreds of thousands of Muslims come to pray at this mosque.

The Jewish Wall: The Jewish Holy temple known as the Jewish Quarter or the Western Wall is also located around this place. Inside this temple is the ‘Holy of the Holies’ – the most sacred site in Judaism.

Jews believe that this was the location of the foundation stone upon which it was incepted and where Abraham (Ibrahim) prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac (Ismail) The Rabbi of the Western Wall manages it and every year hosts millions of Jewish people from allover the world that comes here to worship.

End Excerpt. Now this report as quoted above from a British colleague contains facts that underpin the fraternity of humanity in spiritual beliefs. It is a message to the state of Israel to shoulder its immense responsibilities to ensure peaceful co-existence and not bloodbath.

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