Dome of the Rock

Dome of the Rock

Israel Jerusalem Al Aqsa Mosque
Dome of the Rock Jerusalem

Dome of the Rock - Jerusalem

Dome of the Rock isn't a mosque but a large octagonal building with a dome built over a rock. Why was the Dome of the Rock built on the Temple Mount, the plateau of Jerusalem where the Jewish temple once stood?

The official reason given by the Muslims is that the Dome of the Rock was built to commemorate Mohammed flying on a winged horse named Buraq from Mecca to Al Aqsa Mosque. But horses find flying difficult and Mohammed died before Al Aqsa Mosque was built (for the details, see Al Aqsa Mosque).

The real reason is that after conquering Jerusalem, Israel, the ninth Islamic Caliph, Abd al-Malik built the Dome of the Rock to commemorate his conquest of the capital of Judaism. That is why the Dome of the Rock was built on the spot of the Temple Mount where the Jewish temple of Jerusalem once stood.

For the next 1,300 years, the Dome of the Rock served as a flag of victory for whoever conquered Jerusalem. When the Crusaders captured Jerusalem in 1099, they turned the Dome of the Rock into a Catholic church. When Saladin recaptured Jerusalem in 1187, he turned it back into a Muslim shrine.

When the Israeli army captured the Temple Mount, including Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque, during the Six Day War in 1967, the Israeli government declared sovereignty over it but then handed its management over to a Muslim trust, "in order to keep peace." Today, the Temple Mount is officially managed by the religious ministry of Jordan, Israel's Muslim neighbor.

Rabbis in Jerusalem forbid their flocks from walking on the Temple Mount lest they inadvertently tread on the former site of the "Holiest of All," the most holy place in the Jewish temple, the entry into which was prohibited for all except the High Priest, in case the current assessment of its location is off. They remain troubled - some indignant - that their government allows a Muslim shrine to sit atop the site of their temple, including the Holiest of All.*

The Dome of the Rock is built from wood but its exterior facade is porcelain, which simply sits on an octagonal marble base. Its "golden" dome was covered with lead until 1963, and then with gold-colored aluminum. For all the oil riches in the Muslim world and despite its unanimous expressions of reverence for the Dome of the Rock, Muslims' repeated calls for their leaders to cover the golden dome actually with gold went unheeded until 1993, when the former king of Jordan sold one of his mansions in London and used the proceeds to buy the needed 180 pounds of gold.

* The "Holiest of All," also called, "the Most Holy Place," covered 100 square yards ("And he made the Most Holy Place. Its length was according to the width of the house, twenty cubits, and its width twenty cubits..." (2 Chronicles 3:8). One cubit equals 18 inches, so 20 x 20 cubits equal 10 x 10 yards) and was situated west of the geographic center of the Temple Mount. The octagonal Dome of the Rock is also situated west of the geographic center of the Temple Mount but covers almost 2,000 square yards (20 yards per side of the octagon). This means that the Dome of the Rock, which is almost 20 times larger, almost certainly covers at least a part of the former site of the Jewish temple's Holiest of All, entering which was a very serious matter even for the High Priest, unless the High Priest was very special:

"For a tabernacle was prepared: the first part, in which was the lampstand, the table, and the showbread, which is called the sanctuary; and behind the second veil, the part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All, which had the golden censer and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which were the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant; and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail. Now when these things had been thus prepared, the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services. But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance; the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing. It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience - concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation. But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance." (Hebrews 9:2-15)

Travel Tip
As in any foreign land, greeting the locals in their language shows respect for their culture and wins friends, or at least answers to your questions about directions. To greet a Jew say, "Shalom," which means "Peace." The greeting for an Arab is a bit longer: "Salaam Wa Ah-lay-koom," which means "Peace be with you." The Arab will reply, "Wa Ah-lay-koom salaam," which means, "Peace be with you too," while the Jew will simply reply, "Shalom."

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