While the Romans were busy in Jerusalem, an Arabian shepard was preaching a new religion based on Christian and Jewish traditions. His name was Mohammed. It is said that Mohammad flew on the back of a flying centaur named Al-Burma from Mecca to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and from there ascended to heaven.
After the prophet’s death his followers set out and conquered areas that included India and Spain and in their net was also Jerusalem. After conquest, the Muslim caliphs erected the Dome of the Rock on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.
During the succeeding years of Muslim control, caliphs decreed that all Christian churches be destroyed and followers of the Christian and Jewish faiths were persecuted. Christian Europe then sent out the Crusaders to regain control of the Holy city of Jerusalem. By 1099 they succeeded, but killed nearly all of its Jewish and Muslim citizens. The Christian kingdom of Jerusalem was established, Muslim holy sites were adapted for Christian purposes and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was rebuilt
Jerusalem continued to suffer turmoil through successive invasions by the Mamluks and Ottoman Turks, The Turks, being more tolerant rulers, allowed Christian and Jewish religions to be practiced. They ruled for almost 400 years until World War I when the British came in and took over what was now called Palestine.
The British promised Jerusalem and Palestine to both the Jews and the Muslims living in the area, causing rising hostilities and when British rule ended in 1948, a war began and eventually Jerusalem was split into two sections. The eastern section was called the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the western half was the capital of the Jewish state of Israel. In 1967 Israel began the Six Day War against Egypt, Syria and Jordan and Israel gained control of the Golan Heights, the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank and all of Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is still divided into areas to reflect the Muslim, Christian and Jewish inhabitants:
CHRISTIAN QUARTER – As discussed in last week’s post, inside the Christian Quarter is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built where it is believed to be the site of Jesus’ death, crucifixion, burial and resurrection.
ARMENIAN QUARTER – The Armenians, while following the Christian faith, have an area that reflect their churches and historical monuments and is considered to be the oldest Armenian center in the world.
MUSLIM QUARTER – The Muslim Quarter is the largest of the four and contains the shrine of the Dome of Rock where Muslims believe the prophet Mohammad ascended to heaven and the Qibly/al-Aqsa Mosque, which is considered the third holiest site in Islam. Muslims believe that the Mohammad traveled here from Mecca to pray.
JEWISH QUARTER – In this quarter is a large remnant of the retaining wall of the mount on which the Jewish First Temple once stood. Part of the holy significance of the temple is that is was the home of Holy of Holies, the most sacred site in Judaism. The Holy of Holies was the inner sanctum of the temple which contained the Ark of the Covenant.
Today, this wall is known as the Western Wall and the closest place Jews can pray to the Holy of Holies. It is also known as The Wailing Wall. I will explain why in the next post.