This Sunday, I finally got to see a glimmering jewel of the Jerusalem skyline, the Dome of the Rock. As its hot as heck these days, I decided to get up and get after it nice and early. It was a treat to walk through the streets of the old city before the commercial stalls were open, when only the trash collectors and street cats were out and about. Once I got to the gate, I was confronted by the fact that I wasn’t the only one that woke up with the sun that morning, the line was at least 100 meters back.
Unsurprisingly it was well worth the wait. After being squished in the narrow streets of the old city, the complex of the Temple Mount is vast and open, and and the golden dome is in the middle of it all. Throughout the grounds there were various Islamic study groups set up on plastic chairs in the shade of buildings, or olive trees.
I was blown away by the structure. Beyond the glittering gold, the base is covered by intricate designs of colored tiles, worthy of striking awe into the even the least enthusiastic of viewers.
The serenity of the grounds did not last long. A group of young Jewish men decided to take a “tour” of the grounds. Lead by an IDF soldier, it could be said they were there to provoke. As they moved through the complex each study group started singing/chanting and increased in volume as the group moved by. A groundskeeper “accidentally” sprayed them with water as they walked by, causing the soldier escort to confront the man. As energetic words were exchanged, it was tempting to get closer and observe, but in this end of the world, arguments can quickly escalate, so I decided to find the furthest exit and hope things settle down. As I didn’t read anything in the news, things seemed to have leveled out.
This site is hotly contested amongst several religions. The current structure is a temple build in 688 CE but renovated several times, with the current gold top dating to the 1980’s, to house the rock that the Prophet Muhammad is said to have ascended to heaven. The Jewish and Christian religions lay significant claims to this area as well. The same rock is said to have been the site that Abraham started to sacrifice his son before being stopped by an angel. It is also the site of the first and second temples, and the most sacred site of the Jewish religion.