PALESTINE'S HOLY SITES
Palestine is home to many sites deemed sacred to the world's three great religions. Jerusalem alone, called by many the "holiest city in the world", is home to such structures as the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque, the Western Wall of the Temple Mount (holy to Jews) and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (holy to Christians). Both Palestinians and Israelis believe Jerusalem to be their own true capital from the beginning of time.
The plot of land on the elevated stone platform known as Haram Ash-Sharif on Temple Mount, upon which sits the Dome of the Rock, is particularly sacred. The site was consecrated by the Israelites of Exodus and later, according to Jewish tradition, Prophet Abraham (AS) prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac upon a rock that protruded from the centre of the platform. Later still, upon the same platform, Solomon erected his temple. For Christians, in addition to the Old Testament Jewish associations, the Temple Mount was revered because of its place in the life and ministries of Jesus Christ.
For Muslims, the rock was sanctified by the story of the Prophet Muhammad's Miraaj or Night Journey to Jerusalem and then, from the top of the rock, his ascension to Heaven. Jerusalem is also held sacred as it was the first qibla of Islam, with Muslims originally praying towards Jerusalem until revelation came to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) designating Makkah as the new qibla. It was also in Jerusalem, after the death of Caliph 'Ali (RA), husband of Fatimah (RA), and son-in-law of the Prophet (pbuh), that the Arab leaders met in 660 AD to elect as their king, Mu'awiyah, the founder of the dynasty of the Umayyads. The Arab chroniclers report that his first act upon becoming king was to go and pray at Golgotha and then at Gethsemane.
The Dome of the Rock was built in 687 AD by Caliph Abd al-Malik, half a century after the death of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Essentially unchanged for more than thirteen centuries, the Dome of the Rock remains one of the world's most beautiful and enduring architectural treasures and a symbol of the unity of the three Abrahamic religions: Jewish, Christian and Islamic. The building encloses a huge rock located at its centre, from which, the Prophet (pbuh) ascended to heaven at the end of his Night Journey and from whence the Caliph Umar (RA) is said to have cleared the waste which had accumulated on the rock during the Byzantine period. In the Jewish tradition this is the Foundation Stone, the symbolic foundation upon which the world was created, and the place of the Binding of Isaac.
Because of it's religious significance, Jerusalem became known as Al-Quds, The Holy. Many of the Prophet's Companions travelled to worship at the blessed spot to which the Propet Muhammad (pbuh) was brought by night and from which he ascended through the heavens to his Lord. According to the authenticated tradition of the Prophet (pbuh), travel for the sake of worship is undertaken to only three mosques; the Sacred Mosque in Makkah, the Prophet's Mosque in Madinah, and the furthest Mosque in Jerusalem.
completion of the Dome of the Rock, construction began at the site of the original
timber mosque built in the time of 'Umar (RA). A vast congregational mosque
rose up, accommodating more than five thousand worshippers. Originally commissioned
by 'Abdul Malik ibn Marwan, it was apparently completed by his son Al-Walid
in 705 AD. The building became known as Masjid al-Aqsa, Al-Aqsa Mosque, although
in reality the whole area of the Noble Sanctuary is considered Al-Aqsa Mosque;
the entire precinct is inviolable according to Islamic law. Every Friday prayer,
the Al-Aqsa Mosque building overflows, with thousands of worshippers who must
make their prayers outside in the courtyards of the vast open expanse of the
Noble Sanctuary. While the Dome of the Rock was constructed as a mosque to commemorate
the Prophet's Night Journey, the building known as Al-Aqsa Mosque became a centre
of worship and learning, with study circles for all the religious sciences,
and from all schools of thought, attracting great teachers from all over the
world. It was here that Imam al-Ghazali arrived for a period of retreat in the
Sanctuary, near the end of the 11th century CE, and commenced work on his magnum
opus, the "Revival of the Religious Sciences".
of Rachel, Bethlehem
This small building, located on the outskirts of Bethlehem marks the traditional Tomb of Rachel, Jacob's wife. It is considered holy to Christians, Muslims, and Jews. The present sanctuary and mosque were built during the Ottoman period and are situated on the Jerusalem- Hebron Road near Bethlehem's northern entrance.
(Sources: (http://www.noblesanctuary.com; http://www.yale.edu/accords/jerusalem.html; http://members.tripod.com/~khaleelee/holysite.html#CJ)