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.
Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem
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.
- Al-Aqsa Mosque, 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".
Western Wall also known as the WAILING WALL, in the Old City of Jerusalem, is
a place of prayer and pilgrimage sacred to the Jewish people. It is the only remains
of the Second Temple of Jerusalem destroyed by the Romans, under Titus in AD 70,
which are held uniquely holy by the ancient Jews. The authenticity of the Western
Wall has been confirmed by tradition, history, and archaeological research; the
wall dates from about the 2nd century BC, though its upper sections were added
at a later date. Because the wall now forms part of a larger wall that surrounds
the Muslim Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque, Jews and Arabs have long fought
over its control and for the right of access. As it is seen today, the Western
Wall measures about 160 feet (50 m) long and about 60 feet (20 m) high; the wall,
however, extends much deeper into the earth. Jewish devotions there date from
the early Byzantine period and reaffirm the rabbinic belief that "the divine
Presence never departs from the Western Wall." Jews lament the destruction
of the Temple and pray for its restoration. Such terms as Wailing Wall were coined
by European travellers who witnessed the mournful vigils of pious Jews before
the relic of the sacred Temple. Arab and Jewish sources both confirm that after
the Arab capture of Jerusalem in 638, Jews led the conquerors to the site of the
Holy Rock and Temple yard and helped clear away the debris. When the State of
Israel captured the Old City during the fighting of June 1967, the Jews once more
gained control over the historic site.
- The Western Wall, Jerusalem
Holy Sepulchre, marks the site where it is believed that Jesus' crucifixion and
also the tomb in which he was once buried lie. According to the Bible, the tomb
was close to the place of Crucifixion (John 19:41-42), and so the church was planned
to enclose the site of both cross and tomb. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre lies
in the northwest quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. Constantine the Great first
built a church on the site. It was dedicated about 336 AD, burned by the Persians
in 614, restored by Modestus (the abbot of the monastery of Theodosius, 616-626),
destroyed by the caliph al-Hakim Bi-Amr Allah about 1009, and restored by the
Byzantine emperor Constantine Monomachus. In the 12th century the crusaders carried
out a general rebuilding of the church. Since that time, frequent repair, restoration,
and remodelling have been necessary. The present church dates mainly from 1810.
This site has been continuously recognized since the 4th century as the place
where Jesus died, was buried, and rose from the dead. Whether it is the actual
place, however, has been hotly debated. It cannot be determined that Christians
during the first three centuries could or did preserve an authentic tradition
as to where these events occurred. Members of the Christian Church in Jerusalem
fled to Pella about AD 66, and Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70. Wars, destruction,
and confusion during the following centuries possibly prevented preservation of
exact information. Another question involves the course of the second north wall
of ancient Jerusalem. Some archaeological remains on the east and south sides
of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre are widely interpreted to mark the course
of the second wall. If so, the site of the church lay just outside the city wall
in the time of Jesus, and this could be the actual place of his Crucifixion and
burial. No rival site is supported by any real evidence. Various Christian groups,
including the Greek, Roman, Armenian, and Coptic churches, control parts of the
present church and conduct services regularly.
- The Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem
site of the Nativity of Jesus was identified by St. Justin Martyr, a 2nd-century
Christian apologist, as a manger in "a cave close to the village"; the
cave, now under the name of the Church of the Nativity in the heart of the town,
has been continuously venerated by Christians since then. St. Helena (c. 248-c.
328), mother of the first Christian Roman emperor (Constantine I), had a church
built over the cave; later destroyed, it was rebuilt in substantially its present
form by Emperor Justinian (reigned 527-565). The Church of the Nativity is thus
one of the oldest Christian churches extant. Frequent conflicts have arisen over
the jurisdiction of various faiths at the sacred site, often incited by outside
interests; thus, for example, the theft, in 1847, of the silver star marking the
exact traditional locus of the Nativity was an ostensible factor in the international
crisis over the Holy Places that ultimately led to the Crimean War (1854-56).
The church is now divided between the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Armenian
- The Church of Nativity, Bethlehem
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;