Is there a place for God’s Holy Mountain in Jerusalem?
Asher Frohlich’s painting of “God’s Holy Mountain” (at right) depicts a scene from an imagined future Jerusalem where Islam’s Dome of the Rock stands beside a rebuilt Jewish temple and worshipers of different faiths mingle in the courtyard.
Is this scene too good to come true?
The problem today, in the simplest of terms, stems from the fact that one spot in the heart of the old city of Jerusalem, is sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. Jews know it as the Temple Mount and Muslims call it al-Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary). For more about the religious history of the complex, click here.
Today, a gilded dome stands above a rock where Muslims believe Mohammad rose to heaven. It is the same spot where a sanctuary known as the ‘holy of holies’ of two ancient Jewish temples is believed to have been located. Many Jews still pray for the temple to be rebuilt, a step some believe would then herald the return of the Messiah and a time of world peace.
A project launched this week hopes to pave the way, through theological research and debate, to a new outlook that would allow all religions to share the complex. Part of this “vision” is explained in depth in an entry on the Washington Post Web site.
The group says the initiative is “based on five years of research into the requirements for the precise location of a rebuilt Temple”. Its web site quotes a passage from Jewish law, called Halacha, to argue that a new, nearby location could be chosen to build a third temple, not in the spot traditionally regarded as the correct site but has been occupied by the Dome of the Rock since the 7th century:
“Halachically, it is possible to extend the area of the Temple Mount as noted in the Mishnah (Sanhedrin 1:5, Shevu’ot 2:2),” the passage said. “A possible way of expanding the Temple Mount could be to build an earthen extension in a way that it becomes an integral part of the original mountain (Mount Moriah) and to sanctify that area per the methods described in Maimonides.”
Even if all three monotheistic religions re-examine their theological connections to the site, is it enough to lead to a remapping of the holy complex? Or, as even the project’s director Yoav Frankel acknowledges, would it take “a holy revelation given to an authentic prophet” to realize this vision?