Friday, May 25, 2007

Dome of the Rock


My last day in Jerusalem, I visited the Dome of the Rock, the city's holiest Muslim site built in the 7th century. It is here, according to Muslims, that Mohammed ascended to heaven. The site is a cause of tensions: the Dome and another nearby Mosque are built upon the Temple Mount – the base on which the sacred Jewish temples were built in pre-Christian times. It is at the mount’s Western Wall that Jews today come to pray.

The Dome of the Rock is also Jerusalem’s most recognizable icon; from rooftops and surrounding hills, its golden dome gleams day and night, first in sun and later in man-made light.

Security is tight around the entire area. Visitors pass through airport-like metal detectors, and armed soldiers patrol the area. On Mondays and Thursdays, boys that have just been bar mitzvahed come for their first Torah reading, and the place brims with families and festivities.

From atop the mount comes a strange cacophony: the muezzin’s call to pray for Muslims, the blowing of traditional sheep's horns, or shofars, from the bar mitzvahs below. The political cacophony is even more confounding. Few here believe true peace will ever come, but many hope for truce at least.

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