Nov 14

A Peace of the Rock

Activists intent on Third Temple

According to the Bible, or the Tanak, Solomon had the First Temple constructed sometime in the mid-900s BCE to serve as the center for the cultic (cult just means having a set of proscribed rituals and scripture in case you thought I meant something else) worship of the God of Abraham in Jerusalem. In some ways it was a stone version of the Tabernacle, the tent of meeting that served as the center of worship previously, although we honestly know very little about the specifics. This building lasted until 587 BCE when under the reign of Nebuchadnezzar the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem, destroying the Temple and the city, and carrying away its wealth.

Eventually the Babylonians were defeated by the Persians, who saw the support of local shrines as a valuable way to buy the loyalty of subjugated people. Again according to the Bible, funds were provided from the Persian government for the resettlement of Jerusalem and the reconstruction of the Temple. After some hardships the temple was completed around the year 515 BCE. Between being a Persian state, a Greek conquest, the prize over which two Greek successor state fought, a brief foray into independence, and a subsequent conquest by Rome this Second Temple went through major changes and renovations, leading to the final expansion and revitalization ordered by Herod the Great but not completed until long after his death.

That final and likely most glorious stage of the Temple was not long lasting, however, for the Roman's destroyed it in 70 CE (Current Era, same as AD but without the Christian "Year of Our Lord.") The city itself was not razed until about 135 CE and it may be that the sacrificial system continued in part on the Temple grounds until then. No access to the Temple Grounds means no sacrificial system as mandated by the Torah.

Following the Muslim Siege of Jerusalem in 637 CE, Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik ordered the construction of a mosque on the site in around 690 CE. The place came to be known as the Dome of the Rock and is one of the oldest extant examples of classic Islamic architecture. The building takes its name from a large stone said to be the place where some Muslim scholars say that Mohammad ascended into Heaven. Jews, on the other hand, regard the stone as the site of the Holy of Holies and the place where Abraham lay Issac as an offering to God. For them it is the holiest spot on Earth, and the reason so many gather at the last remains of the Second Temple, the so-called Wailing Wall, to pray near it.

Thus we lay the historic background for the article linked above. Matters are further complicated by certain sects of Evangelical Christianity who believe that the building of a Third Temple will be one of the signs of Christ's immanent Second Coming. As the news story alludes, some of these groups are eager to hasten that event.

These recent tragic events are only a mere hint as to what would happen should any serious attempt be made to destroy or remove the Dome. While in a sane and rational world a means could be worked out for all concerned parties to share access for the sake of peace, we do not live in one. I do not think it overly apocalyptic, in the modern sense, to suggest that violent clashes over the area could lead to a world war or at least an escalation in violence in an area known for such to points as yet undreamed.

All because of Peace.