No matter how long I have lived in Israel, the holy city of Jerusalem never ceases to amaze me. If ever there will be in peace, it must emanate from this corner of the world.
Three of the world’s major religions — the monotheist traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — were all born in the Middle East and are all inextricably linked to one another. Christianity was born from within the Jewish tradition, and Islam developed from both Christianity and Judaism. While there are many differences among these religions, there has been a rich cultural interchange between Jews, Christians, and Muslims in the Middle East throughout the centuries.
Holy to all three religions, the city of Jerusalem is a thriving center rich in history, religion and culture. Woven within the tapestry of cultures is the continuous thread of belief in one God and the reverence of Jerusalem as “the place where heaven and earth meet.” It is no wonder Jerusalem is considered the ultimate pilgrimage for followers of all three monotheistic faiths.
The Old City of Jerusalem is the historic heart of Jerusalem. Over 300 synagogues, churches, mosques, and other religious monuments reveal the plurality of Jerusalem’s holy existence and reflect the significance of the city for all three faiths. Three existing monuments in particular-the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and the Dome of the Rock-stand as symbols of Jerusalem’s historical significance and development.
The Western Wall is considered the holiest Jewish site because of its proximity to the destroyed ancient First and Second Temples. The Temple built by Solomon, which was rebuilt and restored throughout the centuries before its final destruction, gave pilgrims and worshippers an experience of God The Old City of Jerusalem is the historic heart of Jerusalem. Over 300 synagogues, churches, which the Jews honor today at the surviving Western Wall, a resilient symbol of Jerusalem’s centrality to Jewish belief and ritual.
Jerusalem also holds one of Christianity’s most venerated spaces of worship-the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which Christians believe occupies the site of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. The structure of the church today closely resembles the building magnificently restored by Crusaders, who conquered Jerusalem in 1099.
The skyline of the Old City is dominated by a Muslim shrine, the Dome of the Rock. Built between 685 and 691 C.E., this shrine is the first piece of Islamic architecture sponsored by a Muslim ruler that was created as a work of art. Built to transcend its function by the quality of its forms and expression, the Dome is still standing in much of its original shape and with a good portion of its original decoration. Jerusalem is revered by Muslims as the third holiest place in the world.