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The Land of God, Israel

AsianInfo's recent trip to Israel was very exciting, but it was also a very difficult time for Israelis and Palestinians.  They had been in the middle of a war for several weeks.  The war started because of unceasing rocket fire from Gaza into Israel over the past year.  The rocket attacks seriously damaged several Israeli villages and undermined Israelís territories.

Israel started with air attacks but the situation quickly escalated into a full scale ground invasion into Gaza.  Deep seeded issues brought on this war, not just territorial issues.  The conflict goes back in their history throughout many generations.

It all started with Abraham, their patriarch.  You may have heard about the story of Isaac and Ishmael.  According to the Bible, Abraham took Isaac to Mount Moriah to try and sacrifice him to God.  God stopped him and provided a lamb for sacrifice instead and instead promised Abraham that he would bless him and make him a great nation.

Muslims donít believe that it was Isaac who was taken Mount Moriah.  They believe it was Ishmael.  Thatís why the Temple Mount is so important to Muslims, Jews and Christians.  Because on Mount Moriah (the Temple Mount), the promise of being blessed was given to the Jews and Arabs.

The location, they believe, of Abrahamís sacrifice, is the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.  It is arguably the most famous, and important building, in the world.  Underneath its golden dome is a huge slab of rock.   This is the most holy site for the Jews and Muslims.  For Jews it's the same location of the first and second Jewish temple. For Muslims, it's also where they believe Mohammed ascended into heaven.

According to the Bible, the first temple was built by King Solomon and destroyed by the Babylonians.  It was then rebuilt under King Zerubbabel and Nehemiah and expanded by King Herod.  The second temple was also destroyed, this time by the Romans.  Many Christians believe the second destruction was prophesied by Yeshua (Jesus) in the Bible.

After the Roman Empire converted to Christianity, this area was barren for many, many years to prove the Messiah's prediction was right (that the Temple would be destroyed).  Nothing was built there until the area was controlled by Islam.  Abd al- Malik started building the Dome of the Rock around 685-688 A.D. and finished it in 691 A.D.  Another reason this area is important to Muslims is because they believe Muhammed,  the founder of Islam, ascended into heaven there.  They call this place Haram al Sharif which means "noble shrine."

It doesn't matter which of the three major religions you belong to - Judaism, Islam and Christianity - this is a central location for your faith. 

This location is the center of Jerusalem and the capital of Israel. Jerusalem is also the capital for the prophesy for the world. 

Reasons Why Jerusalem Matters

  1. God began the creation of the Universe there, according to Jewish beliefs.  (Foundation stone: Mount Moriah)

  2. Jews believe God created Adam there, using dust from Mount Moriah.

  3. Another Jewish tradition is that Adam first offered sacrifice on Mount Moriah as did his sons Cain and Abel.

  4. Bible fact: Abraham met Malkhi-tzedek (Melchisedec) in Jerusalem.

  5. Abraham went to sacrifice his son, Isaac there.

  6. King David made Jerusalem the capital of Israel.

  7. Solomon's temple was built in Jerusalem.

  8. The temple was rebuilt (second temple).

  9. Yeshua (Jesus) was crucified and resurrected there.

  10. The first Christian church was established in Jerusalem.

  11. The Messiah will return to Jerusalem.  This belief is held by Christians, Jews and Muslims.

What Does Jerusalem Mean?

Many scholars puzzle over this questions.  Some say simply, "We don't know."  Others believe it means harmony.  Harmony that shows the perfection of God.  There are others that believe it has two parts.  One is "Jeru" and one is "salem".  The Hebrew word for Jeru means to teach, while the Hebrew word salem means peace.  So, it means to teach peace from this city.  All of the theories are debated by scholars.

 

Right south of Dome of the Rock is called Holy Mosque of El-Aqsa.

This location is where Muhammed prayed towards Mecca.  It's a holy site for Muslims. And right under west side is located the Western Wall, also called the Wailing Wall.  This is the most holy site for Judaism.  The reason for this location to be holy for Jews is because it's the closest place to the Dome of the Rock, Temple Mount that they can pray freely.  The western wall is the only wall remaining from the second temple era.

Because Jewish people aren't allowed on the Temple Mount, they pray at the Wailing Wall.  Every day, hundreds or even thousands of worshippers come here to pray for the peace of Jerusalem or to worship God.

The wailing wall is divided into two sections.  One section is for the man the other section is for the woman.  Non-Jewish people can go there but the men have to wear a kippa (skull cap).  This area is heavily controlled by Orthodox Jews.  They have Yeshiva schools there for teaching Orthodox Judaism.

Jerusalem is divided by the Old City and the New City.  The Old City is surrounded by walls.  The Old City is mostly religious tourism.  The New City is new development on the west side of Jerusalem.  It has government building and shopping. 

The Old City

The Old City is surrounded by a wall and has the Temple Mount.  It has Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Armenian quarters.  They live in relative harmony with each other. 

The main gate is Jaffa Gate.  Here is found the Tower of David Museum of History of Jerusalem.  It is a citadel that was a fortress for many years.  Some believe that here is where King Herod's palace was located.

The old city is surround by many gates.  The North side has the New Gate, Damascus Gate and Herod's Gate.  The East side there is Lion's Gate and Golden Gate.  The Golden Gate is very important for religious figures in Islam and Christianity.  They both believe that at the second coming of the Messiah, Jesus/Yeshua will arrive through this gate.  But there are some differences in their beliefs.  Currently, this gate is completely sealed.  The South side has Dung Gate and Zion Gate.  The Zion Gate, during the 6-year war, is where the Israeli army entered the Old City and recaptured it.  Because of that, it is heavily damaged with bullet holes.

The Muslim Quarter is mostly in the middle and north of the Old City.  The Christian Quarter is mostly the west side, in which the Most Holy Sepulcher and the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate are located.  Many Catholics and Greek Orthodox believe that this was where Jesus was crucified and his tomb is located.  Thus also, the place of His resurrection.  But, many other scholars believe the location of the crucifixion is questionable.  They believe it's possible he was buried right outside the Damascus Gate area.  Because that's where they usually throw dead bodies at that time.  The Via Dolorosa goes from the Temple Mount to the Holy Sepulcher and many believe this is the path Christ took when he walked to His crucifixion.

Every Friday, there is a re-enactment on the Via Dolorosa of Christ's path.  Also, mainly in Messianic Judaism, a few believe the crucifixion may have happened on Wednesday night (the beginning of Thursday).   To fulfill the scriptural prophecy that he would be raised after three days and three nights, much like Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights, they believe he was resurrected on Sunday.

The Southwestern Quarter of the Old City is the Armenian Quarter.  There used to be many thousands that lived here, but the numbers are thought to have decreased to under a thousand.  Much of the Quarter is closed to foreigners, unless they have a tour arranged in advance.

The Jewish Quarter is on the south side of the city and thousands of families live there.  Their community was rebuilt after reunification of Jerusalem in the 1967 6-Day War.  This area is the most modern and nice part of the Old City.  Many synagogues are located here.

The Mount of Olives, West Bank

The Mount of Olives (Har Ha-zetim) is located east of the Temple Mount (Har haBŠyit).  This is another very important location for Christians.  It is where Yeshua/Jesus is said to have entered the city while riding a donkey.  He was captured as a result of Judas' betrayal in this area as well.

Also, he got descended to heaven and promised to come back to the Mount of Olives again.  This location is a very desired place for Jews and a very expensive place to be buried.  Many Jews who die overseas, away from Israel, want to be buried here.

There are a couple of famous areas in this location: the tomb of Mary and the Church of the Garden of Gethsemane and Mary Magdalene. 

The valley between the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives is called Kidron Valley (Qidron Valley).  Many people are buried in this valley.  Some religious people believe this valley is the Valley of Death and underneath it is hell.  It is believed, in the last days this valley will open up and swallow all the unrighteous people.  All the righteous people will pass through from the Mount of Olives to the Temple Mount without falling in it.  This cannot be proved, but what is true is that many, many people died in this valley during wars. 

Jehosaphat's tombs and the Pillar of Absalom and Zechariah's Tomb are also located there.  Many archeological excavations are going on right now.  Each time they dig, new discoveries are made that prove the amazing accuracy of the Bible.

Sea of Galilee

Located in the northern part of Israel is the Sea of Galilee.  It's a freshwater lake, unlike the Dead Sea which is a salt water lake.  The Sea of Galilee feeds the Dead Sea through the Jordan river.  Geologists believe this area used to be ocean, but got closed off by earth movement.  It is believed the Sea of Galilee and the Dead sea were connected as part of the same ocean.

The Sea of Galilee is a major freshwater fishing industry.  The Hebrew name for the Sea of Galilee is Yam Kinneret which means in the shape of a harp.  So, in a manner of speaking, it's the Sea of Harp.

Historically, this is where Yeshua (Jesus) started his ministry and gathered his disciples.  These disciples were mostly fishermen from the Sea of Galilee.  Two famous Biblical cities are Capernaum and Bethsaida.  Capernaum has the remains of a huge Jewish synagogue, where, it is believed, Yeshua (Jesus) taught.  Bethsaida is where Yeshua (Jesus) healed the blind man and fed more than 5,000 with 5 loaves of bread and two fish.

The Sea of Galilee area is surrounded by small open hills, not blanketed with trees.  It is believed that the Sermon on the Mount, in the book of Matthew (in the Bible), took place in the northern part of the Sea of Galilee.

The west of Galilee is a city called Nazareth.  This city is where Yeshua (Jesus) spent most of his youth.  It used to be very small at the time of Christ, possibly only twenty or so houses.   Because it was an insignificant town at the time, the Pharisees questioned, "What good can come out of Nazareth?" But now, it's a large major city in Israel.  Nazareth is located on a hillside.  From the west side of Nazareth is a plain with a hill called Megiddo.  It is believed by many religions that the final battle of Good and Evil will take place there.  Any time Israel was invaded by foreign powers such as the Assyrians and Romans, they all passed through this area on their way to Jerusalem or on their way to southern Israel and Egypt.

 


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