JERUSALEM, THE HOLY CITY
Jerusalem has been a holy city for most of its existence as
related to the three major monotheistic religions worshipping the
same God-Jahwah, God, Allah.
When Abraham first entered Canaan, about 2000 BC, he sent
gifts to Jerusalem, to Melchizedek, a “priest of the most high
Jerusalem gained its importance in ancient times because of
its location at the crossroads of the main practicable east-west
passage in Canaan between the coast and the hinterland, and
the north-south road running along the ridge in the center of
The earliest archealogical remains are dated about 2600 BC
from the Early Bronze Age. By 1400 BC a well-defined city had
formed, the Jerusalem of the Jebusites which successfully resist-
ed the Israelites under Joshua. That the Egyptians were masters
of Jerusalem in 1370 BC is recorded by the Amarra letters from
Abdu Kheba asking his Egyptian overlord for help against the
incursions of the Habiru (Hebrews).
Jerusalem fell to David c. 1000 BC. His son Solomon built
his Temple sometime around 950 BC on the threshing floor of
Ornan the Jebusite on Mt. Zion (Mt. Moriah), but only location
of subsequent Temples provides evidence as to its locus.
In II Chronicles 3:1 it states “Then Solomon began to build
the house of the Lord at Jerusalem in Mount Moriah, where the
Lord appeared unto David his father, in the place that David had
prepared in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite.”
The Ark of the Covenant containing the tablets of the 10
Commandments from Moses was placed in its Holy of Holies.
Nebuchadrezzar II of Babylon captured and destroyed all of
Jerusalem in 587 BC, at which time the Ark of the Covenant and
its tablets disappeared. Sixty years later some exiles returned
to build the postexilic Temple, or the Second Temple.
Herod the Great built the great stone-walled platform and
rebuilt the Second Temple in 20 BC.
This is the Temple which Jesus visited, and in which He
taught. It was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, although there
is a belief that a remnant of the western wall of its platform by
Herod remains, which has become an object of piety to Jews
beginning in the 19th century, and is known as the Wailing Wall.
Apparently with the complete destruction of the city by the
Romans in 70 AD the Temple platform survived, but was
ignored during the first Christian period of Jerusalem from 350
AD to the Arab conquest in 614 AD; and was in reality used as
the city dump.
In fact the Romans under Hadrian established an entire new
city, Aelia Capitolina in 135 AD over the ruins of Jerusalem, and
built a Temple to Jupiter on the Temple platform.
Omar I captured Jerusalem in 638 AD, and appropriated the
ruined site of the Jewish Temple to built a mosque, calling the
whole walled area over “The Noble Sanctury,” or al Haram ash-
Sharif. In the Koran this area is called “the Remote Place of
Adoration” (al Mesjid al-Aqsa). By 700 AD the Aqsa Mosque and
the shrine, the Dome of the Rock, had been built, the latter over
an outcropping of black basalt-like stone about 30 feet in diame-
ter, quite distinctive as compared to the yellow limestone
common around Jerusalem.
During the Christian era, Jews reportedly built a great
altar on this rock, and used to visit it annually.
The second Christian period began with the crusaders victor-
ious attack of 1099 AD. Saladin reconquered the city 88 years
later, but lost it after 42 years to the crusaders who then
massacred the Muslim and Jewish defenders. They turned the
Dome of the Rock into their “Templeum Domini” and the al-Aqsa
Mosque became the headquarters of the Templar Knights,
using its basement as stables, which they called “the Stables of
Solomon,” as that cavernous area is still called today. The
crusaders lost Jerusalem to the Moslem for good in 1244 AD.
By 1552 AD the population had declined to a point where it
did not fill the dwellings within the “old city” walls.
The siting of the Wailing Wall is because it is thought that
this portion of Herod’s Temple wall is most closely adjacent to
the site where the Holy of Holies once stood. If so, this would
remove a possible Moslem-Jewish conflict over the existing
Dome of the Rock shrine.
This shrine was conceived by the caliph Abd-al-Malik in
response to the caliph at Mecca who was seizing pilgrims and
forcing their allegiance. Malik thus substituted the rock of
Jerusalem for the rock at Mecca, saying “This rock of which it is
reported that upon it the apostle of Allah set his foot when he
ascended into heaven shall be unto you in the place of the
The rock under the Dome of the Rock is considered the
“navel” of the world by Moslems.
A late motion connects the Haram area with the story in the
Koran of Mohammed’s celestial journey on the horse named
Buraq, and Moslems call the Wailing Wall the Buraq ash-Sharif.