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Two Symbols: Dome of the Rock, the Menorah

When people see the skyline of Jerusalem, what stands out is a gold dome among the cream-colored buildings and walls. (By the way, that dome today is covered by 24-carat gold donated by Saudi Arabia.) Why is it so important? And why is it holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims? 

The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem is a holy site for both Jews and Muslims.
The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem is a holy site for both Jews and Muslims.

First, the dome is not important but the huge rock beneath it is. Jews believe this rock is where God created the world. Secondly, it is the place Abraham took Isaac and almost sacrificed him until the angel told him to stop. Thirdly, because of these two reasons, Solomon built the first temple on this site, which thereafter was named the Temple Mount. The temple was considered the place where God dwelt, in the Holy of Holies. Jews pray at the Western Wall of this Temple Mount, their holiest site today. 

Christians believe that Jesus was crucified near this rock. Muslims believe that Mohammed was carried to this rock by an angel and was then taken up into heaven for a mystical meeting with God and the prophets and to receive some of the Qur’an. That’s why the Muslims build the dome over it when they came to power. 

The menorah is the holiest symbol in Judaism.
The menorah is the holiest symbol in Judaism.

The holiest symbol in Judaism is the menorah. Why? Because it is light, and the first thing God created was light. Second, the number 7 is sacred in Judaism, and there are seven branches. The menorah is covered with vines and botanical symbols for life. It looks like a tree with seven branches and reminds us of the Garden of Eden.

A large solid gold menorah was in the temple, and when the Romans destroyed the temple in A.D. 70, they melted down the gold to pay for Nero’s rebuilding of Rome. On the Arch of Triumph in Rome, we can see clearly a menorah being carried off and we can read the inscription “Jews defeated.”

When we were in Capernaum in the Galilee area, we saw a Greek style capital of a pillar. On it was carved a menorah, which showed that the pillar had been in a synagogue.

A couple facts about religion in the State of Israel: All religions are free and protected by the government. The state built a mosque for Muslims who have come from Africa because they must be allowed to worship and could not afford to build a mosque for themselves. All marriages performed here must be religious. Each religion has a court for the ceremony. The state does not recognize secular marriages or inter-faith marriages performed here, but will recognize them if performed elsewhere.  

Jerusalem closes down around noon on Fridays so people can go home and cook Shabbat dinner. Everything is closed Saturday until, in the summer, about 9 p.m. Then shops, restaurants and entertainment open until 1 to 2 a.m. People work and go to school from Sunday to Thursday.