Saturday, August 21, 2010
I have been thinking about Jerusalem that most holy city and what it means to all the major religions of the earth.
Here is a short description that I found on the net. The word Jerusalem means city of peace but the paradox is they have very little peace in that area.
Jerusalem, by virtue of the number and diversity of people who have held it sacred, may be considered the most holy city in the world. To the Jewish people it is Ir Ha-Kodesh (the Holy City), the Biblical Zion, the City of David, the site of Solomon's Temple, and the eternal capital of the Israelite nation. To Christians it is where the young Jesus impressed the sages at the Jewish Temple, where he spent the last days of his ministry, and where the Last Supper, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection took place. Also greatly venerated by the Muslims, it is where the prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven. While highly charged with intense religious devotion and visited by countless pilgrims and sages, Jerusalem has also been ravaged by thirty centuries of warfare and strife. It is a place of beauty and divinity, mystery and paradox; a sacred site which no modern spiritual seeker should fail to experience.
The earliest traces of human settlement in the Jerusalem area are from the late Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age (3000 BC). Excavations have shown that a town existed on the south side of Mount Moriah, also called Temple Mount. The name of this town was Urusalim, a word probably of Semitic origin that apparently means 'Foundation of Shalem' or 'Foundation of God'. On the frontier of Benjamin and Judah, the town was inhabited by a mixed population known as Jebusites. About 1000 BC, Urusalim was captured by David, founder of the joint kingdom of Israel and Judah, and became the Jewish kingdom's capital. In the earlier wandering years of the Israelites, their most sacred object, the Ark of the Covenant, was periodically moved about among several sanctuaries, but following David's capture of Urusalim, the Ark was moved to that city around 955 BC. The Ark was a portable shrine containing the two stone Tablets of the Law that the prophet Moses had received upon Mt. Sinai. David renamed his city Jerusalem, meaning 'City of Peace' in Hebrew, and chose Mt. Moriah as the site of his future temple.
Mt. Moriah was already considered highly sacred for several reasons. An ancient Semitic tradition stated that the bare rock atop the mount was held in the mouth of the serpent Tahum, and that this place was the intersection of the underworld and the upper world. It was also considered to be the site where Abraham had built an altar on which he prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac. At this same site, the patriarch Jacob gathered stone from the altar upon which his father Isaac was to be sacrificed, and using this stone as a pillow spent the night sleeping upon the rock. Upon waking from a stunning visionary dream, Jacob anointed the stone pillow with oil he had received from heaven and the stone then sank deep into the earth, to become the foundation stone of the great temple that would later be built by Solomon. This hallowed site is known as Bethel, meaning "Gate or House of Heaven."
The First Temple of the Jews was built during the reign of David's son, Solomon. King David had planned to build the Temple at the exact place where he had experienced a revelatory vision of angels ascending a golden ladder into the sky. This site, the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite was originally sacred to the harvest deity known as Tammuz (another name for the deity Adonis). God, through Nathan the prophet, rejected David's wish, evidently on the grounds that he had shed blood, and instead informed him that the Temple would be erected by his son Solomon (II Sam.7:12-13). The Temple 's construction took seven years and was completed in 957 BC. Soon after the Temple 's construction, Nebuchadrezzar II of Babylon forced the Jews into exile, removed their temple treasures in 604 BC and 597 BC, and finally completely destroyed the temple in 586 BC. In 539 BC, Cyrus of Persia conquered Babylon and allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem. Reconstruction began and the Second Temple was completed by 515 BC. This temple however, did not enshrine the Ark of the Covenant as that sacred object had disappeared sometime before the plundering by Nebuchadrezzar.