Monday, January 24, 2005

The Rock of Foundation

Flying over the Mediterranean to Amman, Jordan in September of 2004 I felt a great deal of anticipation as the plane neared the coastline of Israel and Palestine. I had never been to the Middle East and was beginning my first tour of service with the Christian Peacemaker Teams in Baghdad, Iraq. I had purchased the audio book “Abraham- A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths” by Bruce Feiler to listen to on the twelve-hour flight. The first chapter of the book details the author’s experience of being at the Dome of the Rock in the old city of Jerusalem. There within several hundred yards are some of the most sacred sites of the three monotheistic faiths. Our flight path took us just to the north of the old city and I could see the golden panels of the Dome glistening in the late afternoon sun. I had a very strong image of myself walking on the plaza of the Dome. Of being in such a powerful spiritual space that it had a physical impact.

Before my return to America in January of 2005 I was able to spend ten days with the CPT project in Hebron, Palestine. My flight to the U.S. left from Amman and I needed to travel through Jerusalem to reach the border with Jordan. Would I be able to bring my image to reality and travel to the Dome? I left Hebron early on January 6th so I would have time to walk the sacred spaces of Judaism, Islam and Christianity. I had read about the deep, rich and turbulent history of that rock and the city that it anchors. It is called the Even Shetiyah (Rock of Foundation) in the Jewish faith. It is the site where Abraham, the father of both Jews and Muslims, was led by God to renounce human sacrifice. It is the site of the Two Temples of Jerusalem of which now only the Wailing Wall remains as the most sacred site in Judaism. It is the place where Satan took Jesus to tempt him. It is the site of the Dome of the Rock as it was from that rock that the prophet Mohammed made his Night Journey into the seventh heaven. As I walked the plaza it was if I was walking into the epicenter of three faiths. Before me was the Dome of the Rock where I felt the children of Ishmael looking for solace as they mourned the loss of their homeland. To my right I felt the energy of the Wailing Wall as the children of Isaac mourned the passing of their Temple. To my left I felt the pain of the Via Dolorosa as the other children of Isaac mourned the suffering of Jesus on his final journey in this world.

All the children of Abraham see this site as being at the center of their faith. All the children of Abraham see the rock as being an important symbol of their faith. All the children of Abraham don’t see the rock as belonging to anyone else. What should be seen as the epicenter of God’s love and compassion for all humans has been the site of conflict, bloodshed and hatred.

If the rock is the epicenter then Jerusalem is the first shock wave of monotheism. The city is a microcosm of the conflict between the three monotheistic faiths. Can it be the model for the non-violent resolution of that conflict? But before that question can be answered first there must be an answer to the question, “Whose city is this? Whose faith has the strongest claim to being the possessor of the rock and the city it anchors?”

Whose city is it? It’s God’s city, and not the sole possession of any of God’s children. It belongs to all and it needs to be open to all. No one group can say it is theirs and theirs alone.

While Jerusalem is God’s city it must be under the stewardship of God’s children. If Jerusalem and the rock that is the foundation of the world belong to the world then it should be administered by the world. It needs to be a world city and under the care of the United Nations. Only a world body can begin the work to heal centuries and centuries of anger and hatred. With much hard work and after many generations there can come a time when faithful Jews, Muslims and Christians can work together to care for the city. But in the beginning this care must be given by a world body. Listening must replace shouting. A commitment to peace must replace the failed heritage of violence. As Abraham, the father of all three faiths, came to see that God did not require human sacrifice as a means of worship Abraham’s children must come to see that the rock and the city are whole and can not be broken up and divided. Only then will the true meaning of the rock of foundation of the world become reality.

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