Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock is a Muslim shrine built over the rock on which Abraham bound his son Isaac to be sacrificed and which the Quran describes as the place from which Mohammed ascended to heaven. In Judaism, it is the Foundation Stone, the rock from which Jews believe the world was created and towards which they face when praying.
Jerusalem – Been There

A perfect example of political incorrectness

Photo by Ton Koene

Jerusalem – Been There A perfect example of political incorrectness

In Jerusalem, I follow a rather innocuous ramp just to the right of the Western Wall that gives access, after a rigorous search, to one of the holiest sites in Islam. But this is no Mosque.

Andy Mossack
Andy Mossack

Jerusalem's glorious octagonal Dome of the Rock is a shrine built by the Umayyad Khalif Abdul-Malik ibn Marwan in 691 and named after Khalif Omar. It is a shrine shared in reverence by both Muslims and Jews, but for very different reasons.

“Muslims believe it is built over the rock where Mohammed ascended to heaven on his winged horse leaving a hoof print behind in the rock face,” says Lev. “But for Jews, that rock is the very one on which Abraham laid down his son Isaac ready to sacrifice him according to God’s wishes. It’s the holiest site in Judaism, the Foundation Stone around which the Temple was built and the direction to which Jews pray to all over the World. Isaac was ultimately spared, but this single act alone created the whole ritual of circumcision.”

The Dome of the Rock is almost the perfect example of political incorrectness and never fails to ignite passions on both sides. “Look at it!” exclaims Lev, warming to one of his favorite subjects. “This shrine is so beautiful but it stands directly over the site of the Jewish Temple, the Holy of Holies for the Jews. This alone has caused and understandably continues to cause such tensions here.”

It is extraordinary how few changes have been made to the shrine since its construction, although in 1993 King Hussein of Jordan paid $8 million to cover the dome with 80kg of solid gold. These days, access inside is only granted to Muslims, but for non-Muslims the exterior it is well worth a visit. I take a moment to stand and stare at the sheer beauty of the complex mosaics and gilded wood.

Inside, the Rock dominates the interior, and there is indeed an outline of what looks like a hoof shaped into the rock face. On the southern wall, a small semi circular niche called a Mihrab, points the way to face Mecca for prayer. It is still the oldest preserved Mihrab ever found in the World.

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