I was in Israel for a week on a business trip. For me it was a wonderful cultural and intellectual experience. The most interesting part of my trip
was the one day that I spent in Jerusalem. That one day showed me so much history and made me think so much about religion and culture that I was overwhelmend by the whole experience. I want to share some of the things that I learnt with you through VERITAS.

        Jeresulum is sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims. Let’s first understand why it is so important for these three religions. This will
help us understand the relationship between these religions and also why this region is always tense.

        Israel was the promised land for the Jews. It was promised by God to Abraham. Moses then helped the Jews to come and settle in their land. King David( of the David and Goliath fame) made Jeresulum his capital 1000 years before Christ. His son King Solomon built a temple there. This temple was the most sacred place for the Jews. This is the place where the Holy Ark was kept. This temple was destroyed and rebuilt two times. At this time there is no temple there. There is only a wall that remains of the old temple. This wall is called the “wailing wall” or the
“western wall”. This wall is the most sacred place for the Jews at this time.  They touch it, they pray near it, they kiss it, they cry on it. The Jews
believe that a messiah will come someday and bring a golden age for the Jews.

The Wailing Wall


And the messiah will rebuild the temple. This is a VERY strong belief in Jews. They are waiting for this. Why don’t they just rebuild the temple? They cannot. First reason: there is a mosque there(and we will come to that). second reason: only the messiah can rebuild the temple
and he is still not here. The Jews have lived by this belief  and a love for Jeresulum for thousands of years. Wherever they lived they kept
praying that they could return to Jeresulum. Their prayers contain sentences like ” If I forget Jeresulum may my right hand become useless”!
So the Jews worship Jeresulum. Their love for Jerusalem helped them maintain their identity through throusands of years of oppression and
exile from their native land.

        Jesus Christ was a Jew. But he was no ordinary Jew. He was a preacher. And his followers believed that he is the long awaited messiah.
The jewish high priest Joseph Caiaphas did not believe this. He did not like what Jesus preached and was especially against Jesus claiming himself to be the Son of God. He got Jesus arrested on his visit to Jerusalem and conspired with the Roman Governor of Jerusalem Pointius Pilate to give him a death sentence. So Jesus walked on the roads of Jeresulum carrying the cross. And he was crucified in Jerusalem. I walked on the road where Jesushad walked! It is called the Via Dolorosa( Way of Sorrow).

Via Dolorosa


And I saw the place where Jesus was crucified and also his tomb. And I also saw the stone that was supposed to have covered the cave where Jesus was buried. These places are a part of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The funny thing is that the keys of the Holy Sepulchre are in the possession of a Muslim family for the last 1000 years. And they plan to keep it that way. Every day morning this family comes and opens the Church and take the keys with them! Also note that since the Jew high priest had a hand in the crucifiction of Christ so the memories of this incident made the Jews unpopular later when Europe adopted Christianity. The Jews in Europe were an oppressed lot and this reached an extreme during the time of Hitler. So the hatred for Jews started from the crucifiction of Christ by the Jewish high priest. I also visited the room where Jesus had his “last supper”! So we see that Jerusalem is very sacred for the Christians also.

Holy Sepulchre


 Jerusalem is very sacred for the Muslims. In fact it is their third most sacred place ( after Mecca and Madina). The Muslims believe in
Moses. They also believe that Jesus was a prophet. But they have an additional belief: that Prophet Mohammed( born 570 AD) was also a
prophet. According to the Muslims, Prophet Mohammed visited Jerusalem in 621 AD and from there he was transported to Heaven where he met Abraham, Moses and Jesus. From them he received the five daily prayers and he came back to earth to spread them. Muslims believe that Prophet Mohammed was transported to heaven from the Noble rock. The Muslim Mosque built on this rock has the dimensions that have a mathematical ratio related to a circle drawn around the Noble rock. This Noble rock is sacred for the Jews also because according to them, it is the foundation stone on which the world was created. And it is on this rock that the ancient temples of the Jews stood. So the Muslim holy Mosque in  Jerusalem is on the site of the ancient Jew temples! And it is here that the messiah is supposed to come and build a temple again!

        So as you can see there three religions are so entangled with each other. They all come from a common root but they all have very different
views. And they all consider Jerusalem so sacred that they can die or kill for it. And they have done that several times in the last 2000 years! The Crusades ( or the holy wars) that were fought between 1096 AD and 1250 AD between the Christian world and the Muslim world were over the control of Jerusalem!

        And we can see that this desire to control Jerusalem is still the major cause of so much conflict.

        I am so glad that I was able to experience this 3000 year old history and the centre of world turmoil for the last 2000 years during my
short trip to Israel. It really opened my eyes to so many things that I had no appreciation of earlier. When I was returning to my hotel
in Tel Aviv that evening I wondered why people fight over something that I don’t even seem to believe in. I found it strange that the idea of God,
which in my opinion is a unscientific creation of the human mind can change how people behave and the entire course of history. But then
I thought – would people have still created magnificient monuments, cities and cultures if they did not believe strongly in God? Can a set of
scientific rationalists really believe so strongly in something to die for it. Can rationalists like me really create a culture and a history? I don’t
know. I am still wondering.


  Go, wondrous creature! mount where Science guides:                 
  Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides:                 
  Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,                          
  Correct old time and regulate the Sun;                             

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