Monday, June 25, 2007

Day 5: Dome of the Rock/Western Wall/Gethsemane

Tianna's corresponding blog: (click here)

Ahh, the temple mount. If there was ever a piece of dirt that has a more contentious history than this one right here I would be amazed. The Recognizable landmark now is the Dome of the Rock which is a beautiful building. The beauty of the building stands as quite the contrast to its tumultuous history. For those that don't know let me give a very abbreviated history lesson. The rock (which is inside the Dome of the Rock) was formally near the summit of a hill known as Mt. Moriah. This is the hill that Abraham took his son Isaac up to offer him as a sacrifice to the Lord. (First point of contention - It is Ishmael not Isaac if you are Muslim) Later, Solomon built the first temple on this location that the Jews now considered sacred. This temple was totally destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. The second temple was built 71 years later on the same spot. When Herod was in power he decided to renovate the temple (Most likely in an attempt to win over supporters.) Supporting walls were built and the structure that was Mount Moriah was leveled off and filled in until it looked more like plateau Moriah than a mount. I will show replica pictures of the temple from this period later. This temple lasted until 70 A.D. when the Romans took the city and destroyed the temple. The temple mount was left abandoned until the 7th century when the Arab Muslims conquered Palestine and Jerusalem. The Koran speaks of a night time journey where Muhammad reached "the farthest mosque". From this spot he ascended into heaven. The Muslims built the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aska Mosque to commemorate these events. In the Dome of the Rock there is a footprint in the rock which is the 'traditional' spot where he left the earth. This location now stands as the 3rd holiest site in the Muslim faith. The temple mount switched hands many times as people continued to fight over it. The small building in the picture below is believed by some to be the spot closest to where the Holy of Holies was located in the Herodian Temple.

Reading Tianna's blog is actually quite helpful in regards to the next few pictures. This was the picture I was trying to take while she was fending off the young thrifty Palestinian camera collectors. Not really worth it I don't think.
The guilty culprits: Enemy #1 is pointing right at you. Some of his friends were kind of cute and seemingly innocent but he sure didn't seem to be. I was really shooting from the hip on these since I tried to keep two hands on everything I owned and somehow still got some pictures off.
This is the security guard that was staring down Tianna without her noticing a thing. How she missed him I may never now.
Here I pay tribute to my fellow photographers. I hope others can relate to this but there are moments when language really isn't a barrier. I like to think that I can watch people taking pictures and follow their train of thought regarding photographic motivations, decisions, wishes, etc. Those moments inspire me, when you feel like you can connect with someone despite any political or cultural differences you may have. Also in homage to my previous post I would like to point out something, I like looking for things that cultures have in common. As we first walked up to the Dome of the Rock I was instantly drawn to two Muslim women photographing the Dome with their cell phone cameras. I thought this was awesome, first the Franciscan Monk at the Church of the Holy Sepluchre playing games on his cell phone and now here. This is not the technologically backwards area I thought it was. Me and my sister occasionally referred to the temple mount as temple square. As I stood there I literally felt like I was at Temple Square watching some Mormon women photographing the Temple (Obvious differences aside). It is a small thing I know, but for me these little actions make the Muslim people more relatable and approachable than the religious fanatics that the media portray. I wish people would focus on the beauty of the culture instead of on the extremists. I also really enjoyed watching the photographer in the sequence below.
The Western Wall (aka. Wailing Wall). This is a remnant of the retaining wall that Herod built when he leveled the temple mount. The Jews do not go up on the temple mount for a couple of reasons. First, the Muslims do not want them there. Second, since no one is certain where the Holy of Holies was located they don't want to risk accidentally walking across this dedicated spot. So to be safe this wall is the closest they can get to their sacred ground. On the Sabbath this plaza is filled but the Jews will also come whenever else they can make it. Another practice is to write on small pieces of paper, prayers and names of people that need a little heavenly intervention. They then take this paper and stick it into any crack within the wall that they can find.

There is a small section on the right side of the wall that has been separated and reserved for women. I stood up on a chair and peaked over the wall and saw a guy over there. I must say that I was curios about this breach of protocol. Upon inspection I noticed that he was janitorial and was cleaning up peoples prayers that had fallen out of the wall. I felt a little sad that peoples prayers were being swept up and tossed out. Oh well, I guess the other approach of leaving the prayers and the ground is probably just as potentially disrespectful.
When we left the Western Wall we traveled through the Kidron Valley. This valley is basically a cemetery now. One on side you have the Mount of Olives covered with the Jewish tombs and on the other along the temple wall you have the Muslim tombs. I then noticed while getting close to the Church of all nations there was a small Christian cemetery right in the middle of the valley. In Jerusalem none of the major religions can be outdone by the others, it's kind of fun.
Within the Church of all Nations the ceiling is covered with mosaics from different countries. If you read Tianna's blog she mentions one that we decided looked like either the Nauvoo or Kirtland Temples. In the end, I think it was England and here is the picture for you to decide.

The purpose of the Church of all Nations is to commemorate the spot where Christ fell upon the ground in the Garden of Gethsemane where he took upon him the sins of the world. This is the 'traditional' sight of the rock upon which he fell. The church is actually built around the rock in certain spots instead of removing the rock for sake of the building.
This is the key that we were given to lock ourselves in the side Garden of Gethsemane to do my first project picture. It was such a cool key I had to take a picture of it.
This is on the Mount of Olives overlooking the Old City.
If you look closely there are little Kodak film signs on both sides of the street. That is all that is significant about this picture. I'm biased towards film what can I say.
On the right is a young Jewish guard standing under the Ecce Homo arch. The arch is located in the Muslim district. There is an underground hike called the Kotel tunnel. It starts at the Western Wall and follows along the base of the temple mount wall and emerges right where the guard is standing. The guard will then escort the tour group back to the 'safety' of the Jewish quarter.
If you would like to see the first of the project pictures that I did today at the Garden of Gethsemane you can follow this link: (link)


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