On February 25, there was a clash between Palestinian demonstrators and Israel police on the Temple Mount. As news reports stated, twenty masked Palestinians threw stones and firecrackers at Israeli security forces from atop the Temple Mount and an Israeli police force entered the area to disperse the rioters using crowd dispersal means, including stun grenades. Three rioters were arrested on suspicion they threw rocks and firecrackers at security forces and two policemen were lightly hurt in the incident.
While conflict in that part of the world just “comes with the territory”, why is it that the Temple Mount, that particular place, is often where conflicts begin? Well…as they say, it is a real, real long story, but I’ll try to give you the Readers Digest version. About 4000 years ago, a guy named Abraham heard God calling him to leave his land and familiar surroundings and travel to a new land, Canaan or the “promised land”. So Abraham left his homeland and traveled to what is now called Israel or Palestine. Further along in the story, Abraham was commanded by God to take his son to the top of Mt. Moriah and offer him as a sacrifice. This is where it gets interesting. In the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, the son he takes with him is Isaac. In the Koran, the holy scripture of Muslims, the son he takes with him is Ishmael. The place where Abraham takes either Isaac or Ishmael is a place called Mt. Moriah.
Later in history, King Solomon built the Jewish temple on the top of Mt. Moriah and it stood there, on and off, until the year 70 A.D. That is the date when the temple was destroyed by the Romans and the Jews scattered in what is now called the Jewish Diaspora. About 600 years later, the Muslims built a shrine on the same site to commemorate the place where they believe Mohammed ascended into heaven. It also just happens to be the exact same place where the Jewish temple once stood. The structure that the Muslims built in 691 A.D. still stands today and you recognize it as the golden Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.
So…the same place, Mt. Moriah, is revered by both Jews and Muslims (and Christians) as the place where the father of all three monotheistic religions took his son to sacrifice him to God. The only problem is that the Jews and Muslims cannot agree on which son that was. In fact, the reason that there is a “Judaism” and an “Islam” is because the Jews believe that son was Isaac and the Muslims believe that son was Ishmael. And thus, the great divide between Judaism and Islam began and reverberates down through history to our news on Tuesday. The conflict on the “Temple Mount” or “Noble Sanctuary” between Jews and Muslims took place on Mt. Moriah where Abraham took a son there 4000 years ago and, because it is considered “holy” and revered by both Jews and Muslims, the smallest, slightest, miniscule provocation can lead to a conflict. And that is exactly what happened on Tuesday.
Who says the Bible isn’t relevant today?
Michael B. Fanning, Ph.D. is a Israel tour operator, Old Testament scholar, and minister. He has led tours to Israel and the Middle East for over 25 years (including Dr. Denison’s tours since 2001) after studying in Israel and receiving his Ph.D. in the Hebrew Bible from Baylor University. He started The Fellowship of San Antonio in 2003 and is currently the Associate Pastor there. For more information on Mike, please go to www.mikefanning.com.