The city of Jerusalem is unusual in that it is a important city for three major world religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
To the Jews it is their ancient capital city, the original site of their Temple and therefore the focal point of the worship of their God.
For Christians it is the city where Jesus spent some of ministry, was crucified and resurrected, and monuments and magnificent churches were built to commemorate various events.
For Muslims, it is the site of the oldest Muslim shrine: The Dome of the Rock, built over the “sacred rock” which at one time was the resting place for the Ark of the Covenant (the holiest part of the Jewish Temple), and the Al-Aqsa Mosque which commemorates the Muslim belief of Mohammed’s ascent to heaven.
The Jewish Temple no longer exists. The first one was built by King Solomon in 959 BC. Less than four hundred years later, it was destroyed by the Babylonians. Seventy years later, the second temple was built by Jews returning from exile in Babylon. They were given permission to do so from the Persian King, Cyrus the Great who conquered the Babylonians.
In 167 BC, Antiochus Epiphanes set up Greek gods in the Temple which infuriated the Jews. The Maccabees (Jews) went to war and regained control of the Temple three years later which is commemorated by Hanukkah.
In 63 BC the Roman Empire took over control of Jerusalem and Herod was installed as the king of Israel in 37 BC. He spent 46 years remodelling the Temple, doubling the area of the Temple Mount and constructing huge supporting walls to help secure its foundation. However, the Jews were not happy under Roman rule and rebelled. In 70 AD, the Roman armies destroyed the Temple and much of the city and exiled the Jews to other parts of the Roman Empire.
The retaining wall to the Temple mount that King Herod constructed was left standing, however, and this is where Jews, over the centuries, have gone to pray to their God. It is called the Western Wall or the “Kotel” which is the Hebrew word for “wall”. It returned to Jewish control after the six day war in 1967. Traditionally, people write their prayers on pieces of paper and stick them into the cracks between the stones, hoping that their prayers will go right up to God’s throne.
It is said that the Western Wall is the heart of the Jewish people, as Jerusalem is the heart of Israel.
Take a pilgrimmage to this ancient city through a film recently released by the National Geographic Society. If it is not playing at your local IMAX, perhaps you can interest your theatre in bringing it in. View the trailer here: www.jerusalemthemovie.com