Monday, December 24, 2007

Visit to the Dome of the Rock

This morning (Saturday 8 December 2007), we visited Haram es-Sharif, or the Temple Mount, at the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem. The weather was mild and overcast, and there were few people about. Assembling at the entrance closest to the Lion's Gate, we waited for about 15 minutes while Israeli security guards decided whether to approve access, despite the fact that the visit was pre-arranged and our Muslim hosts were waiting for us.

The first significant experience for us today was entering the magnificent Dome of the Rock, widely held to be the second most revered Islamic holy site after the Ka'aba at Mecca. Contrary to popular belief, the Dome is not a mosque but a Muslim shrine. About 200 metres to the south is the famous al-Aqsa Mosque (see the next blog page). It was a privilege to visit this special site. Inside it was very quiet and still; people, usually alone or in small groups, were praying and meditating. We were made very welcome, taking off our shoes at the door according to custom, and enjoying the sanctuary of this sacred place.

Below are some of the images I recorded (details at bottom of page) during our visit.

1. Our delegation waits to have our entry approved by the ever-present security.
2. Our Palestinian guide explains the history and significance of the Dome of the Rock.
3. Interior of the Dome of the Rock.
4. Stone on which it is thought Abraham sacrificed his son Isaac, and from which Mohammad ascended to heaven, at the heart of the Dome of the Rock.
5. Rev John Henderson ascends from the crypt beneath the stone, where pilgrims pray.
6. Interior of the Dome of the Rock.
7. Exterior (south face) of the Dome of the Rock.

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