Information Related to "Jerusalem's Temple Mount: Center of Conflict Today"
The Good News: Could you give a brief perspective on why Jerusalem is such an important place, biblically speaking?
Leen Ritmeyer: Jerusalem was chosen specifically by God. Going back to the time of Abraham, God sent him to Mt. Moriah [which was later the Temple Mount] to sacrifice his son Isaac, a type of the greater sacrifice that later came in the form of Jesus Christ being crucified. Later God told Moses that when they came into the land, He would appoint a certain place where He would "cause his name to dwell there" [Deuteronomy 12:11, King James Version]. So it is the only place in the whole world that God has chosen to "cause his name to dwell there."
We continue in history to where David built the first altar and Solomon built the temple. It became a centralized place of worship where all the Israelites were to gather three times a year for the great feasts of Passover, the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Tabernacles. It was the only center of their worship.
GN: Jerusalem is considered holy by the three great monotheistic religions-Judaism, Christianity and Islam. How and when did it come to be considered one of Islam's holy places?
LR: It happened during the seventh century when Caliph Omar came to Israel. During this time Muslims conquered all of the Middle East and went as far as Europe.
The Muslims had their two major holy sites, Mecca and Medina, which were established by the prophet Muhammad. When Jerusalem was conquered by Caliph Omar, all sorts of legends sprang up. He wanted to find where the Most Holy Place of the Jewish temple was. It later became connected with the legend that says Muhammad came to Jerusalem and went off to heaven on his horse. And from this a third Islamic holy site was chosen, to commemorate the ascent to heaven of their prophet Muhammad.
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Keywords: temple mount, history of Jerusalem, modern Islam and the Temple Mount Dome of the Rock