Monday, March 19, 2018

The Temple Mount: A powder keg

I left you yesterday with the news that Israel has bombed a compound in Syria. We don't yet have a lot of details as to why, nor may we ever know.
However, we soon learn some related news. The last night we stayed in the kibbutz, (which was, if you've been following my blog, two nights ago) there were four tour buses there, ours included, all from the same tour company. One driver was awoken at 3 am and dispatched to the Syrian border to pick up 20 wounded Syrian soldiers who had crossed (or been sent) over to Israel. They knew they would receive proper medical care, for Israel would not deny them that basic human right. The driver was to take them to a hospital in Tiberius. 

I expect that the Israeli government knows which bus company would be close to the Syrian border and the company would know which driver was best to awaken (the one who wasn't scheduled to do a lot of driving the next day). 

As disturbing as that may sound to Canadians, (Big Brother and all) I know, by virtue of being in the military, that governments know things we don't expect them to. And Israel, as it remains constantly perched upon the precipice of war, would know which buses are close to Syria, a country in the midst of not only a civil war, but fighting ISIS as well. 

(I must reiterate that I have never felt unsafe there. It sounds fearful to us Canadians, but life goes on quite normally. Israel has a great air defense system.)

Our team leader muses out loud that CNN would never air this news. It puts Israel in a good light, and as such, doesn't make for increased TV ratings. That bothers me. There are so many people today who don't know the history behind Israel's fight for life and see countries like Palestine and Syria as victims. (it's the people who are, not the countries) To them, Israel, with its desire to fight for its own sovereignty, is more a Goliath than a David.  

After supper, Yossi takes us for a walk, and we end up at the American Colony where Horatio Stafford lived, where also hangs a copy of his hymn,  ‘It is well with my soul.’ (An appropriate hymn at this time) Yossi had wanted to take us into a nearby church to hear its wonderful acoustics, but we watched guards quickly block our entrance. Instead, we visit a jewelry store and see a first century shekel. The selling of artifacts is a big business here, for the black market is rife with the opportunities to purchase them.

Despite the seemingly bumpy start, our time in Jerusalem finds us up and gone early the next day, aiming to visit the Temple Mount before it's closed for the day. On our way, our devotional on the Lord's Prayer continues. ‘For Thine is the Kingdom…’ is easy to say when we feel we're in control. But only God is in control. 

I had cautioned several of us that we must dress modestly for the Temple Mount, but am concerned just the same, and even our guide warns us not to take I-Pads in, for they may contain a Bible app. I don't want us to be detained. This is one of the highlights of the trip.

Thankfully for us, a group of young women in front is stopped and ordered to wear long skirts, for their miniskirts and leggings are more than inappropriate. 

One woman in her borrowed skirt

Immediately, I think of the movie about Corrie ten Boom, and how she smuggled a Bible into a concentration camp when the woman ahead of her caused a disturbance. Like Corrie, we walk straight in, as the men on guard are busy with the young women.

Cats abound, encouraged to be here for their hunting skills and one young woman ignores the history to photograph one.
History around her and she photographs a cat. Like us at Mount Hermon

Yossi points out that while the Dome of the Rock is said to house the place where Abraham tried to sacrifice Isaac, there is evidence that points to a smaller rock, covered with a small dome to the north of the golden dome. That suggests that the site of the Holy of Holies is also different.

I think again about Abraham, so willing to sacrifice, without question, his son, Isaac. He'd lived among the Canaanites, those who sacrificed their babies. Abraham was used to this, I think, cringingly. Did he believe that sacrifice of one’s child was a way of worshiping one's own god? We are always taught a benign Abraham trusted that God would restore Isaac, should he die. But a more disturbing image is appearing. Abraham knew of child sacrifice and was willing to do it for God. 

Thankfully, in case you don't know the story, a ram appeared at the last minute on this mount all those millennia ago. Shed blood for his son’s life. A substitute, where in the Temple of Pan for instance, there was nothing that could be substituted. Thankfully, we have Jesus, the perfect substitute.

Could this be the site where Abraham tried to sacrifice Isaac?

I look down again at the small, exposed rock north of the dome. Could this be where Isaac had been tied up and prepared for death? Was it also the site of the Temple’s Holy of Holies? I reach down and run my fingers over the rough surface. I will probably never know which is which until I reach heaven. For now, I'm satisfied with the wait.

We learn that the Temple Mount is owned by the King of Jordan, and since the previous king was too proud to take money from Saudi Arabia, (and probably a bit wise for he would be owing to them) he had only the thinnest layer of gold possible applied on the dome. 

It's hard to see, but it needs some repair.

It's in desperate need of repair, we see as we close in on it.
Our friend and the Dome of the Rock

Yossi ignoring the cats

Here, our guide tells us that Israel has no constitution, that Orthodox Jews say the Torah (part of the Old Testament that contains the laws) is enough for them. He reiterates that Israel needs our prayers, that the Temple Mount is not sitting on ancient stones, but on a powder keg. 

I find those words disturbing.

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