Tower of David View Point

Jerusalem Explained: The roots of Judaism, Christianity and Islam

Writen by: Community Writers

Welcome to Jerusalem, welcome to the Tower of David, the ancient citadel that has protected Jerusalem for over two thousand years. Phasael Tower, a tower that was built 2000 years ago by King Herod, overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem, is the best place to start uncovering the secrets of Jerusalem and find out what made it the holy city for Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Herod's Second Temple 1st century CE (Courtesy by Lithodomos)

Herod’s Second Temple 1st century CE (Courtesy by Lithodomos)

The Jewish Tradition:

We are going to start at the very beginning – we are going back to “Bereshit” (Genesis) 5780 years ago where, according to the Jewish calendar, creation begins. And it begins, you guessed it, here in Jerusalem. The Dome of the Rock, standing in the middle of the Temple Mount today, is called the Dome of the Rock because of a rock that is still inside, that rock is called the Rock or the Stone of Foundation. When God starts out on a major project like creating the universe, even He needs a first milestone. In the case of Jerusalem, we are talking about an actual piece of limestone. Back then if you would look from here you would see nothing. There were no churches, no mosques, no synagogues, only a mountain. Just imagine the mountain of Moriah, mentioned in the Bible and from the top of that mountain there is a stone that rises above which is called the Foundation Stone from which the world was established. That is the first tradition that ties the Jewish people to Jerusalem. Another, later tradition, is about a father and son, making their way to Jerusalem. It is a 3 day  journey from Beersheba to the land of Moriah and at the end of that journey they find themselves on top of the mountain, right next to that same stone, the Foundation Stone. Abraham is asked to sacrifice Isaac, his beloved son, in order to prove the power of his faith. He takes Isaac, he ties him, not to just any stone that’s up there but to the Foundation Stone itself. He ties him up, he raises up the knife and at the last minute  an angel intervenes and tells Abraham “Do not touch the child.” Isaac is saved and instead a ram is sacrificed (by the way, this is the reason that Jews blow the shofar, the ram’s horn on the high holy days, Rosh HaShanah and  Yom Kippur – it comes from that  very formative moment here in Jerusalem)

These two Jewish traditions have tied the Jewish people to Jerusalem ever since. King David comes to this area and decides that his capital will be built right below the Temple Mount as the city of David.  His son, Solomon will build the First Temple exactly where the Golden Dome stands today. That temple will be destroyed and then another one will be built, the Second Temple, by King Herod, the same king who built the tower where we are standing now and it will be the most extravagant and beautiful building in the Middle East. In the year 70 AD comes the destruction – there is no more Jerusalem, no more Temple and ever since then Jews all over the world will say “HaShana HaBaah B”Yerushalayim – “Next year in Jerusalem”. This is the Jewish connection. Talking about the temple, let’s talk about the Christian connection and the pilgrimages to the Temple.

הרובע הנוצרי

Christian Tradition:

The world’s most famous pilgrim came to Jerusalem in 33 AD – Jesus of Nazareth. He came from the north, through the Judean Desert, up the Mount of Olives, in order to celebrate Passover with his students in Jerusalem. The Last Supper – the Passover Seder. He stands on the Mount of Olives, looks down towards the Second Temple which is still standing 2000 years ago and gives a prophecy of destruction – no stone will be left unturned, he says and this begins the last week of his life here in Jerusalem. That week ends where the two domes of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher stand today, the place of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and, according to the Christian tradition, resurrection. So, the Christian beginning is also very much connected with Jerusalem and that is how it becomes the holiest place in the world in Christianity.

כיפת הסלע והרובע המוסלמי

The Muslim Tradition:

Today, we are looking at the Temple Mount and we see two Muslim structures, the Dome of the Rock, the Golden Dome, and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. These have been here for about 1300 years. How does Islam connect with Jerusalem? We go back in time to the 7th century and the Qur’an tells a story of Muhammad making his way from the Holy Mosque, the black rock, the Kaaba in Mecca to the farthest mosque, al-Aqsa – and where is the farthest mosque? The tradition tells us that is here in Jerusalem and not only in Jerusalem but on the Temple Mount. This journey is made on a magical winged horse named Al Buraq and at the end of that flight, Muhammad finds himself by the stones of the Western wall, climbing up to the destroyed platform of the Temple and he finds a very specific stone, yes, the Foundation Stone in Jewish tradition which becomes a whole new story in the Muslim tradition. From that stone, Muhammad rises seven heavens above and at the 7th heaven he meets Allah who gives him the commandment of prayer which means that every Muslim around the world who prays 5 times a day immediately connects with Jerusalem and that is how Jerusalem became the third most holy place in Islam –  after Mecca and Medina.

תצפית מזרח ומערב

So all the beginnings are here but, what about the endings, the restart? The Mount of Olives, is the restart button of the world according to Judaism, Christianity and Islam.,

The End of Days according to Judaism:

The first thing we are going to look at is the cemetery that lies all across the foot of the Mount of Olives – Jews have been asking to be buried there for thousands of years, because according the Jewish prophecy, when the Messiah comes, the Mount of Olives is going to be split into two parts, kind of like the parting of the Red Sea, and the righteous will be able to rise from their graves and rejoin the Stone of Foundation to bring on a second creation and a better reality to the earth.  That is the Jewish story of the end of time. Let’s switch  to the Christian story.

The End of Days According to Christianity:

Up on the Mount of Olives there is a beautiful pencil-shaped church, the Church of Ascension where Jesus ascended to heaven. After the resurrection Jesus walks for 40 days and makes his way to the top of the Mount of Olives and goes back to the heavens. According to Christian tradition, this is the place, where, at the end of time, he will return. To Jerusalem and a new and better reality will come upon the Earth when the Kingdom of Heaven is established here on earth. And last but not least, the Muslim tradition.

 The End of Days According to Islam:

At the top of the Mount of Olives, above the cemetery, is a pink building with seven arches – that is the Seven Arches Hotel. The architect got the idea to design it this way from a Muslim tradition that says that at the end of time, on the Day of judgement, there is going to be a bridge, as thin as a hair, from the Mount of Olives to the Temple Mount that will be carried over 7 arches and the righteous will be able to cross to the place of Muhammad’s ascension, the Temple Mount, and receive immortal life and the evil sinners will fall  to their fiery deaths on the other side in the Kidron Valley.


So we have 3 beginnings and 3 endings and re-starting of reality and it’s all here in Jerusalem.   When you look at the past, you look to Jerusalem. Even as you look to the future, to the unknown, you look to Jerusalem. It is no wonder that Jerusalem has become sacred to the three religions. Jerusalem is the place where Jews, Christians and Muslims all over the world tell themselves their stories about themselves and so Jerusalem is much more than a place – Jerusalem is an experience and a state of mind.

You are invited to be guided by Eli Ilan, from the panoramic view at the top of the Phasael tower:

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