UPDATES 7 pm Israel time, Saturday, May 17 2014:
**It has been one of those darkly funny days in which we’ve had American negotiator Martin Indyk and his wife ranting against Israel in a public restaurant in Washington, D.C.; Turkish PM Taycip Erdogan ranting against a protestor at the Turkish mine disaster by calling him the worst slur he can think of–an “Israeli spawn”; Iran noting that recent “nuclear negotiations” have been “constructive” even though no agreements were reached; and Venezuela offering to sell the PLO 240,000 barrels of oil–actually “give” would be a better word than sell since they will never be paid for them.
**A particularly egregious terrorist attack took place yesterday in Jerusalem. A disabled Israeli IDF veteran–disabled while trying to stop a Palestinian suicide bomber back in 2002 in Jerusalem–was returning to his car after shopping at a store in Shu’afat on his way to Pisgat Ze’ev.
As he was getting into his car, he was attacked by two terrorists who tried to pull him out and beat him while shouting and cursing at him. Miraculously, he managed to escape.
Why had the terrorists focused on him? Because he had an Israeli flag on his car.
**The World Health Organization is out with new statistics concerning health in Israel–and they are all good:
—Israeli women now have a life expectancy of 84 years, 10th highest in the world
—Israeli men now have a life expectancy of 80.2 years, 4th highest in the world topped only by men in Iceland, Switzerland, and Australia
—Infant mortality has dropped significantly; 0nly 2 babies out of 1000 die at birth
—Maternal mortality has dropped significantly; only 2 mothers out of every 100,000 die while giving birth
Interestingly, these “good” numbers have come at a time when, compared to Europe, Israel has roughly half the number of nurses treating those who are ill and about 40% fewer beds in hospitals. Could this be because fewer people are sick?
Today, we continue with our series on the Dome of “the Rock”. The irony of course is that we have thus far covered 1,313 years of Jewish history–during each one of which, the Foundation Stone on the Temple Mount remained the holiest place in Judaism–and still we have not come to the Muslim building of the Dome of “the Rock”.
And why not? Simply because today, in the year 363 CE, there are no Muslims, and there still will not be for yet another 250 years or more.
But time moves on.
We move next to the year 400 CE at which time the Christian traveler St. Jerome gives us almost exactly the same report as the Pilgrim of Bordeaux 67 years before. Specifically, he informs us that on the 9th of Av, he sees Jews mourning at the site of the destroyed Second Temple, even more specifically at the Foundation Stone which held the Holy of Holies.
Let’s now jump ahead to 438 CE when the Byzantine Empress Eudocia (likeness on left) made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. A well-known supporter of “minority” religions, Eudocia was embraced by Jews upon her arrival in “the Holy Land” several months in advance of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.
When asked by the rabbis if she would permit Jews to ascend the Temple Mount for the holiday, she agreed, and it is recorded that more than 100,000 Jews came to Jerusalem for the event–only to be blocked from the Mount by the Christians of Jerusalem who embarked on violent protests.
Following this incident, Jews were again forbidden from living in Jerusalem though they apparently continued to pray on the Mount.
And so the situation remained for 175 years–until the year 613 CE. It was in this year that the Persian King Khosru II invaded Jerusalem, defeated the Byzantine “Romans”, established a Jewish governor (Nehemiah ben Hushiel), and oversaw the return of sacrifices to the Mount.
A fascinating poem from the time survives, written by Rabbi Elazer Kalir:
“When Persia came to the city … and pitched his tents there / the holy people [Jews] were a bit relieved / because he permitted the reestablishment of the Temple / and they built there the holy altar / and offered upon it holy sacrifices / but they did not manage to build the Temple / because the Messiah had not yet come.”
Ten years later Jewish joy evaporated as the Byzantines retook the city and killed ben Hushiel.
Fifteen years later, in May of 638, the Muslim Caliph Umar conquered Jerusalem with the assistance of the Jewish population in return for which Umar permitted Jews to live in the city and to pray on the Temple Mount at the Foundation Stone without interference.
It is at this happy juncture that we halt our exploration for today. There is still no Dome of “the Rock”, but we are now only 52 years away from its building.