It’s one of my favorite places in Jerusalem. Up on the Temple Mount the acres and acres of peace can be illusive. This is probably the center of the world of contention between Jews, Christians, and Muslims. The Dome of the Rock is considered one of the three most holy sites in Islam where Mohammad is said to have journey to heaven. And the Al Aqsa Mosque, right next door, is one of those places only Muslims are allowed to go.
This picture is of the washing station Muslims use each time they come up to the Mount to pray, and I find it one of the most reverent religious practices of the Mono-Thesitic faiths. Each time they pray, they wash their hands, their face, their feet, their mouths, their head, and approach God with cleanliness.
The Jews believe this is the place of the temple, and right above the entrance there is a warning for all Orthodox Jews to stay away. The Rabbis have declared the Holy of Holies an unknown place, and reiterate the danger of walking around without knowing exactly where the presence of God was in the days of the temple.
Our guide told us of the history, the places of worship, and the contention between the Jews and the Muslims who are both vying to call this place “their own.” And then I looked over my shoulder and I saw this….
A group of Muslim school children were walking the grounds of the mosque laughing, joking with each other, all while the teachers were trying to keep them respectful and under control. I wanted so badly to get a soccer ball and just kick the ball around with these kids. I know what that’s like. Remember when you had to be the line leader at school and act like you cared what was going on as your teacher tried to impart some kind of academic wisdom to you? You couldn’t care less. All you wanted to do was play. (or at least that’s what I wanted to do.)
And then it dawned on me…
That’s really what we all want out of life anyway. We all want the freedom to express ourselves in a way that we sense down deep inside us. As a Jesus follower, I believe that’s what Jesus came to do – give us freedom. While so much of our lives is bound by rules and the ideas of someone else’s important information, we want to run free. We feel the deep desire to laugh with our friends and those closest to us. But somewhere in the ‘need to know’ we get confused.
We separate ourselves from others with labels, boxes, fences, and rules. WE can’t know THEM because THEY pose some kind of threat to US. WOW, how complex this life can be.
I keep going back to the phrase one of the students said up on the Mountain of the Beatitudes. When I asked her what she thought of the scenery she said, “There sure are a lot of fences up here.” And that’s precisely the story I want to help tell. Too many fences for a God who came to set us free.
Man, this is fun.