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Jerusalem | The Land of Abrahamic Religions

Abrahamic religions are those who worships God of Abraham, including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. For many, Jerusalem is the center of world, perhaps the center of the entire universe, and this is where it all began.

We, Sarmin and I travel the world, together we have been to 88 countries to date. Visiting Israel and Palestine, especially Jerusalem and its path covered with densely packed with history was a dream for us. Since Ibrahim (AS), many prophets walked the land of Jerusalem. Jesus was born here, crucified and laid to rest here. Islam’s last prophet Muhammad (SAW) was ascended to heaven in the night of Meraj from the very location of Jerusalem, the Dome of the Rock located in Al-Aqsa Mosque complex.

We planned to visit Jerusalem in 2020, but it was cancelled due to COVID. Opportunity came back to us again July of this year. We took a flight to Tel-Aviv. From there we would be visiting Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Tel-Aviv.

Today’s political conflicts between Israel and Palestine fueled by faith goes back to thousands of years. The complexity of history of this region is beyond anyone’s grasp. Countless generations have failed to understand and let alone solve issues as they deeply rooted into faith and religion. Still today, Jerusalem and its old city remains as the center of most conflicts. Displacement, distruction, tension, flights, killing leading human sufferings to all sides is a very common sight in the region. Our journey to Israel-Palestine was very brief, only for few days. Life there looked normal as Israeli soldiers carrying heavy machine guns guarded the city, roads and alleys.

Israel claims Jerusalem as their capital city, and they control and provide security for the city. Within the old city of Jerusalem, the icon of Islam Al-Aqsa mosque complex is partly controlled by Jordan. For readers, please do not try to understand politics, security or who controls what of this region. Just know this is the most complex region throughout the history of entire mankind. Let me focus briefly what we have experienced here. Writing about this place does not justify what this place is all about. Old city of Jerusalem is a very tiny place, less than a square kilometer, gated community inside and surrounded by ancient walls. Currently there are eight gates to enter the city, the most important one (The Golden Gate) on the east side is permanently closed due to conflicts. All three religions place such high importance on the Golden Gate. In Islam, it is referred as the Gate of Eternal Life. In Christianity, Jesus passed through this gate. Jewish literature details their last Messiah (Savior of Jewish nation) will one day enter Jerusalem through this gate.

Inside the old city of Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa mosque complex is about 36 acres (0.15 square kilometer). The complex has multiple mosques on the site. Masjid Al-Aqsa (The Noble Sanctuary) and the Dome of the Rock are the two significant establishments. Within The Dome of the Rock, the Golden Dome sits right above the exposed rock believed the very location where Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was ascended to heaven. Beneath the rock, there is a small cave. We arrived to complex early in the morning. There are few gates to enter the complex, all of which are open only to Muslims. Only one gate located on the western side of the complex is accessible for tourists for a specific time during the day. Non-Muslims can visit the site, but not allowed to enter inside any mosque.

For Jewish community, Al-Aqsa mosque complex is known as Temple Mount, the holiest place on earth because this is where their two temples once stood. The First Temple was built by King Solomon son of King David (Islam’s prophet Sulaiman was son of prophet Dawood). The story goes back to almost 3,000 years; the Babylonians destroyed the temple about 2,500 years ago. King Herod the Great built the second temple and it was destroyed again by the Roman Empire 40 years after Jesus died. The remnant of the second temple (Western wall of Al-Aqsa Complex) still standing. Jews flock from all over the world to pray facing the western wall; they continue to mourn the destruction of their temples.

When Judaism claims Al-Aqsa mosque as Temple Mount, in Islam it was a mosque from the begining. Scholars have different opinions who exactly built Al-Aqsa. Some would say Adam (as), others would suggest Prophet Ibrahim (as), but throughout the history, the complex has been rebuilt, renovated and expanded many times. After the death of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), second khalif of Islam, Umar invaded Jerusalem and rebuild the mosque that was completely destroyed by the Romans. Muslims lost Al-Aqsa to Crusaders in late eleventh centaury. A centaury later, Salahuddin, first sultan of Egypt and Syria reclaimed Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa. Followed by Salahuddin, Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa was controlled by Muslims for about eight centuries until recently. Just over a century ago Zionist movement (Jewish nationalist movement) in Europe emerged with the aim of creating a Jewish state, it gained strength and supported by the British who took control of Jerusalem after World War I in 1917. British allowed Muslims to control Al-Aqsa, later in 1924 Jordan took over custodianship of Al-Aqsa.

After 2,000 years, in 1948 State of Israel was created, supported by UN and most of the western world. Since then war, crime, killing and occupying more Palestinian territory followed. Today, over 80% of the region is under Israeli occupation. Within Israel what left as Palestine are few caged cities, nowhere to go or escape without going through Israeli securities. Imagine you are a Palestinian living in Gaza, you can either live within Gaza forever isolated from the rest of the world or come out knowing that you wouldn’t return to your home forever. From my own experience as I have seen, State of Israel is very aggressive. Israeli officials created the platform to clear presence of Muslims wherever they can, they want Muslims to feel exhausted and never return. I hope I am completely wrong, but in my opinion Palestine may not exist 20 years from now. Muslims may still visit Al-Aqsa under Israeli controls, State of Israel may fear to build a temple within Al-Aqsa complex for long time to come. 1.8 billion Muslims around the world, they may witness Palestine wipe off the map, but they would never accept Al-Aqsa to turn into something else, it will simply not happen. I do not think Jews Messiah as they believe is coming soon to build the temple, and the State of Israel knows it better than anyone else.

Old city Jerusalem is a tiny place as noted earlier. History is written everywhere. There are two very significant Christian churches, one adjacent to the northern wall of Al-Aqsa complex and the other one just 600 meter west. It takes less than 10 minutes walk between these two churches. The first, the Church of Condemnation where Jesus was sentenced to death. Second, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where Jesus was crucified and buried. In between two churches, Jerusalem’s alleys are marked with 14 stations. These stations are where Jesus was condemened to death, forst started to carry the cross, he fell few times, looked at his meother Mary, nailed to the cross, dies on the cross, Jesus was buried etc.

During our visit, we walked through all the stations, entered the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It was very early in the morning, and only very few people were around. We have seen and touched all the places where Jesus was crucified, his body was laid down after crucification, entered his tomb. The church was built about 300 years after crucification. The ambient inside the church touched me the most. History took place here 2,000 years ago, but it felt just yesterday. It felt Jesus died here last evening. The scilence and emotion of worshippers tell the story. It was inconceivable how a mother, Mary suffered losing her child in front of her as she was present. Imagine carrying the cross Jesus walked the path headed to a place just to be killed, he turned around and saw his mother for one last time standing on the side. Imagine a mother was standing as her son was crucified, and she was praying.These places are all marked in the alleys of Jerusalem; it took me back 2,000 years. I asked myself, did Mary (Maryam, the mother of Prophet Isa) know her son would become the lord of the world one day followed by billions of followeres? Was there a joy knowing it, or sufferings of mother losing her child supersedes all promised rewards except her son? Next day we decided to visit Bethlehem, a Palestinian city where Jesus was born and his birthplace is marked on the floor with a silver star.

Jerusalem, it’s a promised land for Jews. Jesus lived and died here for all the sins of entire mankind, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) ascended to heavn from here. Is this place worth fighing for in the name of God? We would never know.


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