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Dome of the Rock in Alqsa MosqueTerm Paper

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¶ … iconic sets of architectural structures in Jerusalem, capital of the ancient land of Israel, is the complex containing the Dome of the Rick and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. These two structures and several smaller elements near them are sometimes referred to collectively as "The Noble Sanctuary," and are among the most sacred sites in Islam, after Mecca and Medina. The Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque were built atop the crumbled ruins of the ancient Jewish temple that was destroyed by the Romans in the year 70 CE. Known in modern times as the Temple Mount, the entire area is one in which people from all over the world, especially Jews and Muslims, come to worship. Therefore, the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque have deep cultural significance and value to not only the people of Israel but people all over the world. Their symbolic and religious import endow these structures with a power reserved for few edifices in the world, making the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque also politically charged buildings too. Yet to focus only on their social and political connotations would miss their architectural marvels and aesthetic beauty. The Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque have stood the test of time because they demark a specific and transformative era in history.

The Dome of the Rock is by far the more eye-catching, noticeable, and famous of the two structures. It is the gold-covered dome that occupies the bulk of the Jerusalem skyline. Whereas the Al Aqsa Mosque is rendered in monochrome and its dome has a dull and dark grey finish, the Dome of the Rock glistens in all lighting conditions. The Dome of the Rock is also much larger than the Al Aqsa Mosque, making it stand out. The iconic gold covering was actually not always a key feature of the Dome of the Rock, which had been a lead covered dome at one point ("The Al Aqsa Mosque Through the Ages"). With a gold covering, the Dome of the Rock has usurped somewhat the visual power of the Al Aqsa Mosque, which is ironic given the greater spiritual significance of the latter.

The Al Aqsa Mosque was erected in 715 CE. When these structures were being planned, the Temple Mount had been already reduced to rubble and had been so for centuries after the Romans destroyed the Second Temple and drove out the Jews from their Holy Land. In fact, the Romans had been using the Temple Mount area as a "garbage dump," and it was filthy ("The Al Aqsa Mosque Through the Ages"). Omar (Umar) recognized the site as being the archaeological location of many Biblical stories, including stories that involved the Prophet Muhammad. Mythic significance is attached to the entire Temple Mount area, which is believed to be the location of some of the most important narratives in both Jewish and Muslim history. Therefore, Omar set out to cleanse and revitalize the Temple Mount. At the time, few Jews remained in the region and there was little controversy given the triumph of Islam and its increasing political and social dominance in the region. Islam would remain the dominant religion throughout the Levant for well over a thousand years, although the political, cultural, and religious leadership changed dramatically from the time of the Umayyads to the time of the Ottomans.

After the fall of the Ottoman Empire in the late nineteenth century, all that would change. Because the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque are erected on what was the most important sacred site in Jewish history, these structures symbolize the Muslim encroachment on what had been Jewish land as well as the triumph of Islam as the dominant religion throughout the Middle East until the 20th century. However, Muslims had viewed Islam as being an extension of Judaism and therefore believed that the Temple Mount was an appropriate location to construct these holy sites ("The Al Aqsa Mosque Through the Ages"). Currently, the Temple Mount houses a collection of structures sacred to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, including the Wailing Wall, which is the most intact part of the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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