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Report from the Holy land

CHRIST & NEIGHBOR

By John C. Cort | March 1990

What surprised me about Palestine, also known as the West Bank, riding up the road from Jericho to Jerusalem, was the awful look of that barren, mountainous desert. I use “aw­ful” in the literal sense, full of awe.

In this landscape Satan took Jesus up a high mountain and showed him all the king­doms of the world and the glory of them. The contrast must have been striking. Again, in this landscape (on Mount Tabor, tradition has it) Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James, and John. On this road the Good Samaritan stopped to succor the man who fell among thieves. This is the landscape that gave birth to the three great monotheistic religions: Juda­ism, Christianity, and Islam, and you can un­derstand why. On those bleak, unfriendly mountains the most arrogant of men or wom­en would have to recognize that they needed help, the kind of help that only one, all-pow­erful God could provide.

Also, it was in Jerusalem, from the rock altar that once was the focal point of Solo­mon’s temple, that Mohammed is believed to have ascended into heaven, together with his horse. And here, the third most holy place in Islam, after Mecca and Medina, was built the Dome of the Rock, the most beautiful building in all Jerusalem. And a stone’s throw away, lower down, is the most holy place of Juda­ism, the Western or Wailing Wall, all that re­mains of Solomon’s temple. Some of the more extreme Israelis dream of tearing down the Dome of the Rock and rebuilding the temple, a thought that drives Muslims right up that wall.

Several more stone throws away is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the most holy place in Christendom, which is traditionally thought to cover both the place where Jesus died and where he rose from the dead. What a concentration of holy places!

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