On our second full day in Israel, we visited the Old City to gain perspective at how the crossroads of religion all seem to meet here. And, for the first time, we could actually ascend to the top of the Temple Mount to see the Dome of the Rock up close. (I had not been able to do this since 1992!)
Haley Stepanek was in awe of how “Billions of people revere this site as one of the holiest on earth: for Muslims, Temple Mount contains the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque; for Jews, it is the site where Abraham sacrificed his son Isaac to God.” and the site of the first and second Temples. In fact, our visit to the Temple Mount happened just days before it was again temporarily closed when news broke that a Molotov cocktail was thrown on the grounds of Temple Mount. This event, and many events that happened around us while we were on this trip, gave everyone a sense of how present the conflict is.
After visiting the Temple Mount we progressed through the Stations of the Cross. We ended this walk at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. There are many different denominations of Christianity and the difficulty the church has in choosing how to allocate areas of the Church was noted by student Nicole Beitzinger. “As you walk through the site, you can see how different parts are dedicated to different sects.” Students learned that, ironically, it is a Muslim family that opens the doors to the Church every morning because the Christian denominations could not agree on which Christian group would have that honor. Chelsea Payant observed that “After entering the doors of the Church, I soon realized why the Christians where fighting over it. The Church was breathtaking. Many different paintings, statues, and candles decorated the Church. As I kneeled to pray at the stone (where Jesus’ body was washed) I was moved to tears….Being able to experience such an important site was a once in a lifetime opportunity that Marquette provided to me. I was able to not only learn more about the conflict but I was able to better understand it from my spiritual experience I had at the Church…. While in Israel, I grew in mind, heart, and spirit. It truly was a cura personalis experience.”
I end this blog with a beautiful poem about the Temple Mount, by one of our students, Jacob Armellani, influenced by Robert Frost’s Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening.
Whose Temple Mount is that? I think I know.
Its keepers are quite sad though.
It really is a tale of woe,
I watch her frown. I cry hello.
“Mazel Tovs” give her a shake,
And sobs until the tears make.
The only other sounds that break,
Are soft prayers and birds awake.
The Temple Mount is conflict, love and deep,
But she has promises to keep,
Until then she shall not sleep.
She lies in bed with tired eyes that weep
She rises from her bitter bed.
With thoughts of hope for days ahead,
Of peace and joy for her instead,
A time with no more bloodshed.