The combination briar patch and powder keg that is sometimes called “the Holy Land” is chock-full of contentious and seemingly irresolvable issues. One of the thorniest involves the area of Jerusalem called the Temple Mount, which houses some of the holiest sites of both Judaism and Islam. It is also revered by Christians, especially those of the apocalyptic variety, since the restoration of the ancient Jewish Temple is an important part of their eschatological timeline, and the desired site is presently physically occupied by a mosque.
I won’t even try to recount the whole history here – there are plenty of sources you can find for that. Suffice it to say that recent events have once more brought the tenuous and sensitive question of ownership to the fore.
Oh, and one more thing: I think I may have a solution to this conundrum.
It’s simple enough, if you accept my premise, which is that if the Almighty has an opinion on this matter – and the disputing parties all agree that He does – then we should be able to ask Him about it.
There is a precedent for the sort of thing I have in mind. Back in the Old Testament, in 1 Kings 18 in fact, there’s a great story about the prophet Elijah and his throwdown with the priests of Baal. Elijah suggests that they set up ritual sacrifices to their respective gods, and see what happens – the idea being that the real deity will cause his sacrifice to be devoured in flame.
Baal’s guys try their best, but nothing happens – and Elijah has some fun talking smack at them all the while. Then he not only sets up his sacrifice, he has it doused thoroughly with water (so the story says) – but Yahweh blows it all sky-high anyway.
So here’s my idea. Let’s get some hardcore representatives of the three faiths involved – an ultra-Orthodox rabbi, a radical Islamic imam, and a fundamentalist pro-Israel Christian preacher like, say, James Hagee – to set up some old-school sacrifices, and then beseech the Almighty to let His Will be known.
And then we see what happens… with this caveat: if nothing happens at all, then the parties agree that this will be interpreted as a clear sign from The Creator that we should all start acting like grownups and learn how to share.
Now here’s the main point, and my challenge: I do not belive that ANYBODY – Muslim, Jewish, or Christian – actually has the faith, or the confidence in their position, to put their claim to such a test. They might talk a good game, and trot out historical and scriptural evidence to back themselves up, but they don’t really believe their own rhetoric.
Maybe I’m wrong. We’ll see.