Sharing the Temple Mount

The Temple Mount in Jerusalem was originally the site of the First and Second Temples mentioned in the Bible. The Mount is now home to the Dome of the Rock, a magnificent Islamic Mosque. Unfortunately, the interior of the Mosque is as off-limits to non-Muslims as the original Holy of Holies was to non-Jews (and even Jews who were not of the Priesthood). It's unfortunate because, in my opinion, no house of worship should be off limits to anyone looking for a place to connect with God. No matter what we call ourselves, if we are seeking a moment with God and are called to Temple, Mosque, Church or Synagogue, we should be allowed inside. In fact, we should be warmly invited to share in the presence of Universal Love.
Instead, we set up gatekeepers and use them in the very wrong sense of the word. A gatekeeper isn't supposed to keep people out. A gatekeeper is supposed to shepherd people inside. We misunderstand the word in our modern era because too many of us live in gated communities and think the guy sitting in the little house at the gate is supposed to prevent people from coming to visit. But think about it: when you drive up to a gatehouse, what happens? The guy gives you a pass.
That's a shepherd, not a gatekeeper, and that's an appropriate use of the job title. Would that our houses of worship treated people the same.
Historically, though, we have always kept people out of our places of worship. It's crazy! During the two Temple periods (the first was around 960-586 BCE and the second from 538 BCE-70 CE), people were allowed to gather only in the courtyards of the Temples. Regular folks weren’t allowed into the deepest spaces, which were considered “too holy” for the unwashed masses (it’s also a pretty handy control mechanism for a Priestly ruling class). This tradition has continued during the Muslim era, with people allowed into the courtyard of the Dome of the Rock, but few non-Muslims allowed inside. I have heard from some Muslim friends that it's difficult for anyone to get inside, no matter their religion. Sometimes Muslims are even required to recite Al Fatiha (the first chapter of the Qur'an) and a rakah'ah (a unit of prayer). We shouldn't be surprised when we see similarities in the religions. After all, the three Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) have more in common than not. What's unfortunate is that the similarities we see are too often about exclusion rather than inclusion.
We focus entirely too much on our perceived differences. We all have five senses (but seem to lack common sense), we all walk on two legs. We are all born from mothers and fathers; we all grow old and die; we all love, and we all bleed. We are a single species, yet we seem to define ourselves more based on skin color, gender identity, hair length, neighborhood, type of car, style of house, language, eating habits—it's ludicrous how many ways we find to divide ourselves, and how few we find to unify. Ludicrous and devastatingly sad.
I suppose there is a certain amount of fear in trusting strangers because we all remember the story of the Trojan Horse. At some point, though, we need to get over our fear of others and stop killing each other because I'm right-handed, and you're left-handed. It really is that simple. Analysts and politicians want to make the world complex, but it needn't be. All people need love and safety. Those don't come from stockpiling food and weapons. Love and safety only arrive when we put down our weapons, unlock our gates, and welcome everyone into our temples without exception.
Meditation: Make me a shepherd of Universal Love.

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