What is the Temple Mount, Who Fights Over It, and Why?

The Temple Mount is a 35 acre area considered a holy site to three religions. It is the holiest site in Judaism, the third holiest site in Islam (behind Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia), and a site held in reverence by Christianity.

The Jewish and Christian ties date back the farthest- though no follower of Islam would concede that. The first mention of this area in the Bible is in Genesis 22 when God tests Abraham by telling him to offer Isaac as a burnt offering on a mountain in Moriah that He would specify. The Temple Mount is the very place that Abraham passed this test by showing that he wouldn’t even withhold his only son from God.

The Temple Mount is also the place where King Solomon built the first temple of the Jews in 1000 BC. In 1,400 BC this temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar (the Babylonian king) and many Jews were exiled. After the Jews returned from their banishment they rebuilt the temple and in the first century BC, Herod expanded it. Pictured below is an artist’s rendering of Solomon’s Temple.

The Temple Mount is the very place where Jesus ran the money changers out of the temple with whips for turning the holy place into a common market as recorded in the Gospel of John. Ultimately, it is the site of Christ’s crucifixion. You won’t find a much holier piece of real estate than the Temple Mount.

The Temple was sacked and burned in AD 70 by the Roman general Titus.

Where do the Muslims come in? In the 7th century, the Muslims conquered Jerusalem. A Muslim custom is to build a mosque on the spot that their defeated foe held sacred. So, they built the Al- Aqsa mosque in 705 AD over the site of the first and second Jewish temples and the Dome of the Rock over the site where Muhammad allegedly ascended to heaven- both of which still stand today. To Muslims, the Temple Mount is called Haram al-Sharif or The Noble Sanctuary. (See photo above for labeled picture)

Muslims believe that it is here that their prophet Muhammad ascended to the “Divine Presence” on a winged horse, which is referred to as “The Miraculous Night Journey.” According to the Quran, Muhammad traveled from Mecca to Jerusalem in AD 621, led worship at a mosque, ascended to heaven, then came back to earth to spread his teachings.

The Temple Mount has been controlled by Muslims ever since, barring a brief period in 1099 when Christians took control during the Crusades. Muslims deny that Jews have any claim to the Temple Mount at all or that it was the site of the two Jewish temples.

Who controls it now? Well… In 1948, when Israel regained its statehood, neighboring Arab states declared war and Jordan ended up capturing the old city of Jerusalem which includes the Temple Mount. They destroyed most of the synagogues and banned the Jews from visiting the Temple Mount.

Israel recaptured old Jerusalem during the Six Day War in 1967 and regained control of the Temple Mount. Instead of banning Muslims from the site, however, Israel agreed to allow an Islamic Trust called the Waqf to continue to run the site and the Islamic structures it now contained. The Waqf still runs the site as of today, but Israel does control the entrances to the site.

Obviously this makes for an awkward situation. Muslims claim that the very presence of the Israelis contaminate their holy places. Groups of Muslims routinely shout, taunt, and throw things at Jewish visitors. Some Islamic organizations even pay Palestinians to harass Jewish visitors. Palestinians routinely hold dangerously violent protests that have resulted in casualties. Muslims are allowed to pray freely at the Temple Mount, but during times of heightened risk, the Israelis put an age restriction on Muslims allowed to enter. (Over the age of 35, or sometimes even 50) Ironically, Muslim’s hardly display reverence toward “their” holy site. Al-Aqsa mosque is regularly used as a launching point for rocks, Molotov cocktails, and low tech explosive weapons they call “firecrackers” aimed at Israeli police. Muslims also use it as a raucous site for soccer games and political rallies. This video is from September of 2015 and was obtained from the Israeli police:

In contrast, Israelis are allowed to visit, but their own government officials ban them from praying visibly, making audible blessings, worshiping as a group, or allowing a prayer book to be seen in order to keep the peace and avoid Muslim protests. Who is the religion of peace again?

So there you have it…the cliff’s notes on the Temple Mount. The historical context makes it a little easier to understand the constant religious/political fighting over this holy place.

Of course historically, the US and other countries have stepped in to try to “solve” the dilemma by periodically slapping on band-aids. The UN usually sides with the Palestinians. Many countries seem to have a “just give the Palestinians what they want so they’ll shut up” mentality. Although the US has historically been Israel’s ally, in 2011, former President Obama declared that Israel’s borders should return to the pre- 1967 Six Day War boundaries. A blatant support of Palestinian control and an alleged attempt at decreasing violence. You can read about that in this 2011 article from CNN titled Obama Calls for Israel’s Return to Pre-1967 Borders.

What stands out about Obama’s stance was his assurance that Israel has the right and the support of the US to defend themselves. Yet, relinquishing control of the area acquired in the 6 Day War leaves them at an overwhelming disadvantage since it leaves a border of a mere 10 feet in width and leaves Israel’s biggest cities within range of rockets and other attacks. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu calls the pre-1967 borders “indefensible”. A picture is worth a thousand words:

That tiny red line is the Pre-1967 border and narrows to a width of 9 feet at its smallest point.  As you can see, the area in green provides a much needed buffer and renders the largest Israeli cities out of weapons range.

Historically, Palestinian control doesn’t yield the desired peaceful results anyway. For example, under the 1993 Oslo Accords, the historical site of Joseph’s tomb was supposed to be controlled by the Israelis. But, 7 years later in 2000, the Israeli army had to evacuate due to the danger associated with the intifada (the Palestinian uprising against the Israeli “occupation” of the West Bank and Gaza). Palestinians also routinely attack Jewish visitors to Rachel’s tomb which is located in the area of Bethlehem. The Islamic State also has a policy of destroying sites considered holy to any religion other than Sunni Islam. Not exactly shocking when you are actually aware of the history surrounding the Temple Mount. Leaves you to wonder what would motivate someone to continue to push failed policy…But hey, I’m no president.

 

Sources:

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/what-is-beneath-the-temple-mount-920764/?fb_locale=da_DK&page=1

The Blaze, What is the Temple Mount and Why is There So Much Fighting Around It?

https://www.gotquestions.org/temple-mount.html

 

 

Good Friday, Good Wednesday, or Good Grief You’re Missing the Point?

Today is Good Friday. And while most of us are reflecting on the unfathomable love that our Savior Jesus Christ has for all of us unworthy sinners, others are arguing about what actual day should be celebrated.

Is it Good Friday, the traditional day that most Christians celebrate? Or should it actually be on Wednesday, which gives time for a literal 72 hours to pass?

You can actually argue either side. (I mean we can argue about anything, right?)

If you believe Jesus was crucified on Friday, you can point to the fact that the ancient Jews didn’t count days like we do. Jews counted part of a day as one day. This chart from the Answers in Genesis article Three Days and Three Nights illustrates this reckoning of time:

Day One

Day Two

Day Three

FRI
starts at
sundown on
Thursday
FRI
ends at
sundown
SAT
starts at
sundown on
Friday
SAT
ends at
sundown
SUN
starts at
sundown on
Saturday
SUN
ends at
sundown

Night

Day

Night

Day

Night

Day

Crucifixion

Sabbath

Resurrection

For further corroboration Good Friday advocates can list biblical precedent for this non-literal accounting in Esther 4:16 when she tells Mordecai to have the Jews fast, “neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day.” But then in 5:1, Esther says that on the third day she went and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace. If days were to be counted literally here, then Esther wouldn’t have seen the king until the fourth day.

If you believe Jesus was crucified on Wednesday, there’s a good argument to be made for that as well. Most assume that the crucifixion was on Friday because the Bible says that the next day was the Sabbath, which was Saturday. However, there is biblical support for the argument that the Wednesday in question was actually a Jewish holy day- the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. John 19:31 refers to the particular sabbath in question as “a high day” which doesn’t actually denote a regular weekly Sabbath but an annual holy day. For an excellent commentary on this particular interpretation you can check out Good Friday – Easter Sunday, It Doesn’t Fit With the Bible!

OR. There is a third option. The good grief you’re missing the point option- which happens to be the one I ascribe to. And I believe the Apostle Paul would agree with me.

Anytime we lose focus of the actual point of what we’re celebrating (the fact that Jesus took all of our sins upon Himself and sacrificed Himself on the cross so that you and I are completely forgiven for all sin past, present, and future) and become focused on the legalistic minutia, which we then use as a premise to judge our brothers and sisters in Christ, we become guilty of exactly what Paul implores us NOT to do in Romans 14.

Paul clearly states that we should NOT be arguing over disputable matters. What is a disputable matter?

Well, Paul gives two examples in Romans 14. The first is Jewish dietary laws. The Jews who had recently converted to Christianity were demanding that the new Gentile Christians follow the Jewish kosher dietary laws. Paul says: STOP! Verse 4: “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant?” In other words: mind your own business!

Paul’s second example pertains to days individuals may or may not esteem. This refers to those who consider particular days to be more sacred than others versus those who consider every day alike. Contextually, this is a reference to the Jewish Christians demanding that the Gentile Christians keep the traditional Jewish holy days and the sabbath. However, this fits our example as well since we are discussing an argument regarding what particular day “must” be dedicated to worship. Paul says every believer must be convinced in his own mind. In verse 9 Paul tells us that our pursuit should be to promote peace and to build each other up.

Colossians 2:8 says, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” Christ is the focus. Not the day. In verse 16, Paul continues, “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat of drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.” Condemning each other on the basis of which day is the “correct” day is not promoting peace- it is creating a rift between brothers and sisters where one doesn’t belong.

Coming from a legalistic religious background, I understand this concept all too well. It’s called missing the forest for the trees. We can become so obsessed with details that don’t matter (such as which particular day Christ was crucified on) that we break fellowship over a 2 day time difference. Instead we should be celebrating our common ground. Encouraging and building each other up. Our only concern should be giving glory to Jesus for His triumph over sin and death rendering those of us who have accepted His gift, righteous IN Him!

Cannabis: Gateway Drug or the Future of Medicine, Part 2

Last week in Part I of Cannabis: Gateway Drug or the Future of Medicine we discussed the largely untold history of Cannabis in the US and the fact that its medicinal properties have been recognized for thousands of years. But while the US government declared war on Cannabis and poured resources into other medicinal sources with easier profit potential, Israel’s Dr. Michoulam was discovering the amazing potential of Cannabis to revolutionize the future of medicine.

In the mid 90’s Dr. Michoulam discovered what is now called the endocannabinoid system in our bodies. This system, present in all humans and in many animals as well, holds the key to why Cannabis has the potential to be quite literally a miracle drug. Rick Pfrommer writes in his article, The Beginner’s Guide to the Endocannabinoid SystemThe Reason Our Bodies Easily Process Cannabis, “This system consists of a series of receptors that are configured only to accept cannabinoids, especially tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD)…Dr. Mechoulam’s world-changing research discovered two main receptors, cannabinoid 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid 2 (CB2), that are keyed to both the endocannabinoids that our body naturally produces and phytocannabinoids (plant-based) like THC and CBD.”

Put in simple terms: Our bodies respond so well to Cannabinoids because our bodies already produce them naturally. We produce these endocannabinoids in the same way our bodies produce endorphins, and our bodies are equipped with special receptors made to recognize just them.

 

 

Of course the pharmaceutical industry is hard at work to make synthetic cannabinoids so that they can profit, but these synthetic cannabinoids (so far) have not been shown to work as efficiently as the natural ones.

So let’s cut to the chase. What can Cannabis do? Well, scientists have been able to isolate more than 60 cannabinoids in the Cannabis plant (there may well be upwards of 100 by some estimations) and they all have massive potential to heal or at least relieve the symptoms of a staggering spectrum of ailments.

 

Let’s take just THC for instance- it moderates pain. However, unlike many narcotics, the receptors that it binds to are not present in the part of the brain that regulate heart rate and respiration. This means that there is no lethal dosage threshold for THC! An individual could take as much as needed to control pain. Also, Cannabis and narcotics are what is called co-agonists. This means that when they are used in combination they each magnify the effect of the other, which would allow patients to get a greater effect from a lower dose of narcotic.

THC is also a highly effective anti-nausea and vomiting compound. In 1995, Dr. Michoulam performed a clinical trial with Professor Aya Avramov ( head of the dept. of pediatric oncology in Jerusalem). He had found that Cannabis lowers the horrific side effects of anti-cancer drugs. The trial was initially meant to be a double blind trial, meaning that some of the children would receive THC oil under their tongues for nausea and vomiting and some would only receive olive oil. Avramov would not know which oil each child received. However, Avramov called off the double blind trial after a week because the results were so dramatic that she knew exactly which children were receiving the THC and which were not. They changed the trial to an open study and treated all the children with THC. The results were a complete block of nausea and vomiting with such a small dosage that no psychoactive side effects of the THC (THC is the psychoactive compound of Cannabis) occurred. The study was published, but completely ignored by the medical community. Since this trial, Cannabis has also been found to be extremely effective in relieving pain related side effects of anti-cancer treatments and could replace 5 separate medications prescribed to cancer patients that are aimed at combating the side effects of the anti-cancer treatment.

Are you diabetic or know someone that is? Dr. David Allen, a retired cardiac surgeon who is now an endocannabinoid system researcher, has some shocking research results. In his studies, he has found that if an individual uses Cannabis for 20 years or more, they reduce their risk of diabetes by a whopping 66%. Dr. Allen then puts that in perspective by noting that currently, your doctor cannot prescribe anything that will even reduce the incidence of diabetes by 2%.

This article, Can Cannabis Treat Epileptic Seizures, for Scientific American notes that new scientific research provides evidence that CBD (a non-psychoactive compound of Cannabis) could be an effective treatment for the nearly 1/3 of patients who have a treatment resistant form of epilepsy. Testimonials like the one in the video below from a woman who was on 14 different prescriptions for her epileptic seizures yet still had an average of 12 seizures a day should not be ignored. She consumes butter with marijuana in it on toast daily and is now seizure free.

Prakash Nagarkatti, professor of pathology and microbiology at the University of South Carolina, and his team made a potentially world changing discovery when they found that a cannabinoid key could seek out cancerous cells in the immune system and literally instruct them to self destruct. Could Cannabis actually be a cancer cure? Who knows, but Professor Nagarkatti’s findings are amazing. His experimental drug was able to kill almost all cancer in test tubes. When tested on mice, 25-30% of mice rejected their cancerous tumors and were completely cured. The tumors in the remaining mice were decreased significantly. Nagarkatti has already begun clinical trials in leukemia patients.

This article, 5 Ways Cannabis Could Be Helping Alzheimer’s Patients, details very encouraging studies for this heartbreaking disease. THC has been found to slow the build up of plaques more effectively than any currently approved drugs. (Amyloid plaques are a characteristic pathological marker of Alzheimer’s.) Cannabis has also been found to be a powerful anti-inflammatory which would inhibit the formation of these plaques. Not only has CBD been found to prevent cell death which could delay the neurological degeneration that occurs in Alzheimer’s sufferers, but it also promotes cell growth- indicating a possible reversal of the neurological degeneration. Cannabis could also improve the overall quality of an Alzheimer’s patient’s life by treating some of the most notorious symptoms. Cannabis can stimulate appetite, control weight, improve motor function, and reduce agitation.

Cannabis may also be revolutionary for sufferers of autoimmune diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Celiac Disease, Fibromyalgia, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and Type 2 Diabetes according to this article, 5 Autoimmune Disorders That Have Met Their Match. CBD has been shown to not only support the immune system, but to enable the immune system to recognize the difference between “normal anatomy and a foreign body”. CBD is known to regulate inflammation and immune cell activity. 50% of lab mice at Hebrew University with Rheumatoid Arthritis experienced an increase in joint health in response to CBD. A Care By Design survey reported that 100% of the fibromyalgia sufferers polled had reduced pain with CBD use for 30 days. For type 2 diabetes sufferers, CBD has been shown to improve metabolism and support insulin activity.

This article, No Bones About It: How Cannabis May Combat Bone Disease, highlights some fascinating findings when it comes to the endocannabinoid system and bone health. 2015 research from Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University found that CBD helps to heal broken bones! Using the cannabinoid recepters, researchers were able to trigger bone formation as well as strengthen the bridge that connects broken bones. This led to research focusing on the effects of CBD on osteoperosis and osteoarthritis. They found that there is strong evidence to indicate the endocannabinoid system can be used to prevent age related bone disease.

I could literally go on and on and on. Medical Cannabis has promising research for the treatment of Hepatitis C, Tourette’s, Hypertention, Sleep Apnea, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Gastrointestinal Disorders, Incontinence… Honestly, the list of what it CAN’T do may be shorter. When you take into consideration the fact that the bulk of this excitingly promising research revolves around only two compounds (THC and CBD) of the Cannabis plant and there are at minimum 60 compounds total- the medicinal potential is literally mind boggling. Add to this the fact that very few researchers are actually working with Cannabis at all because of the bureaucratic red tape involved with getting access to Cannabis (and now that they own a patent- a license from the government) due to the fact that it’s still illegal in most states. If medical Cannabis were legalized, many more brilliant scientific minds would be able to study this phenomenal plant. For the millions of people who stand to benefit from Cannabis, ignoring its well evidenced potential is nothing short of criminal. When it comes to the future of Cannabis, I guess you could say: where there’s smoke there’s fire.

Sources not linked in the above article: