Today is both Good Friday and Passover, so what could be more appropriate than looking at one of those idiotic controversies that religions fight over, this time over a building in Jerusalem?
If there’s one building in Jerusalem that represents the city’s tangle of religions, this is it. The ground floor is a Jewish holy site said to house the tomb of the biblical King David. The second floor is the Cenacle, a Christian holy site, the room believed to be the site of Jesus’ Last Supper. On the roof, there’s an old minaret from when this place was marked a Muslim holy site. One building, three religions, decades of property disputes. And the fight isn’t over.
Because it is disputed, each religion is prevented from using it for explicitly religious functions and so it is just a tourist site.
Israel limits organized Christian prayers here to just a few times a year. There are no crosses on the wall; no chapel. Groups of pilgrims from around the world shuffle in, take snapshots and shuffle out. Sometimes stray cats wander around.
“The place is so essential, so much an integral part of the Christian narrative,” says the Rev. David Neuhaus, a Catholic vicar in Jerusalem. “Needless to say, it’s a dream that we could pray there in regular fashion like other holy places.”
“The minute they’ll make it as a church, Jews, halachically, according to Jewish law, are forbidden to go in there,” he says. “It’s a disgrace for Israel, you know, it’s like milk spilled that you can never return it back.”
So there you have it, in the 21st century people still argue and fight over their myths and symbols, holy books and holy sites. Three religions are tangling over a building that has supposedly been built on a site that has connections to two people (David and Jesus) whose very existence is in serious doubt.