Dome of the Rock

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If there is one item along the Jerusalem skyline that immediately identifies the city, it is probably the Dome of the Rock. The Dome of the Rock was built initially in 691 AD at the order of a Muslim caliph. The Dome of the Rock is now one of the oldest works of Islamic architecture. Its architecture and mosaics were patterned after nearby Byzantine churches and palaces. The octagonal plan of the structure may also have been influenced by the Byzantine Chapel of St Mary (also known as Kathisma and al-Qadismu) built between 451 and 458 on the road between Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

The site’s significance stems from religious traditions regarding the rock, known as the Foundation Stone, where Jews and Muslims traditionally believe Abraham was set to offer Isaac as recorded in Genesis.

The Dome of the Rock is situated in the center of the Temple Mount, the site where the Jewish first temple (built by king Solomon) and second temple (built by Herod the Great) had stood. The Second Temple was destroyed in 70 CE by the Romans, who built a temple to Jupiter on the site. During the Byzantine era, Jerusalem was primarily Christian, and pilgrims came by the tens of thousands to experience the first church of Christianity and places where Jesus walked.

The diameter of the dome of the shrine is 20.20 m and its height 20.48 m, while the diameter of the dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is 20.90 m and its height 21.05 m.

The structure is basically octagonal. It comprises a wooden dome, approximately 66 feet in diameter, and is mounted on an elevated drum consisting of a circle of 16 piers and columns. Surrounding this circle is an octagonal arcade of 24 piers and columns. The outer facade is made of porcelain and mirrors the octagonal design. They each measure approximately 60 feet wide and 36 feet high. 

It is a beautiful structure by any measure. This photo was shot on a cold, mostly clear morning in January, 2016.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1943, Japanese forces on Guadalcanal, defeated by Marines, started to withdraw after the Japanese emperor finally gave them permission.

On July 6, 1942, the Japanese landed on Guadalcanal Island, part of the Solomon Islands chain, and began constructing an airfield. In response, the U.S. launched Operation Watchtower, in which American troops landed on five islands within the Solomon chain, including Guadalcanal. The landings on Florida, Tulagi, Gavutu, and Tananbogo met with much initial opposition from the Japanese defenders, despite the fact that the landings took the Japanese by surprise because bad weather had grounded their scouting aircraft. “I have never heard or read of this kind of fighting,” wrote one American major general on the scene. “These people refuse to surrender.”

The Americans who landed on Guadalcanal had an easier time of it, at least initially. More than 11,000 Marines landed, but 24 hours passed before the Japanese manning the garrison knew what had happened. The U.S. forces quickly met their main objective of taking the airfield, and the outnumbered Japanese troops temporarily retreated. Japanese reinforcements were landed, though, and fierce hand-to-hand jungle fighting ensued. The Americans were at a particular disadvantage because they were assaulted from both sea and air, but when the U.S. Navy supplied reinforcement troops, the Americans gained the advantage. By February 1943, the Japanese retreated on secret orders of their emperor. In fact, the Japanese retreat was so stealthy that the Americans did not even know it had taken place until they stumbled upon abandoned positions, empty boats, and discarded supplies.

In total, the Japanese lost more than 25,000 men compared with a loss of 1,600 by the Americans. Each side lost 24 warships.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Iraq once had one of the highest quality schools and colleges in the Arab world. However, after the 1991 Gulf War and the United Nations sanctions, today only around 40% of Iraqis can read and write.

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3 thoughts on “Dome of the Rock

    1. You’re probably asking the wrong guy. I think that at one point if you’d asked the people of Iraq that question, they would have probably replied in the affirmative. But now, with the Taliban re-exerting itself and ISIS in the north, I doubt they’d say things are better. Whose fault is that? I don’t know. What would it have been like now if Saddam hadn’t been toppled? I don’t know. He did have a reputation of being ruthless against those who might try to overthrow him, so he would have dealt with the Taliban and ISIS in a far more brutal manner than the rest of the world has. Ah, hindsight…all one can do is the best that they can at any moment in time, I guess.

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