February 2019 \ News \ COLUMN—MENTAL HEALTH

By Haim Belmaker

                                 CO-EXISTENCE & MELTING POT OF RELIGIONS – JERUSALEM

Jerusalem is the holiest city in the world for Jews, one of the two holiest cities in the world for Christians and the third holiest place in the world for Muslims after Mecca and Medina. In a 1 square km area of Jerusalem, there are numerous holy sites for Jews, Christians and Muslims including the Western Wall of the ancient Jewish Temple that existed on the site from about 1000 BCE until 78 AD, the Via Dolorosa of Christ’s last day in 33 AD ending in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher built on the site of his crucifixion and burial, and the Muslim Al-Aqsa Mosque where Mohamed is said to have ascended directly into heaven. These sites often overlap. Members of the three Abrahamic religions often included common themes in their founding stories. This sometimes resulted in common thematic understandings, but sometimes in competitiveness and jealousy that led to the intentional construction of one holy site in an attempt to destroy the meaning for members of a previous religion that had worshipped at that very same physical place. This phenomenon in Jerusalem regarding the three Abrahamic religions is not unknown in other areas of the world where Buddhism and Hinduism often evidence both common roots and jealous competitiveness between themselves and other religions. Several academic disciplines have developed in Israel as elsewhere in the world to: 1) enhance understanding of “the other” within the Abrahamic religions 2) enhance the ability of those individuals who use religion as an important part of their psychological life to avoid a conflictual approach with other religious believers and to accept other beliefs while continuing to derive spiritual and emotional succor from their own beliefs.