Jewish-Muslim Veneration at Pilgrimage Places in the Holy Land

In: Religion and the Arts
Author: Pamela Berger1
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  • 1 Boston College
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For millennia human communities have designated certain sites as sacred and nowhere more so than in the Holy Land. The Bible records that Canaanites worshipped in “high places,” and the prophets railed against the Israelites for continuing the practice. Jesus castigated the Pharisees for adorning the tombs of the prophets. When Jews were expelled from Jerusalem, those who remained on the land did not abandon their devotion to the holy sites. When the Muslims arrived they continued the practice of visiting the tombs of those figures mentioned in both the Bible and the Quran. Throughout the Middle Ages and into the modern period Muslims and Jews wrote about their visits to these jointly-venerated tombs. Jews made illustrated scrolls, wall hangings, and other works of art depicting these sites, representing the shrines with prominent Islamic crescents on top, an indication that Jewish viewers felt no discomfort at the use of this iconography. The Jewish valorization of the Islamic crescent atop shrines common to Jews and Muslims reflects a relationship very different from that existing between the two cultures today.

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