Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Dome of The Rock and My Talit

At Friday night Shabbat services as I sat down to listen to the Rabbi's sermon, my eyes wandered. He spoke about his hopes for progress towards peace in Israel/Palestine. My eyes settled on the corner of my tallit prayer shawl (see image below). I noticed for the first time the subtle silver-on-white decoration of each of the four panels at the corners of the shawl. My mind was thinking about the so-called "peace talks" when the image suddenly leaped to the forefront of my consciousness. Could this Arabic structure festooned with Hebrew banners and crowned with a Jewish star be....the Haram el-Sharif mosque?
The two banners read "tiferet" and "zion". The Tiferet Zion synagogue in Jerusalem is in the Mahane Yehuda market. It is a landmark building because of its distinctive sundial on the side of the building. That synagogue looks nothing like this image. Another option is the famous, domed Hurva synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City. But the details beneath the dome are quite different in the Hurva synagogue. The Biblical verse that adorns the image is the traditional Jewish oath to Jerusalem: "I will lose my right hand before I forget thee O Jerusalem"
Was the similarity to the Dome of the Rock intentional, or was it an innocent mistake?
Regardless, in the context of that sermon and this week's events (see the previous post), I just removed my talit and concluded the service sans prayer shawl. For services today I used a different talit.
I've had this talit for seven years, wearing it on a weekly basis. I didn't notice this detail until last night.
A congregant who is an artist and peace activist once made some windsocks that had the Israeli flag on one side and the Palestinian flag on the other. He gave one to me. This was long before the days when the Palestinian flag became the conventional symbol that it is today (even Israeli leader, Netanyahu has one in his office). I had to take it down: the windsock moved too much under the pressure of the forced air, and was triggering the alarm's motion sensors.
So, perhaps I'll put an Israeli flag on the right front corner of the tallit, a Palestinian flag on the left front corner and leave the back ones as they are. Should make for a good show-and-tell lesson.


P.S. I checked out the Zion Tallis website and the corners of this style Talit are now decorated with different image. Perhaps they figured that this image might be read as offensive.


  1. It does look a little like a cross - if you'll pardon the expression ;-) - between the Hurva and the Dome of the Rock. It is probably just an artists vision of the Temple, like this one:

    Personally, I find it less offensive and more appropriate on a religious article than national flags of any kind. Besides, I think there is far too much confusion between the State of Israel and Judaism as it is.

    Don't worry about it. It's only on the fringe anyway :-)

  2. Shmuel,
    This certainly is a fringe issue. Thank you for flagging it. I too do not bow down to flags in synagogue sanctuaries.
    The religious dimension of the Israel/Palestine issue for Jews around the world is significant because Jews - even atheists - still organize around synagogues. Jews' relationship with theTemple Mount/Haram el-Sharif is emblematic of our relationship to all Israel/Palestine. It was one thing, back in the shtetl to fantasize that one day a temple will be built in Jerusalem in the style of the local lord of the manor (see traditional Sukka decorations for examples). It's quite another to take the dome of the Hurva synagogue and build it on top of the walls of the Dome of the Rock and crown that with a Jewish star. Is this image an extension of that or a version of the Jewish movement to build the Third Temple on the ruins of the Dome of the Rock mosque:
    The early Reform Jews were on to something when they declared America to be their Zion and left Jerusalem as a shrine and place of pilgrimage. For the Jews of the world, a place to visit. For the Jews of the Land of Israel, a place to share, not dominate.