Ariel Sharon: Messenger of Abrahamic Apocalypse? (Beliefnet, via Bible and Interpretation News)
Consider his controversial visit to a contested Jerusalem holy site from a Muslim end-times perspective.
By Gershom Gorenberg
Excerpts (but read it all):
Fa'iq Da'ud was expecting trouble at Jerusalem's Temple Mount in 2000--or as he'd say, at al-Haram al-Sharif.
In fact, the violence that exploded at the world's most contested holy site this fall, and which ignited ongoing battles between Israelis and Palestinians, is only a pale glimmer next to Da'ud's apocalyptic visions--visions that shed light on a dangerous, often-ignored side of the Mount's place in the religious imagination of three faiths.
For Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, the 36-acre hilltop plaza is not only at the center of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, it is also center stage for the Last Days.Da'ud's book, "The Great Events Preceding the Appearance of the Mahdi," was on sale at Islamic bookstores around the West Bank last year. The cover of the Arabic tract shows an aerial photo of the Haram--Dome of the Rock mosque at the center, Al-Aqsa mosque to one side.Next to it is a picture of a model of the Jewish Temple, superimposed on the same site, replacing both mosques. Inside, Da'ud portrays a vast conspiracy of Jews and Christians that, he says, intends to build the Third Temple to prepare the way for the arrival of their shared messiah, who he says is the Antichrist. Yet he finds hope in the threat to Islam's shrines: It heralds history's final battles and the coming of the Mahdi, the true redeemer.
It's a dark fantasy but hardly unique.
To make sense of all this, picture apocalyptic believers seated in a triangular theater around the stage of Jerusalem. All agree that history's last act is being played out, but they hold different programs. Jewish Temple activists--bit players in real life--have starring roles in the Christian play; Jews and Christians alike unknowingly play in the Muslim script. Hope and fear are the sound system, wildly amplifying every word, every footstep. Small actions at the Temple Mount take on significance that nonbelievers--such as secular politicians and analysts--neither expect nor understand.
Viewing Jerusalem as the stage of the End warps perception of political events, creates expectations of absolute victories, makes battles glorious instead of tragic. But it is certainly not the only religious view of Jerusalem's sorrows.
Those who regard life as more sacred than soil, who believe that God commands us "to seek peace and pursue it," must reject the apocalyptic vision and insist that the faiths can live together in the Holy City.