Until 1930 this iconography was widespread in the Holy Land and in the Diaspora, suggesting a modicum of respect and friendship between Jews and Moslems. After 1930 the image of the Dome of the Rock is no longer found in Jewish Art or it is kept in the background. The unprecedented riots of August 1929 in Jerusalem and Hebron resulting in the deaths of 133 Jews was the immediate cause. The continued rise in the Middle East of nationalist politics had changed the region forever and the imagery reflects this.
So the question remains: why until 1930, was the polygonal/circular Dome of the Rock adopted by Jews to depict our most sacred spot on earth and the Temple of the End of Days, the embodiment of the desire for redemption?
One reason, in my opinion, is the mere fact that the domed structure was a reality on that holy spot, a realistic image before one’s very eyes and this caused it to be artistically rendered again and again in our works or art.
Dr. Berger believes that another reason is that until 1930 the Jews regarded the Moslems neutrally. The image of the Dome with the crescent didn’t have a negative connotation. Both Jews and Moslems fought the Christians and when the Crusaders were defeated they rejoiced together. Anti-Semitism towards Jews in Moslem lands was less marked and developed than in Europe. European Jews in times of persecution readily sought refuge in Moslem countries. Historically understood in this light one can begin to appreciate the use of the image of the Dome of the Rock for the Temple.
In her easy to read, flowing, eloquent presentation of the material, Dr. Berger shows us how one apparently small iconographic detail can be an eye opener to an entire weltanshaung of harmonious and peaceful relationships between Arabs and Jews.
She concludes by suggesting that we should use our imagery of the past as a role model for the future to try to find a peaceful solution to the Middle East problem to invoke the holiness of the place of the Foundation Stone together – thus rather stretching an examination of art appreciation and imagery into matters a little beyond the scope of the material.
As for the rebuilding of the Beit haMikdash on the Even HaShetiyah – “this will have to be left for the Messiah”!
About the Author: Joy Schonberg is an art historian. Formerly head of the Judaica Dept. of Christie’s Int’l, she is presently an appraiser of fine arts, lecturer and President of Joy Schonberg Galleries a gallery dealing with Antique Judaica, paintings, silver artifacts, and archaeology. She can be reached at JoySchonberg@aol.com or at www.joyschonberg.com
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