Monday, May 6, 2013

Shiur Theatre: Claiming Jerusalem, Act One

Our Beit Midrash presented another installation of Shiur Theatre this week, in honour of Yom Yerushalayim. Our title is Claiming Jerusalem. We had a lot of fun with this one...

Here is Act One; I hope to post the remaining acts throughout the week:

ACT ONE – The Muslim History of Jerusalem

Mahmoud and Marty walk into the scene from off-stage, talking to each other. Mahmoud is gesturing to the scenery around them.

MAHMOUD (coming into room mid-sentence): …just offensive to me, these Jews running my city as though they belong here.

MARTY (trailing just behind Mahmoud): You do know that I'm Jewish, right?

MAHMOUD: Yes, but you are, eh… respectful. You know that in order for you to become educated regarding the Middle East, you must study under an Arab instructor, a Muslim. You understand that this is an Arab city, Al-Quds, not a Jewish city.

MARTY (genuinely curious): Was Al-Quds always Muslim, from the beginning?

MAHMOUD: Oh, yes, this whole land was Muslim, all of Palestine was Muslim, going back to the days of Ibrahim, peace be upon him.

MARTY: Abraham? But wasn't Abraham Jewish?

MAHMOUD: Muslim.

MARTY: Are you like the Mormons, baptizing people after they 're dead?

MAHMOUD: No! Ibrahim was Muslim through and through, as sure as he sacrificed his son Isma'il before Gd. As the Quran says, in Sura Al Baqara,[1] "And remember when his Lord tried Ibrahim with certain commands which he fulfilled. He said, ‘I will make thee a Leader of men.’" Ibrahim was a Muslim, and his son Isma'il was a Muslim.

MARTY: And Isaac?

MAHMOUD: Muslim.

MARTY: Jacob? Moses?

MAHMOUD: Muslim, peace be upon them. As the Quran[2] says, "We make no difference between any of them." Even your King David – a Muslim.

MARTY: So is there anyone in the Bible who is not Muslim?

MAHMOUD: Pharaoh.[3]

MARTY: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were Muslim – but the Pharaoh of Egypt was not?

MAHMOUD: Correct. And Haman.

MARTY: Haman, from Purim? With the three-cornered hat?

MAHMOUD: No, no - Haman was an advisor to the wicked Pharaoh; so it is written in the Quran.[4] Any other story your Bible tells of a man named Haman is simply a lie.

MARTY (a little skeptical): So… could you tell me more about the history of Jerusalem – I mean, Al-Quds?

MAHMOUD: Certainly. Do you see that dome over there? (points) The gold one.

MARTY: Yes, is that Al-Aqsa?

MAHMOUD: No; that is the Dome of the Rock. In the year 621, Muhammad travelled from Mecca to Al-Quds in a single night, from Arabia to Palestine, riding a winged horse, Buraq. He prayed on that mountain (points) at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the one with the silver dome, alongside all of the prophets from before him, including Ibrahim and Musa. Then Allah brought him up to heaven.

MARTY: Wow – that mosque is that old?

MAHMOUD: Not exactly, no.

MARTY: What was there, then?

MAHMOUD: We don't actually know; this was before the Muslims had influence in Palestine.

MARTY: Then I don't meant to be rude, but how could there have been a mosque on the mountain?

MAHMOUD: This is not so clear, I admit. The Quran says that Muhammad went to "the distant mosque", and believers say that this was on that mountain.

MARTY: So when did they build an Al-Aqsa Mosque?

MAHMOUD: In the year 715 that the Umayyad Muslims built a mosque there and called it "a distant mosque".[5]

MARTY: So why did they build this "distant mosque" a century after the story?

MAHMOUD: Depends who you ask. If you ask that evil man, Daniel Pipes, it was a reaction to other Muslim rulers who were promoting Arabia, with Mecca and Medina, as the centre of Islam.[6] If you ask others, it was because of competition with Christian churches in Jerusalem.[7] But Muslims know that they built it because we have a tradition that this mountain was the place where Allah brought Muhammad.

MARTY: So what happened to Muhammad there? He died?

MAHMOUD: No, he negotiated. (pause) Allah wanted to teach Muhammad that we must pray 50 times a day. Musa told Muhammad that 50 was too many, and so he went back to negotiate with Allah, and he brought it down to 5. This is why Muslims pray 5 times each day.

MARTY: I see. So that's why al-Quds is holy to Islam?

MAHMOUD: Yes – this is the gateway to Heaven.

MARTY: And so do you pray toward Al-Quds, like Jews do?

MAHMOUD: No. Well, we used to. In our first prayers, our qibla – the direction in which we prayed - was toward Al-Quds, but when the Jews rejected Islam then Allah told Muhammad to change it, to pray toward Mecca. As the Quran says, "The fools will say, 'What has turned them away from their qibla which they followed?' Say, 'To Allah belong the East and the West.'"[8]

MARTY: So which way is Mecca?

Mahmoud turns and points diametrically opposite the site of the domes.

MARTY: So you turn your back to the gateway to Heaven when you pray?

MAHMOUD: I turn where Allah tells me to. Which reminds me – it's time for me to go to prayers. Would you like to join me?

MARTY: No, thank you; I need to get back to my hotel. See you tomorrow, though.

[1] 2:124
[2] 2:133
[3] Sura 3:12
[4] Sura 28:39
[5] Note: See Sura 30:1; it is hard to think that Israel could be called "distant"
[8] Sura 2:143-148


  1. Actually, 2:143-148 is apparently explaining why Moslems face a different direction than Jews. That Jews face J-m, but once we rejected the message, A-llah sent Gabril to Muchamad with a replacement and included in the Qur'an was a new direction to face. IOW, the old Moslems who faced the other way is actually an acknowledgment that David, Solomon, Jesus and all their other "Moslem" prophets faced Jerusalem.

    Second, al Quds is actually shorthand. The full name of the city isBayt al-Maqdis, Bayt al-Muqaddas -- Beis haMiqdash.

  2. How do you reason with blatant, unrepentant, serial liars whose lies are built into their own doctrine?

  3. Micha-
    2:143-2:148 - Agreed; that was the point we were making, albeit in the brief language of a script.
    Bayt al-Maqdis - Correct; that is noted in Act Three. [I am spacing out posting them in the hope of getting feedback on the individual Acts.]


  4. Totally off topic, but - you mentioned in this shiur that you had links to a scientific explanation of the statement in the Gemara that damage to the eye endangers life due to it being connected somehow to the heart, and offered to email out those links. If it's not inconvenient, could you please also post them?

  5. D-
    Thanks for asking; it comes from an article at from HaMaayan 5735, and he is talking about the oculacardiac reflex - see