Mediterranean Monday: Praying toward Jerusalem

dscf0834There is one thing that all Orthodox Jews have in common, no matter where they live in the word…..they pray facing Jerusalem. It doesn’t matter if its east from the US or south from Russia, it is always facing toward Jerusalem.  

I remember my first encounter with this was in the airport on my way to Israel, the first time.  The flight was soon after the 3rd prayer call (yes, there are 3 times a day for prayer), and all the Orthodox men were in one area, reading from their prayer books and facing……yep, EAST!  At the time I had no idea what that was about, but now I do.  

Even though there is currently no temple in Jerusalem (it was destroyed the 2nd time by the Roman Empire), a prayer for the construction of the 3rd temple is part of the daily prayers.  The temple acts as a figurative dwelling of God’s presence in the physical world, and since there is no physical temple, they pray toward the direction it was/will be. Those already in Jerusalem pray facing the Temple Mount.

What is also interesting is that all Bet Knesset’s (synagogues) also face toward Jerusalem.  The bet knesset is a type of substitute temple, which reminds the Jewish people of the incompleteness resulting in the destruction of The Temple. In each Bet Knesset there is an ark, with the Torah inside.  Even the ark must be situated in the direction of Jerusalem.

I could go on with more detailed information, but I think you got the jist of it.  One thing is for sure….the Orthodox better be good with directions!

About Maureen Hochdorf

Writer. Editor. High Techi. Non-Profit Founder. Traveler. Sports Lover. Star Wars Fanatic. Tel Aviver. Michigander.... View all posts by Maureen Hochdorf

9 responses to “Mediterranean Monday: Praying toward Jerusalem

  • annie

    It is like a compass, huh? In more ways than one. 🙂

  • Robert

    Well then I hope the Women don’t find themselves alone and trying to figure out the direction =P LOL kidding….mostly.

    • moweezle

      Well, I’m sorry to tell you this, but the women are ALWAYS alone! They cannot pray with the men or even enter the bet knesset on the same side as the men. I just feel sorry for the men, cuz if (I mean when) they do get lost, without a woman they will never stop and ask for directions! Just wandering all around alone……..


  • Robert

    LOL Yes I know they are seperated from the men…the joke was Women and directions are like kids with Fine China….a BAD IDEA =P hahaha Kidding….mostly

  • alece

    are there any plans underway for the construction of the temple? (i was gonna add in “by the israeli government”, but i’m not sure who exactly would be the ones building it…)

  • KSA

    In Malaysia every hotel room has a small arrow stuck to the ceiling pointing out which direction to mecca… so there is not confusion.

    I also clearly remember a night here in central Asia when I was taking the sleeper bus across the desert. Our bus broke down and we where all still waiting when the next call to prayer came. All the man on the bus got into quite a heated discussion about which direction they should be facing.

  • lovewillbringustogether

    Very sad example of when our ‘world’ becomes too ‘big’ how things no longer make logical sense or have real meaning.

    or how silly some ‘old’ traditions actually are.

    Since the earth is actually a great big ball and not a flat surface like it ‘looks’ to us living on it, anyone a quarter of the planet or more away from Jerusalem ( or Mecca) is no longer ‘facing’ Jerusalem or Mecca when they pray ‘in the right’ direction!

    A fact made all the more ridiculous when you find the point on the globe exactly ‘opposite’ the city of worship since ANY direction you pray would be the ‘shortest, most direct’ route towards it (and actually lying face down would be the MOST direct way to face to pray ‘facing’ Jerusalem/Mecca/Any other ‘holy’ place on our earth!)

    There might be some sort of logic to the idea if you are within say 3000 miles of the city but after that it becomes more and more inaccurate.

    I think it is a very sad thing to believe that God is more in one earthly place than another. God lives inside each one of us (including in our enemies) and ‘heaven’ is so far ‘above’ us we should all be looking ‘up’ if we truly desire to seek God (‘Up’ can also mean inside as well).

    It seems to me that Jewish people must have very poor memories inded since almost every act (and holiday )has some religious significance they ‘need’ to do in order to remember long dead events as a way of ‘remembering’ God is in their daily lives – and their suffering which sems to penetrate into the way they live wherever they find themselves living.

    i also find this sad as they don’t seem to be learning much through remembering their past Conflict seems to be the hallmark of Israel – with Man – and with God.

    it’s time God’s Peace was the ultimate Goal. love thy neighbour (and that means allowing them their birthright as you ‘demand’ for yourself)

    Those who claim to be Christians know that God is not a God of the dead, but of the living.. that He ended the Old testament with the new testament of Christ’s blood – there is a ‘New Way’ that is the antithesis to that of the Old.

    We were given a chance to follow the Law – and we failed! – to cling to it still through ancient dogma/practice as we fail to learn the better way is fruitless and denying the Truth of God who gave his Son as Sacrifice for our failure to obey His Law.


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