1. The study of religion is concerned with the sacred.  Here Jerusalem is a material place but also has an otherworldly aspect, a sacred place.  It is sacred because of:

Sacred places:  Western wall, Dome of the Rock, Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Sacred people:  prophets, deities (Jesus)
Myth:  Jerusalem as David’s capital, the narrative of Jesus’s death, Mohammed’s night journey

  1. Political sovereignty is different from sacred sovereignty.
  1. Groups identify themselves by myths which they regard as true, sometimes confusing religious truth with historical truth
  1. There is a difference between symbolic and material importance.  Jerusalem can be powerful as a symbol without anyone ever going there.
  1. Are the places sacred because something happened there (Eliade), or because the group chose this site and declared that something happened there (Durkheim).  You can see the tension in these two perspectives:

Is the Dome of the Rock sacred because Mohammed really went there or because a legend developed about it afterward?  And why that place and not somewhere else?

Is Jerusalem sacred to Jews because the Temple was built there?  But the original Ark was portable,  Or because it was David’s capital?  But it was not part of the original tribal inheritance.

Is Jerusalem sacred to Christians because Jesus walked through those streets?  Yet Christianity claims Jesus has universal significance and can be prayed to anywhere.

  6.  Jerusalem is at the center of stories (myths) important to all 3 religions.

7. Otto's theory of the mysterium tremendum explains why a truth sacred to one group is not believed or understood by another.

8. Because religious rituals have developed in all three traditions, there is a solidarity connected to these rituals that makes each group want Jerusalem as their exclusive domain.

9. The study of religion helps explain that rational reasons for co-existence often have no place in traditions that celebrate the supernatural, or non-rational.

10. The theories of Victor and Edith Turner explain why not everyone feels the same way within a tradition. There are conflicts within groups of each tradition that are often ignored in order to provide an "official" view for each tradition.

11. Humans want to locate the intangible "wholly other" of the sacred in the material realm, and claim that space for themselves, as each religious group has done in Jerusalem.