…the Earth shook.
Ibn was sure of it. Just a moment before, he had been standing on the rotting stump of an olive tree, playing an Arab version of “King of the Mountain” with his friends. He had paused momentarily – thinking he had heard a faint sound of… music. Now he was lying on his back, shaking off a sudden spell of vertigo. As he looked around the place where he lay, he observed his friends staring at each other with various strained expressions of disbelief.
Ibn picked himself up off the ground, began the process of brushing the dust from his clothes, when something peculiar caught his eye. There, high atop the Western Wall (or the “wailing wall”, as his Jewish friends would often correct him), stood two figures. On occasion, he had remembered seeing soldiers moving along the same spot, sporting their automatic rifles, “keeping the peace” as some would say. And each day, thousands of Jews and tourists would flock below, slipping their written prayers into the crevices of the wall, while thousands of Muslims would ascend Mount Moriah, entering through the western gate to worship at Al Aksa, the most ancient Mosque of the Islamic faith. The multitude was even greater today, as a great mass of pilgrims were celebrating the peculiar Christian Holy Day of Epiphany.
But there was something curious – even mysterious – about these two men who stood this day upon the same mount. The first was meticulously dressed in what even Ibn could recognize as stately clothing, worn only by the very wealthy and the very powerful. The second, in stark contrast, looked as if he had just crawled out of a sewer, wearing some tattered material that may at one time have been indicative of the very poor. Yet as they stood together gazing at the winter sky, it would seem as if their acquaintance was the most natural event that had ever occurred in the history of mankind.
Suddenly, there again, Ibn heard the distinct sound of music. He darted his head in all directions, desperately attempting to ascertain the origin of this peculiar song. Then, as if to quell any of Ibn’s prior doubts, the Earth trembled once again. This time, however, there was no question about it. He fell to the ground, terrified as the thundering sound of a thousand chariots rumbled throughout the land. Ear-piercing wails of the multitude rang out, as he watched helplessly as large crevices broke open on the Mount.
Then, just as quickly as it all had started, the Earth became still. Ibn again picked himself up – determined that this would be the last time this day that he would be on the ground – and began once again to brush himself off. The momentary silence was then broken, as he heard a chorus of cries from atop Mount Moriah.
Having quickly forgotten the pair of surreal figures he had seen atop the Mount, Ibn looked up. His youthful curiosity piqued, he sprinted up the pathway that led to the Western Gate, leaving his bewildered playmates behind. Slipping through the entrance (the Wakf authorities were curiously nowhere to be seen) and accelerating through people, trees, and other various obstacles, Ibn quickly reached the courtyard of the Mount. The throng gathering before him prevented the young boy of ten years from seeing what the commotion was all about. Yet not a moment later, the crowd stilled, now as silent as a falling feather. Not being one to revere the virtue of patience, Ibn slithered his way through the multitude.
As he pushed through the final wave of dumbfounded onlookers, Ibn came to an abrupt halt, unable to coerce his legs to move any further. His mouth agape, he reactively steadied himself to avoid his knees buckling. There in front of him, in the place once inhabited by one of the most significant structures in the Islamic faith, lay a vast pile of rubble.