On Monday, the world tragically witnessed fire engulf two historic landmarks in an eerie coincidence.
A massive fire broke out at the 850-year-old Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, a medieval Catholic sanctuary, ultimately leading to the collapse of its Gothic spire, as reported by The Guardian. The main structure of Notre Dame and its two towers have been saved by firefighters.
At nearly the same time, a fire broke out at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam. The flames engulfed the Marwani Prayer Room, also known as Solomon's Stables. The fire at the mosque received minimal attention by international media.
Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib, director general of the Jerusalem Waqf and Al-Aqsa Mosque Affairs Department, explained that the fire initially broke out in the courtyard. According to Newsweek, preliminary information suggested "it may have been caused by children tampering in the area."
Newsweek's article on the Al-Aqsa fire grabbed the attention of hundreds of users on Twitter.
"My heart stopped for a moment when I read this"
"The parallel is eerie"
"Today Paris burns. Today Jerusalem burns."
"The world is literally burning and it hurts"
"Sad and scary at the same time"
"A terrible day for cultural heritage"
Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa is one of the holiest sites in Islam. While Muslims now pray in the direction of the Kaaba in Saudi Arabia, this has not always been the custom.
Before resorting to the Kaaba as a Qibla, the direction that should be faced during Islamic prayer, Muslims used to pray in the direction of the Noble Sanctuary in Jerusalem, where Al-Aqsa now stands. Prophet Muhammad was later instructed to take the Kaaba as a Qibla through Surat Al-Baqara.
The legendary golden dome is probably the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of Al-Aqsa. The mosque's Dome of the Rock is said to be the first dome to ever be used in Islamic architecture, before becoming a staple of Islamic mosques.
Initially made of wood, the dome was later decorated with marble pieces and a distinctive gold layer by Ottoman Caliph Suleiman the Magnificent.
Al-Aqsa has been destroyed several times (naturally and militarily)
The mosque was destroyed and rebuilt several times, even before getting caught in the crossfire of the Israeli occupation. In the 700s, the mosque was completely destroyed by a series of earthquakes that ravaged Jerusalem.
Since the Israeli army occupied Jerusalem in 1967, the site has witnessed several acts of violence. In 1969, Australian Denis Michael Rohan set fire to the pulpit of the mosque. In 1982, Alan Goodman - a Jewish American-Israeli soldier - opened fire at Muslim worshippers in the Dome of the Rock, killing two and wounding 11.
Israeli military forces have also carried several attacks on the site, launching random invasions on a daily basis.