Extract from an article in Issue 22, February 18, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here. One of the striking qualities of the Tabernacle, and later the Temple, was its geographical arrangement. One entered the Temple from the east, and during worship, faced west. (Exodus 27:13-16.) This seems foreign to our own experience. After all, in "Fiddler on the Roof," Tevye sings of a seat by the eastern wall, and since the destruction of the Temple, European and other western synagogues face east. Why, then, did the original Tabernacle and Temple, which is described in this week's haftara (I Kings 5:26-6:13), face west? Maimonides attributes the origin of this geographical orientation to Abraham: "Inasmuch as at that time the opinion generally accepted in the world was to the effect that the sun should be worshiped and that it is the deity, there is no doubt that all men turned when praying toward the east. Therefore Abraham our Father turned, when praying on Mount Moriah - I mean in the Sanctuary - toward the west, so as to turn his back upon the sun" ("Guide to the Perplexed," Book III, Chapter 45). Awareness of their neighbors' worship was with the Jewish people from ancient times. The prophet Ezekiel (8:16), in castigating the backsliding Jews, describes the worship of the sun in the Temple itself: "â€¦ and there, at the entrance to the Temple of the Lord, between the portico and the altar, were about twenty-five men, their backs to the Temple of the Lord and their faces to the east; they were bowing low to the sun in the east." Not only was sun worship a feature of Babylonian religion, it was also very developed in Egypt, notably in the city aptly named after the sun, Heliopolis. Thus, although the noted Jewish art historian, Franz Landsberger writes that "the Temple of Solomon was in all probability similar to other oriental temples," the geographical orientation of the Temple was one way the Israelites countered surrounding influences and differentiated themselves from neighboring cultures and their cults. This westward facing of the Temple is in fact the source of the holiness of the Western Wall, an extant remnant of the Temple Mount's retaining wall that was the closest to the Holy of Holies while the Temple stood. Susan Nashman Fraiman is a lecturer and researcher in art history, based in Jerusalem. Extract from an article in Issue 22, February 18, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here.