The Temple Mount in Jerusalem

Feb 17, 2020 | Bible Archeology | 0 comments

The Temple Mount in Jerusalem represents the greatest point of sanctity for the Jewish people. The Temple had a section known as the Holy of Holies, where the Ark of the Covenant, containing the Ten Commandments and the Torah, was housed. While it stood, Jews were required to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem three times a year. After the First Temple was destroyed in 586 BCE by the Babylonians, Jewish exiles returned to Jerusalem in 538 BCE and completed the construction of the Second Temple in 515 BCE. Even after the Temple’s destruction by Roman armies in 70 CE, the site of the Temple remained the direction of Jewish prayer. 19

The Temple Mount in Jerusalem was the site of the two Jewish Holy Temples, the first of which was built by King Solomon in the year 832 BCE, close to 1,500 years before Islam was founded. For most of the next 1,000 years, Holy Temples stood on the site, until the Romans conquered the entire land and destroyed the Second Temple. Though the area came under the control of the Romans, Byzantines, Moslems, Christians, Turks, British and others over the coming centuries, Jerusalem and the Temple Mount were always the focus of Jewish religious and national yearnings and continued to be the Jews’ “capital in exile.” In the Six Day War of 1967, the modern state of Israel liberated the Temple Mount area, placing all of Jerusalem under Jewish control once again after a hiatus of 1,900 years. 2

The Temple Mount, as the site is called today, is Judaism’s holiest site. For centuries a place where Jews were forbidden to enter. The site today is under the administration of the Jerusalem Waqf (Islamic Religious Authority). Jews have been allowed to enter the Mount as of the summer of 2003 under the watchful eye of Waqf officials and the Jerusalem police who stringently guard the status quo regarding the presence of Jews on the Temple Mount. 17

This state of affairs was not changed after the area containing the Temple Mount came under Jewish control after the Six-Day War, and Muslims retain almost complete autonomy over the site. However, the Temple Mount area is of great important to both Judaism and Islam, and ownership of the site continues to be a hotly contested point. Some of the major reasons behind its importance for both faiths are outlined below. 14

Herod enlarged the existing Temple Mount in order to accommodate the larger crowds of Jewish pilgrims coming for the feasts. Today Muslims in Israel celebrate Ramadan by coming to what they call Haram esh-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary). More than 400,000 Muslims often gather here on the final Friday of the feast. See Dome of the Rock. 8

The Temple Mount is especially holy to Jews and Muslims. For Jews, the Temple Mount is the site of the First and Second Temples as well as important events like the creation of Adam, the first sacrifice made by Adam, Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac, and Jacob’s famous dream of angels and ladders. 14

For Muslims, the Temple Mount is the site from which Muhammad embarked on his Night Journey to heaven. The Dome of the Rock, built in 691 AD, is one of the earliest Muslim structures and shelters the very rock on which Muhammad stood. The Temple Mount also contains an ancient and important mosque, the Al Aqsa Mosque, built in 720 AD. 14

The Temple Mount is a relatively minor site for Christians, but is believed to contain the “pinnacle of the Temple” (Matthew 4:5) from which Satan tempted Jesus to jump to prove his status as the Messiah (near Al Aqsa Mosque). The courtyard by the mosques provides an excellent view of surrounding Christian sites, including the Dome of the Ascension (marking the site from which where Jesus ascended into heaven) and the church of Dominus Flevit (commemorating the spot where Jesus wept as he saw a vision of Jerusalem in ruins). 14

Since the Intifada II broke out last fall, admittance to the Temple Mount has been denied to him altogether. In the first place by the Waqf. After that also by the Israeli police who advises against a visit to the Temple Mount to non-Muslims. 13

The exterior walls of the dazzling Dome of the Rock are covered with a facade of Persian blue tiles, originally installed by the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in the mid-16th century. In 1994, under the auspices of Jordan’s King Hussein, the great dome was completely reconstructed and regilded with 80 kilograms (176 lb.) of 24-karat gold. The Dome of the Rock is reached by climbing the broad ceremonial stairs that lead to a decorative archway and a raised center portion of the Temple Mount complex. The Dome of the Rock’s interior is every bit as lavish and intricate as the outside. Plush carpets line the floor, and stained-glass windows line the upper ceiling. Again, visitors must remove their shoes and leave them on shelves before entering the shrine. 10

On the southeastern side of the Temple Mount is a “seam” of stones where a later addition leans up against the earlier east wall. There is some debate about the date of this earlier wall (the later is clearly Herodian), but Ritmeyer has convincingly demonstrated that the earlier wall forms the corner of the 500 cubit square Temple Mount. If this identification of the earlier Temple Mount is correct, the Temple must have been located where the Dome of the Rock now sits. 8

Dear Abba, Thank-you for an interesting and educational experience. Wouldnt it be better to say, “according to Jewish law there are many places on the temple mount jews cannot walk”. 17

Say, rather a policy of Jews that was conceived in un-Jewishness and born in gentilized fear and timidity, a policy whose apex of humiliation is the desecration of Judaism’s holiest site – The Temple Mount. The very moment of glorious Jewish victory in 1967 was the beginning of a flight to shame. 5

In the 1980s, Israeli authorities uncovered a Jewish extremist plot to destroy the Dome of the Rock. In the end, it was discovered that the Dome of the Rock was ancillary to the plot. The conspirators were really protesting Israel�s withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula. Still, the symbolism of the Temple Mount was there and significant. 11

During this period, Jordan steadily withdrew its religious authority over the Temple Mount, ceding control to Palestinian-appointed officials. By the time Yasser Arafat launched his intifada violence against Israel in September 2000, the Palestinian takeover of authority on the Temple Mount was complete. As a result, the Israel Antiquities Authority has been prevented from entering the Temple Mount area, since the Waqf, as the practical custodian of the site, was empowered to decide who was permitted entry and who was forbidden. 19

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