Temple Mount: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Temple Mount

The Temple Mount
Elevation 740 m (2,428 ft)
Location Jerusalem
Range Judean
Type Limestone[citation needed]
Age of rock 90 million years[citation needed]

The Temple Mount (Hebrew: הַר הַבַּיִת‎, Har haBáyit), also known as Mount Moriah and by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary (Arabic: الحرم القدسي الشريف‎, al-haram al-qudsī ash-sharīf), is a religious site in the Old City of Jerusalem.

According to Jewish tradition, it was from here that the world expanded into its present form and from where God gathered the dust used to create the first man, Adam. It was the place God chose to "dwell", hence the construction of two Jewish Temples at the site. Traditionally, it is believed that a Third and final Temple will also be located here. The Mount is considered the holiest site in Judaism and due to this, many Jews will not set foot on the Mount itself.

Among Muslims, the Mount is widely considered to be the third holiest site in Islam. Revered as the Noble Sanctuary and the destination of Muhammad's journey to Jerusalem and ascent to heaven, the site is also associated with Jewish biblical prophets who are also venerated in Islam. The al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock, the oldest extant Islamic structure in the world, currently stand on the site.[1]

In light of the dual claims of both the Islamic and Jewish faiths, it is one of the most contested religious sites in the world. Controlled by Israel since 1967, both Israel and the Palestinian Authority claim sovereignty over the site, which remains a major focal point of the Arab-Israeli conflict.[2] A Muslim council, known as the Muslim Waqf, manages the site. The Israeli government enforces a controversial ban on prayer by non-Muslim visitors.


Location and dimensions

Model of Jerusalem in the Late 2nd Temple Period. Note that the large flat expanse was a base for the temple located there

The Temple Mount forms the northern portion of a very narrow spur of hill that slopes sharply from north to south. Rising above the Kidron Valley to the east and Tyropoeon Valley to the west,[3] its peak reaches a height of 740 m (2,428 ft) above sea level.[4] In around 19 BCE, Herod the Great extended the Mount's natural plateau by enclosing the area with four massive retaining walls and filling the voids. This artificial expansion resulted in a large flat expanse which today forms the eastern section of the Old City of Jerusalem. The trapezium shaped platform measures 488 m along the west, 470 m along the east, 315 m along the north and 280 m along the south, giving a total area of approximately 150,000 m2 (35.5 acres).[5] The northern wall of the Mount, together with the northern section of the western wall, is hidden behind residential buildings. The southern section of the western flank is revealed and contains what is known as the Western Wall. The retaining walls on these two sides descend many meters below ground level. A northern portion of the western wall may be seen from within the Western Wall Tunnel, which was excavated through buildings adjacent to the platform. On the southern and eastern sides the walls are visible almost to their full height. The platform itself is separated from the rest of the Old City by the Tyropoeon Valley, though this once deep valley is now largely hidden beneath later deposits, and is imperceptible in places. The platform can be reached via Bridge Street — a street in the Muslim Quarter at the level of the platform, actually sitting on a monumental bridge; the bridge is no longer externally visible due to the change in ground level, but it may be seen from beneath via the Western Wall Tunnel.


Early history

The hill is believed to have been inhabited since the 4th millennium BCE. Its southern section was walled at the beginning of the 2nd millennium BCE, in around 1850 BCE, by Canaanites who established a settlement there (or in the vicinity) named Jebus. According to the Bible, it was this city that King David captured in around 1000 BCE and renamed the City of David.[3] David intended to build a sanctuary to God, as the first temple of the Israelites in Jerusalem, outside the city walls on the northern edge of the hill. He purchased the area, which the Bible refers to as Mount Moriah, from Araunah who owned the site.[6] David's son Solomon completed the task of erecting the First Temple at the site in 960 BCE. Solomon’s Temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon in 586 BCE.

Achaemenid Persian, Hasmonean periods, and Herod’s expansion

A stone (2.43x1 m) with Hebrew inscription "To the Trumpeting Place" excavated by Benjamin Mazar at the southern foot of the Temple Mount is believed to be a part of the Second Temple

Much of the Mount's early history is synonymous with events pertaining to the Temple itself. After the destruction of Solomon’s Temple by Nebuchadnezzar II, construction of the Second Temple is understood to have begun under Cyrus in around 538 BCE, and completed in 516 BCE. Evidence of a Hasmonean expansion of the Temple Mount has been recovered by archaeologist Leen Ritmeyer. Around 19 BCE, Herod the Great further expanded the Mount and rebuilt the temple. The ambitious project, which involved the employment of 10,000 workers,[7] more than doubled the size of Temple Mount to approximately 36 acres (150,000 m2). Herod leveled the area by cutting away rock on the northwest side and raising the sloping ground to the south. He achieved this by constructing huge buttress walls and vaults, filling the necessary sections with earth and rubble.[8] In addition to restoration of the Temple, its courtyards, and porticoes, Herod also built Antonia Fortress abutting the northwestern corner of the Temple Mount, and a rainwater reservoir, Birket Israel, in the northeast. As a result of the First Jewish-Roman War, the fortress was destroyed by Roman emperor Vespasian, in 70 CE, under the command of his son and imperial heir, Titus.

Middle Roman period

The city of Aelia Capitolina was built in 130 CE by the emperor Hadrian, and occupied by a Roman colony on the site of Jerusalem, which was still in ruins from the First Jewish Revolt in 70 CE.

Aelia came from Hadrian's nomen gentile, Aelius, while Capitolina meant that the new city was dedicated to Jupiter Capitolinus, to whom a temple was built on the site of the former second Jewish temple, the Temple Mount.[9]

Hadrian had intended the construction of the new city as a gift to the Jews, but since he had constructed a giant statue of himself in front of the Temple of Jupiter and the Temple of Jupiter had a huge statue of Jupiter inside of it, there were now two enormous graven images on the Temple Mount. It was also the normal practice of the adherents of the Hellenic religion to sacrifice pigs before their deities. In addition to this, Hadrian issued a decree prohibiting the practice of circumcision. These three factors, the graven images, the sacrifice of pigs before the altar, and the prohibition of circumcision, constituted for non-Hellenized radical Zealot Jews a new abomination of desolation, and thus Bar Kochba launched the Third Jewish Revolt. After the Third Jewish Revolt failed, all Jews were forbidden on pain of death from entering the city.

Late Roman period

About 325 it is believed that Constantine's mother, St. Helena, built a small church on the Mount in the 4th century, calling it the Church of St. Cyrus and St. John, later on enlarged and called the Church of the Holy Wisdom. The church was later destroyed and on its ruins the Dome of the Rock was built.[10] Since it is known that Helena ordered the Temple of Venus to the west of the Temple Mount to be torn down to construct the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, presumably she also ordered the Temple of Jupiter on the Temple Mount to be torn down to construct the Church of St. Cyrus and St. John.

In 363, Emperor Julian II, on his way to engage Persia, stopped at the ruins of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. In keeping with his effort to foster religions other than Christianity, Julian ordered the Temple rebuilt, but ultimately his vision failed.

Byzantine period

Archaeological evidence in the form of an elaborate mosaic floor similar to the one in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and multiple fragments of an elaborate marble Templom (chancel screen) prove that an elaborate Byzantine church or monastery stood on the Temple Mount in Byzantine times, presumably the aforementioned Holy Wisdom Church.[11]

Sassanid vassal state period

In 610, the Sassanid Empire drove the Byzantine Empire out of the Middle East, giving the Jews control of Jerusalem for the first time in centuries. The new rulers soon ordered the restart of animal sacrifice for the first time since the time of Bar Kochba. Shortly before the Byzantines took the area back a few years later, the Persians gave control to the Christian population, who tore down the partially built Jewish temple edifice and turned it into a garbage dump,[12] which is what it was when the Caliph Omar took the city in the 630s.

Muslim period

South-west qanatir, Temple Mount, Jerusalem, Israel.
A model of the Haram-al-Sharif made in 1879 by Conrad Schlick. The model can be seen in the Bijbels Museum in Amsterdam

Caliph Omar ordered a mosque to be constructed at the southeast corner, facing Mecca, near which the al-Aqsa Mosque was built 78 years later. The original building is now known to have been wooden and to have been constructed on the site of a Byzantine church with an elaborate mosaic floor. (The Persian conquest that immediately preceded the Arab conquest makes it uncertain who destroyed the church.)[11]

In 691 an octagonal Muslim building topped by a dome was built by the Caliph Abd al Malik around the rock, for political reasons, in violation of the Caliph Omar's teachings. The shrine became known as the Dome of the Rock (Qubbat as-Sakhra قبة الصخرة). The dome itself was covered in gold in 1920. In 715 the Umayyads led by the Caliph al-Walid I, rebuilt the Temple's nearby Chanuyos into a mosque (see illustrations and detailed drawing) which they named al-Masjid al-Aqsa المسجد الأقصى, the al-Aqsa Mosque or in translation "the furthest mosque", corresponding to the Muslim belief of Muhammad's miraculous nocturnal journey as recounted in the Quran and hadith. The term al-Haram al-Sharif الحرم الشريف (the Noble Sanctuary) refers to the whole area that surrounds that Rock as was called later by the Mamluks and Ottomans.[13]

The structures have been ruined or destroyed several times in earthquakes;[citation needed] the current version dates from the first half of the 11th century. For Muslims, the importance of the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque makes Jerusalem the third-holiest city, after Mecca and Medina. The mosque and shrine are currently administered by a Waqf (an Islamic trust).

Ottoman period

In 1867, a team from the Royal Engineers, led by Lieutenant Charles Warren (later the London police commissioner of Jack the Ripper fame) and financed by the Palestine Exploration Fund (P.E.F.), discovered a series of tunnels beneath Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, some of which were directly underneath the headquarters of the Knights Templar. Various small artifacts were found which indicated that Templars had used some of the tunnels, though it is unclear who exactly first dug them. Some of the ruins which Warren discovered came from centuries earlier, and other tunnels which his team discovered had evidently been used for a water system, as they led to a series of cisterns.[14][15]


During the 1967 Six-Day War Israel captured the Temple Mount together with all of East Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan, who had controlled it since 1948. The Chief Rabbi of the Israeli Defense Forces, Shlomo Goren, led the soldiers in religious celebrations on the Temple Mount and at the Western Wall. The Israeli Chief Rabbinate also declared a minor religious holiday on the anniversary, called "Yom Yerushalayim" (Jerusalem Day), which also became a national holiday that commemorates the reunification of the city.

A few days after the war was over 200,000 Jews flocked to the Temple Mount and Western Wall in the first mass Jewish pilgrimage since the destruction of Temple in 69 CE. However, the Israeli government subsequently left the Islamic wakf in control of the site, although it remains under Israeli sovereignty. Because of this set-up, the site has become a flash-point between Israel and the Muslim world, especially when violent acts are perpetrated at the site. Today Jews are generally banned from praying on the Mount or doing anything that could disturb Muslims. However, as of late the police have been allowing religious Jews to let their tzitzit hang freely outside their clothing. In addition, at times the police have recently allowed for very limited Jewish prayer. One such instance was during the 2008-09 Gaza War, when small numbers of Jews were allowed to pray atop the Mount for the welfare of the Israeli Defense Forces.[3] However, complaints have been voiced by both sides against one another regarding construction and excavation work underneath and around the Temple Mount that either side believes may inflict damage to the antiquities or lead to the destabilisation of the retaining walls.

Management and access

An Islamic Waqf has managed the Temple Mount continuously since the Muslim reconquest of the Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1187. On 7 June 1967, soon after Israel had taken control of the area during the Six-Day War, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol assured that "no harm whatsoever shall come to the places sacred to all religions". Together with the extension of Israeli jurisdiction and administration over east Jerusalem, the Knesset passed the Preservation of the Holy Places Law,[16] ensuring protection of the Holy Places against desecration, as well as freedom of access thereto.[17] Israel agreed to leave administration of the site in the hands of the Waqf.

Although freedom of access was enshired in the law, as a security measure to prevent Intifada-related riots from destroying the site, the Israeli government currently enforce a ban on non-Muslim prayer on the site. Non-Muslims who are observed praying on the site are subject to expulsion by the police.[18]

Current features

Due to the extreme political sensitivity of the site, few archaeological excavations have been conducted on the Temple Mount itself. Protests commonly occur whenever archaeologists conduct projects on or near the Mount. Aside from visual observation of surface features, most other archaeological knowledge of the site comes from the 19th century survey carried out by Charles Wilson and Charles Warren. This sensitivity has not prevented the Muslim Waqf from destroying archeological evidence on a number of occasions.[19][20][21][22]

An additional flat platform is built above the portion of the hill rising above the general level of the top of the Temple Mount, and this upper platform is the location of the Dome of the Rock; the rock in question is the bedrock at the peak of the hill, just breaching the floor level of the upper platform. Beneath the rock is a natural cave known as the Well of Souls, originally accessible only by a narrow hole in the rock itself, Crusaders hacked open an entrance to the cave from the south, by which it can now be entered. There is also a smaller domed building on the upper platform, slightly to the east of the Dome of the Rock, known as the Dome of the Chain — traditionally the location where a chain once rose to heaven. Several stairways rise to the upper platform from the lower; that at the northwest corner is believed by some archaeologists be part of a much wider monumental staircase, mostly hidden or destroyed, and dating from the Second Temple era.

The al-Kas ablution fountain for Muslim worshipers on the southern portion of the lower platform.

The lower platform — which constitutes most of the surface of the Temple Mount — has at its southern end the al-Aqsa Mosque, which takes up most of the width of the Mount. Gardens take up the eastern and most of the northern side of the platform; the far north of the platform houses an Islamic school.[23] The lower platform also houses a fountain (known as al-Kas), originally supplied with water via a long narrow aqueduct leading from pools at Bethlehem (colloquially known as Solomon's Pools), but now supplied from Jerusalem's water mains. There are several cisterns embedded in the lower platform, designed to collect rain water as a water supply. These have various forms and structures, seemingly built in different periods by different architects, ranging from vaulted chambers built in the gap between the bedrock and the platform, to chambers cut into the bedrock itself. Of these, the most notable are (numbering traditionally follows Wilson's scheme[24]):

  • Cistern 1 (located under the northern side of the upper platform). There is a speculation that it had a function connected with the altar of the Second Temple (and possibly of the earlier Temple),[25] or with the bronze sea.
  • Cistern 5 (located under the south eastern corner of the upper platform) — a long and narrow chamber, with a strange anti-clockwise curved section at its north western corner, and containing within it a doorway currently blocked by earth. The cistern's position and design is such that there has been speculation it had a function connected with the altar of the Second Temple (and possibly of the earlier Temple), or with the bronze sea. Charles Warren thought that the altar of burnt offerings was located at the north western end.[26]
  • Cistern 8 (located just north of the al-Aqsa Mosque) — known as the Great Sea, a large rock hewn cavern, the roof supported by pillars carved from the rock; the chamber is particularly cave-like and atmospheric,[27] and its maximum water capacity is several hundred thousand gallons.
  • Cistern 9 (located just south of cistern 8, and directly under the al-Aqsa Mosque) — known as the Well of the Leaf due to its leaf-shaped plan, also rock hewn.
  • Cistern 11 (located east of cistern 9) — a set of vaulted rooms forming a plan shaped like the letter E. Probably the largest cistern, it has the potential to house over 700,000 gallons of water.
  • Cistern 16/17 (located at the centre of the far northern end of the Temple Mount). Despite the currently narrow entrances, this cistern (17 and 16 are the same cistern) is a large vaulted chamber, which Warren described as looking like the inside of the cathedral at Cordoba (which was previously a mosque). Warren believed that it was almost certainly built for some other purpose, and was only adapted into a cistern at a later date; he suggested that it might have been part of a general vault supporting the northern side of the platform, in which case substantially more of the chamber exists than is used for a cistern.
The eastern set of Hulda gates.
Robinson's arch, situated on the southwestern flank, once supported a staircase that led to the Mount.

The walls of the platform contain several gateways, all currently blocked. In the east wall is the Golden Gate, through which legend states the Jewish Messiah would enter Jerusalem. On the southern face are the Hulda Gates — the triple gate (which has three arches) and the double gate (which has two arches, and is partly obscured by a Crusader building); these were the entrance and exit (respectively) to the Temple Mount from Ophel (the oldest part of Jerusalem), and the main access to the Mount for ordinary Jews. In the western face, near the southern corner, is the Barclay's Gate — only half visible due to a building on the northern side. Also in the western face, hidden by later construction but visible via the recent Western Wall Tunnels, and only rediscovered by Warren, is Warren's Gate; the function of these western gates is obscure, but many Jews view Warren's Gate as particularly holy, due to its location due west of the Dome of the Rock. Traditional belief considers the Dome of the Rock to have earlier been the location at which the Holy of Holies was placed; numerous alternative opinions exist, based on study and calculations, such as those of Tuvia Sagiv.[28]

Warren was able to investigate the inside of these gates. Warren's Gate and the Golden Gate simply head towards the centre of the Mount, fairly quickly giving access to the surface by steps.[29] Barclay's Gate is similar, but abruptly turns south as it does so; the reason for this is currently unknown. The double and triple gates (the Huldah Gates) are more substantial; heading into the Mount for some distance they each finally have steps rising to the surface just north of the al-Aqsa Mosque.[30] The passageway for each is vaulted, and has two aisles (in the case of the triple gate, a third aisle exists for a brief distance beyond the gate); the eastern aisle of the double gates and western of the triple gates reach the surface, the other aisles terminating some way before the steps — Warren believed that one aisle of each original passage was extended when the al-Aqsa Mosque blocked the original surface exits.

East of and joined to the triple gate passageway is a large vaulted area, supporting the southeastern corner of the Temple Mount platform — which is substantially above the bedrock at this point — the vaulted chambers here are popularly referred to as King Solomon's Stables.[31] They were used as stables by the Crusaders, but were built by Herod the Great — along with the platform they were built to support. In the process of investigating Cistern 10, Warren discovered tunnels that lay under the Triple Gate passageway.[32] These passages lead in erratic directions, some leading beyond the southern edge of the Temple Mount (they are at a depth below the base of the walls); their purpose is currently unknown — as is whether they predate the Temple Mount — a situation not helped by the fact that apart from Warren's expedition no one else is known to have visited them.

The existing four minarets include three near the Western Wall and one near the northern wall. The first minaret was constructed on the southwest corner of the Temple Mount in 1278. The second was built in 1297 by order of a Mameluk king, the third by a governor of Jerusalem in 1329, and the last in 1367.

Alterations to antiquities and damage to existing structures

After the 1967 six day war, Israeli archeologists began a series excavations at the southern wall which uncovered two ancient Second Temple period tunnels that penetrated beneath al-Aqsa Mosque, as well as Arabic Umayyad palaces and Crusader remains.[33] Over the period 1970–1988, a number of tunnels were excavated in the vicinity, including one that passed to the west of the Mount that became known as the Western Wall Tunnel, which was opened to the public in 1996.[34][35] The same year the Waqf began construction of a new mosque in the structures known since Crusader times as Solomon's Stables. Many Israelis regarded this as a radical change of the status quo which should not have been undertaken without first consulting the Israeli government. The project was done without attention to the possibility of disturbing historically significant archaeological material, with stone and ancient artifacts treated without regard to their preservation.[36]

In late 2002, a bulge of about 700 mm was reported in the southern retaining wall part of the Temple Mount. A Jordanian team of engineers recommended replacing or resetting most of the stones in the affected area.[37] In February 2004, the eastern wall of the Mount was damaged by an earthquake. The damage threatened to topple sections of the wall into the area known as Solomon's Stables.[38] A few days later, a portion of retaining wall, supporting the earthen ramp that led from the Western Wall plaza to the Gate of the Moors on the Temple Mount, collapsed.[39] In 2007 the Israel Antiquities Authority started work on the construction of a temporary wooden pedestrian pathway to replace the Mugrabi Gate ramp after a landslide in 2005 made it unsafe and in danger of collapse.[40] The works sparked condemnation from Arab leaders.[41]

In July 2007 the Muslim religious trust which administers the Mount began digging a 400-metre-long, 1.5-metre-deep trench[42] from the northern side of the Temple Mount compound to the Dome of the Rock[43] in order to replace 40-year-old[44] electric cables in the area. Israeli archaeologists accused the wakf of a deliberate act of cultural vandalism.[43]

Southern wall of Temple Mount

Israelis allege that Palestinians are deliberately removing significant amounts of archaeological evidence about the Jewish past of the site and claim to have found significant artifacts in the fill removed by bulldozers and trucks from the Temple Mount. Muslims allege that the Israelis are deliberately damaging the remains of Islamic-era buildings found in their excavations.[45] Since the Waqf is granted almost full autonomy on the Islamic holy sites, Israeli archaeologists have been prevented from inspecting the area; although they have conducted several excavations around the Temple Mount.

Religious attitudes

In Judaism

The Foundation Stone

Jewish connection and veneration to the site stems from the fact that it contains the Foundation Stone which, according to the Talmud, was the spot from where the world was created and expanded into its current form.[46] It was subsequently the Holy of Holies of the Temple, the Most Holy Place in Judaism. Jewish tradition names it as the location for a number of important events which occurred in the Bible, including the Binding of Isaac, Jacob's dream, and the prayer of Isaac and Rebekah.[47] Similarly, when the Bible recounts that King David purchased a threshing floor owned by Araunah the Jebusite,[48] tradition locates it as being on this mount. An early Jewish text, the Genesis Rabba, states that this site is one of three about which the nations of the world cannot taunt Israel and say "you have stolen them," since it was purchased "for its full price" by David.[49] David wanted to construct a sanctuary there, but this was left to his son Solomon, who completed the task in c950 BCE with the construction of the First Temple.

Due to religious restrictions on entering the most sacred areas of the Temple Mount (see following section), the Western Wall, a retaining wall the Temple Mount and remnant of the Second Temple structure, is considered by some rabbinical authorities the holiest accessible site for Jews to pray. Jewish texts record that the Mount will be the site of the Third Temple, which will be rebuilt with the coming of the Jewish Messiah.

Jewish religious law concerning entry to the site

During Temple times, entry to the Mount was limited by a complex set of purity laws. Maimonides wrote that it was only permitted to enter the site to fulfill a religious precept. After the destruction of the Temple there was discussion as to whether the site, bereft of the Temple, still maintained its holiness or not. Jewish codifiers accepted the opinion of Maimonides who ruled that the holiness of the Temple sanctified the site for eternity and consequently the restrictions on entry to the site are still currently in force. Most Jews will not set foot on the Mount so as not to incur the severe punishment of karet, spiritual death.[citation needed] There is debate over whether reports that Maimonides himself ascended the Mount are reliable.[50] One such report[51] claims he did so during the Crusader period. Some early scholars however, claim that entry onto certain areas of the Mount are permitted. It appears that Radbaz also entered the Mount and advised others how to do this. He permits entry from all the gates into the 135×135 cubits of the Women's Courtyard in the east, since the biblical prohibition only applies to the 187×135 cubits of the Temple in the west.[52] There are also Christian and Islamic sources which indicate that Jews accessed the site,[53] but these visits may have been made under duress.[54]

1978 sign warning against entry to the Mount

Opinions of contemporary rabbis concerning entry to the site

In August 1967 after Israel's capture of the Mount, the Chief Rabbis of Israel, Isser Yehuda Unterman and Yitzhak Nissim, together with other leading rabbis, asserted that "For generations we have warned against and refrained from entering any part of the Temple Mount."[55] Rabbinical consensus in the Religious Zionist stream of Orthodox Judaism continue to hold that it is forbidden for Jews to enter any part of the Temple Mount[56] and in January 2005 a declaration was signed confirming the 1967 decision.[57]

All Haredi rabbis are also of the opinion that the Mount is off limits to Jews and non-Jews alike.[58] Their opinions against entering the Temple Mount are based on the danger of entering the hallowed area of the Temple courtyard and the impossibility of fulfilling the ritual requirement of cleansing oneself with the ashes of a red heifer.[59][60] The boundaries of the areas which are completely forbidden, while having large portions in common, are delineated differently by various rabbinic authorities.

There is a growing minority of right-wing national religious rabbis who encourage visits to certain parts of the Mount, which they believe are permitted according to most medieval rabbinical authorities.[61] One of them, Shlomo Goren, states that it is possible that Jews are even allowed to enter the heart of the Dome of the Rock, according to Jewish Law of Conquest.[62] These authorities advise ablution in a mikva prior to the ascent and to only wear non-leather shoes while on the Mount.

The law committee of the Masorti movement in Israel has issued two responsa (a body of written decisions and rulings given by legal scholars) on the subject, both holding that Jews may visit the permitted sections of the Temple Mount. One responsa allows such visits, another encourages them.

In Islam

Facade of the Al-Aqsa Mosque

In Islam, the Mount is called al-haram al-qudsī ash-sharīf, meaning the Noble Sanctuary. Muslims view the site as being one of the earliest and most noteworthy places of worship of God. For a few months in the early stages of Islam, Muhammad instructed his followers to face the Mount during prayer, as the Jews did. Later identification of the Mount being the site of the "Farthest Mosque", (mentioned in the Koran as the location of Muhammad's miraculous nocturnal journey), gave rise to various Hadiths which emphasised the virtue of praying at the site. Today the area is regarded by the majority of Muslims as the third holiest site in Islam.

Some Muslims deny any association with the Mount to the former Jewish Temple which stood at the site.[63][64] Historically, however, Muslims acknowledged the Mount as being the site of the Temple of Solomon.[65][66] Shaykh Prof. Abdul Hadi Palazzi suggests that the Quran expressly recognizes that Temple Mount in Jerusalem plays for Jews the same role that Mecca does for Muslims.[67]

In Christianity

The Mount has significance in Christianity due to the role the Temple played in the life of Jesus. During the Crusades, the Dome of the Rock was given to the Augustinians, who turned it into a church, and the Al-Aqsa Mosque became the royal palace of Baldwin I of Jerusalem in 1104. The Knights Templar, who believed the Dome of the Rock was the site of the Temple of Solomon, gave it the name "Templum Domini" and set up their headquarters in the Al-Aqsa Mosque adjacent to the Dome for much of the 12th century.

Though some Christians believe that the Temple will be reconstructed before, or concurrent with, the Second Coming of Jesus, the Temple Mount is largely unimportant to the beliefs and worship of most Christians. To wit, the New Testament recounts a story of a Samaritan woman asking Jesus about the appropriate place to worship, Jerusalem or the Samaritan holy place at Mt. Gerazim, to which Jesus replies, "neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father."(John 4:21)

Recent events

March 2005
Allah inscription: The word "Allah" in approximately a foot tall Arabic script was found newly carved into the ancient stones. The vandalism was attributed to a team of Jordanian engineers and Palestinian laborers in charge of strengthening that section of the wall. The discovery caused outrage among Israeli archaeologists and many Jews were angered by the graffiti at Judaism's holiest site.[68]
October 2006
Synagogue proposal: Uri Ariel, a member of the Knesset from the National Union party (a right wing opposition party) ascended to the mount,[69] and said that he is preparing a plan where a synagogue will be built on the mount. His suggested synagogue would not be built instead of the mosques but in a separate area in accordance with rulings of 'prominent rabbis.' He said he believed that this will be correcting a historical injustice and that it is an opportunity for the Muslim world to prove that it is tolerant to all faiths.[70]
October 2006
Minaret proposal: Plans are mooted to build a new minaret on the mount, the first of its kind for 600 years.[71] King Abdullah II of Jordan announced a competition to design a fifth minaret for the walls of the Temple Mount complex. He said it would "reflect the Islamic significance and sanctity of the mosque". The scheme, estimated to cost £200,000, are for a seven-sided tower — after the seven-pointed Hashemite star — and at 42 metres (130 ft), it would be 3.5 metres (11 ft) taller than the next-largest minaret. The minaret would be constructed on the eastern wall of the Temple Mount near the Golden Gate.
February 2007
Mugrabi Gate ramp reconstruction: Repairs to an earthen ramp leading to the Mugrabi Gate sparks Arab protests.
May 2007
Right-wing Jews ascend the Mount: A group of right-wing Religious Zionist rabbis entered the Temple Mount.[72] This elicited widespread criticism from other religious Jews and from secular Israelis, accusing the rabbis of provoking the Arabs. An editorial in the newspaper Haaretz accused the rabbis of 'knowingly and irresponsibly bringing a burning torch closer to the most flammable hill in the Middle East,' and noted that rabbinical consensus in both the Haredi and the Religious Zionist worlds forbids Jews from entering the Temple Mount.[73] On May 16, Rabbi Avraham Shapiro, former Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel and rosh yeshiva of the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva, reiterated that it is forbidden for Jews to enter the Temple Mount.[74] The Litvish Haredi newspaper Yated Ne'eman, which is controlled by leading Litvish Haredi rabbis including Rabbi Yosef Sholom Eliashiv and Rabbi Nissim Karelitz, accused the rabbis of transgressing a decree punishable by 'death through the hands of heaven.'[60]
July 2007
Temple Mount cable replacement: The Waqf began digging a ditch from the northern side of the Temple Mount compound to the Dome of the Rock as a prelude to infrastructure work in the area. Although the dig was approved by the police, it generated protests from archaeologists.
October 2009
Clashes: Palestinian protesters gathered at the site after rumours that an extreme Israeli group would harm the site, which the Israeli government denied.[75] Israeli police stormed the Temple Mount complex to disperse Palestinian protesters who were throwing stones at them. The police used stun grenades on the protesters, of which 15 were later arrested, including the Palestinian President's adviser on Jerusalem affairs. The clashes were some of the worst in recent weeks.[76][77] 18 Palestinians and 3 police officers were injured.[78]


Panorama of the Temple Mount, seen from the Mount of Olives

See also


  1. ^ Rizwi Faizer (1998). "The Shape of the Holy: Early Islamic Jerusalem". Rizwi's Bibliography for Medieval Islam. http://us.geocities.com/rfaizer/reviews/book9.html. 
  2. ^ Israeli Police Storm Disputed Jerusalem Holy Site
  3. ^ a b Gonen (2003), pp. 9-11
  4. ^ Lundquist (2007), p. 103
  5. ^ Finkelstein, Horbury, Davies & Sturdy (1999), p. 43
  6. ^ "Moriah". Easton's Bible Dictionary. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/easton/ebd2.html?term=Moriah. Retrieved July 14, 2008. 
  7. ^ Gonen (2003), p. 69
  8. ^ Negev (2005), p. 265
  9. ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica 11th Edition
  10. ^ Wilkinson, Jerusalem Pilgrims Before the Crusades, p. 204
  11. ^ a b Was the Aksa Mosque built over the remains of a Byzantine church?, By ETGAR LEFKOVITS, Jerusalem Post, November 16, 2008 [1]
  12. ^ Karmi, Ghada (1997). Jerusalem Today: What Future for the Peace Process?. Garnet & Ithaca Press. p. 116. ISBN 0863722261. 
  13. ^ Oleg Grabar, The Haram ak-Sharif: An essay in interpretation, BRIIFS vol. 2 no 2 (Autumn 2000).
  14. ^ Ordnance Survey of Jerusalem
  15. ^ http://www.pef.org.uk/Pages/ProjJER1.htm
  16. ^ Preservation of the Holy Places Law, 1967.
  17. ^ Jerusalem - The Legal and Political Background, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Israel.
  18. ^ Nadav Shragai, Three Jews expelled from Temple Mount for praying.
  19. ^ See "The Washington Post, Opinion Columns, July 17, 2000 Protect the Temple Mount by Hershel Shanks
  20. ^ Policeman Assaulted Trying to Stop Illegal Temple Mount Dig - Jewish World - Israel News - Arutz Sheva
  21. ^ Jerusalem's Temple Mount Flap
  22. ^ Waqf Temple Mount excavation raises archaeologists' protests - Haaretz - Israel News
  23. ^ Photograph of the northern wall area
  24. ^ Wilson's map of the features under the Temple Mount
  25. ^ Kaufman, Asher (May 23, 1991). "The Temple Site" (Abstract). The Jerusalem Post. pp. 13. http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/jpost/access/99716364.html?dids=99716364:99716364&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&date=May+12%2C+1991&author=Asher+Kaufman&pub=Jerusalem+Post&edition=&startpage=13&desc=THE+TEMPLE+SITE. Retrieved March 4, 2007. "The most important findings of the superposition of the Second Temple on the Temple area are that the Dome of the Rock was not built on the site of the Temple, and that the Temple was taper-shaped on the western side, a form hitherto unknown to the scholars." 
  26. ^ "Researcher says found location of the Holy Temple". Ynetnews. February 9, 2007. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3362927,00.html. Retrieved March 4, 2007. "Archaeology Professor Joseph Patrich uncovered a large water cistern that points, in his opinion, to the exact location of the altar and sanctuary on the Temple Mount. According to his findings, the rock on which the Dome of the Rock is built is outside the confines of the Temple." 
  27. ^ Under the Temple Mount
  28. ^ Tuvia Sagiv, Determination of the location of the Temple
  29. ^ Photograph of the inside of the Golden Gate
  30. ^ image of the double gate passage
  31. ^ Photograph of King Solomon's Stables
  32. ^ Photograph of one of the chambers under the Triple Gate passageway
  33. ^ Jacqueline Schaalje, Special: The Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
  34. ^ Violent clashes at key Jerusalem mosque on 'day of anger', timesonline, accessdate=5 May 2009
  35. ^ Mayor halts Temple Mount dig, BBC, accessdate = 5 May 2009
  36. ^ Temple Mount destruction stirred archaeologist to action, February 8, 2005 | by Michael McCormack, Baptist Press [2]
  37. ^ Esther Hecht, Battle of the Bulge
  38. ^ Jerusalem Post
  39. ^ On-the-Spot Report from the Kotel Women´s Section Construction
  40. ^ Fendel, Hillel (February 7, 2007). "Jerusalem Arabs Riot, Kassams Fired, After Old City Excavations". Arutz Sheva. http://www.israelnationalnews.com/news.php3?id=121064. Retrieved February 7, 2007. 
  41. ^ Weiss, Efrat (February 7, 2007). "Syria slams Jerusalem works". Yedioth Ahronoth. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3362024,00.html. Retrieved February 7, 2007. "Israeli excavation works near the al-Aqsa mosque in the holy city of Jerusalem have led to a dangerous rise in Middle East tensions and could derail revival of Arab-Israeli peace talks... what Israel is doing in its practices and attacks against our sacred Muslim sites in Jerusalem and al-Aqsa is a blatant violation that is not acceptable under any pretext" 
  42. ^ Fendel, Hillel (September 9, 2007). "Silence in the Face of Continued Temple Mount Destruction". Arutz Sheva. http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/123622. Retrieved 2007-09-07. 
  43. ^ a b Rapoport, Meron (July 7, 2007). "Waqf Temple Mount excavation raises archaeologists' protests". Haaretz. http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/880761.html. Retrieved 2007-07-11. 
  44. ^ Teible, Amy (August 31, 2007). "Jerusalem Holy Site Dig Questioned". The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,,-6887208,00.html. Retrieved 2007-09-07. 
  45. ^ Al-Ahram: "Revoking the death warrant"
  46. ^ Babylonian Talmud Yoma 54b
  47. ^ Toledot 25:21
  48. ^ 2 Samuel 24:18–25
  49. ^ Genesis Rabba 79.7: "And he bought the parcel of ground, where he had spread his tent...for a hundred pieces of money." Rav Yudan son of Shimon said: ‘This is one of the three places where the non-Jews cannot deceive the Jewish People by saying that they stole it from them, and these are the places: Ma’arat HaMachpela, the Temple and Joseph's burial place. Ma’arat HaMachpela because it is written: ‘And Abraham hearkened unto Ephron; and Abraham weighed to Ephron the silver,’ (Genesis, 23:16); the Temple because it is written: ‘So David gave to Ornan for the place,’ (I Chronicles, 21:26); and Joseph's burial place because it is written: ‘And he bought the parcel of ground...Jacob bought Shechem.’ (Genesis, 33:19)." See also: Kook, Abraham Issac, Moadei Hare'iya, pp. 413–415.
  50. ^ Sefer ha-Charedim Mitzvat Tshuva, Chapter 3; Shu"t Minchas Yitzchok, vol. 6
  51. ^ Hebrew language site
  52. ^ Shaarei Teshuvah, Orach Chaim 561:1; cf. Teshuvoth Radbaz 691
  53. ^ Moshe Sharon. "Islam on the Temple Mount" Biblical Archaeology Review July/August 2006. p. 36–47, 68. "Immediately after its construction, five Jewish families from Jerusalem were employed to clean the Dome of the Rock and to prepare wicks for its lamps"
  54. ^ The Kaf hachaim (Orach Chaim 94:1:4 citing Radvaz Vol. 2; Ch. 648) mentions a case of a Jew who was forced onto the Temple Mount.
  55. ^ Lapidoth, Ruth; Ruth E Lapidoth, Moshe Hirsch (1994). The Jerusalem Question and Its Resolution: Selected Documents. Jerusalem: Martinus Nijhoff. pp. 542. ISBN 0792328930. 
  56. ^ These rabbis include: Mordechai Eliyahu, former Sefardi Chief Rabbi of Israel; Zalman Baruch Melamed, rosh yeshiva of the Beit El yeshiva; Eliezer Waldenberg, former rabbinical judge in the Rabbinical Supreme Court of the State of Israel; Avraham Yitzchak Kook, Chief Rabbi of Palestine (Mikdash-Build (Vol. I, No. 26)); Avigdor Nebenzahl, Rabbi of the Old City of Jerusalem.
  57. ^ These rabbis include: Rabbis Yona Metzger (Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel); Shlomo Amar (Sefardi Chief Rabbi of Israel); Ovadia Yosef (spiritual leader of Sefardi Haredi Judaism and of the Shas party, and former Sefardi Chief Rabbi of Israel); Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron (former Sefardi Chief Rabbi of Israel); Shmuel Rabinowitz (rabbi of the Western Wall); Avraham Shapiro (former Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel); Shlomo Aviner (rosh yeshiva of Ateret Cohanim); Yisrael Meir Lau (former Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel and current Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv). Source: Leading rabbis rule Temple Mount is off-limits to Jews
  58. ^ These rabbis include: Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky (Thoughts on the 28th of Iyar - Yom Yerushalayim); Yosef Sholom Eliashiv )Rabbi Eliashiv: Don't go to Temple Mount)
  59. ^ Yoel Cohen, The political role of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate in the Temple Mount question
  60. ^ a b Yated Ne'eman article
  61. ^ These rabbis include: Shlomo Goren (former Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel); Chaim David Halevi (former Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv and Yaffo); Dov Lior (Rabbi of Kiryat Arba); Yosef Elboim; Yisrael Ariel; She'ar Yashuv Cohen (Chief Rabbi of Haifa); Yuval Sherlo (rosh yeshiva of the hesder yeshiva of Petah Tikva); Meir Kahane.
  62. ^ Haaretz
  63. ^ Fendel, Hillel (November 6, 2006). "Israeli Sheikh: Temple Mount is Entirely Islamic". Arutz Sheva. http://www.israelnationalnews.com/news.php3?id=114927. Retrieved November 12, 2006. "We remind, for the 1,000th time, that the entire Al-Aqsa mosque, including all of its area and alleys above the ground and under it, is exclusive and absolute Muslim property, and no one else has any rights to even one grain of earth in it." 
  64. ^ Sheikh Salah: Western Wall belongs to Muslims, February 18, 2007
  65. ^ Muslim acknowledgement of existence of the Temple:
    • "The Rock was in the time of Solomon the son of David 12 cubits high and there was a dome over it...It is written in the Tawrat [Bible]: 'Be happy Jerusalem,' which is Bayt al-Maqdis and the Rock which is called Haykal." al-Wasati, Fada'il al Bayt al-Muqaddas, ed. Izhak Hasson (Jerusalem, 1979) pp. 72ff.
    • "The Farthest Mosque must refer to the site of the Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem on the hill of Moriah, at or near which stands the Dome of the Rock... it was a sacred place to both Jews and Christians... The chief dates in connection with the Temple in Jerusalem are: It was finished by Solomon about 1004 BCE; destroyed by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar about 586 BCE; rebuilt under Ezra and Nehemiah about 515 BCE; turned into a heathen idol temple by one of Alexander the Great's successors, Antiochus Epiphanes, 167 BCE; restored by Herod, 17 BCE to 29; and completely razed to the ground by the Emperor Titus in 70. These ups and downs are among the greater signs in religious history." (Yusuf Ali, Commentary on the Koran, 2168.)
    • "The city of Jerusalem was chosen at the command of Allah by Prophet David in the tenth century BC. After him his son Prophet Solomon built a mosque in Jerusalem according to the revelation that he received from Allah. For several centuries this mosque was used for the worship of Allah by many Prophets and Messengers of Allah. It was destroyed by the Babylonians in the year 586 BC., but it was soon rebuilt and was rededicated to the worship of Allah in 516 BC. It continued afterwards for several centuries until the time of Prophet Jesus. After he departed this world, it was destroyed by the Romans in the year 70 CE." (Siddiqi, Dr. Muzammil. Status of Al-Aqsa Mosque, IslamOnline, May 21, 2007. Retrieved July 12, 2007.)
    • "Early Muslims regarded the building and destruction of the Temple of Solomon as a major historical and religious event, and accounts of the Temple are offered by many of the early Muslim historians and geographers (including Ibn Qutayba, Ibn al-Faqih, Mas'udi, Muhallabi, and Biruni). Fantastic tales of Solomon's construction of the Temple also appear in the Qisas al-anbiya', the medieval compendia of Muslim legends about the pre-Islamic prophets." (Kramer, Martin. The Temples of Jerusalem in Islam, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, September 18, 2000. Retrieved November 21, 2007.)
    • "While there is no scientific evidence that Solomon's Temple existed, all believers in any of the Abrahamic faiths perforce must accept that it did." (Khalidi, Rashid. Transforming the Face of the Holy City: Political Messages in the Built Topography of Jerusalem, Bir Zeit University, November 12, 1998.)
  66. ^ A Brief Guide to al-Haram al-Sharif, a booklet published in 1925 (and earlier) by the "Supreme Moslem Council", a body established by the British government to administer waqfs and headed by Hajj Amin al-Husayni during the British Mandate period, states on page 3: "The site is one of the oldest in the world. Its sanctity dates from the earliest (perhaps from pre-historic) times. Its identity with the site of Solomon's Temple is beyond dispute. This, too, is the spot, according to universal belief, on which David built there an altar unto the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings." (A subsequent footnote refers the reader to 2 Samuel 26:25)
  67. ^ Palazzi, Shaykh Prof. Abdul Hadi. "What the Qur'an Really Says". http://www.templemount.org/quranland.html. Retrieved July 12, 2007. 
  68. ^ "Arabs Vandalize Judaism's Holiest Site". Arutz Sheva. March 31, 2005. http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/79391. Retrieved July 11, 2007. 
  69. ^ Rightist MK Ariel visits Temple Mount as thousands throng Wall
  70. ^ Wagner, Matthew (October 10, 2006). Rabbis split on Temple Mount synagogue plan. The Jerusalem Post.
  71. ^ The Times, October 14, 2006
  72. ^ Ynetnews
  73. ^ Haaretz
  74. ^ Sela, Neta (May 16, 2007). "Rabbi Shapira forbids visiting temple Mount". Ynet. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3400750,00.html. Retrieved May 17, 2007. 
  75. ^ Kyzer, Liel (October 25, 2009). Israel Police battle Arab rioters on Temple Mount; PA official arrested. Haaretz.
  76. ^ Arrests at holy site in Jerusalem. BBC News. October 25, 2009.
  77. ^ Jerusalem holy site stormed. The Straits Times. October 25, 2009.
  78. ^ Clashes erupt at Aqsa compound. Al Jazeera. October 25, 2009.


  • Finkelstein, Louis; Horbury, William; Davies, William David; Sturdy, John. The Cambridge History of Judaism, Cambridge University Press, 1999. ISBN 0521243777
  • Gonen, Rivka. Contested Holiness, KTAV Publishing House, 2003. ISBN 0881257990
  • Lundquist, John. The Temple of Jerusalem, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007. ISBN 0275983390
  • Negev, Avraham & Gibson, Shimon. Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land, Continuum International Publishing Group, 2005. ISBN 0826485715

External links

Coordinates: 31°46′39.4″N 35°14′7.8″E / 31.777611°N 35.2355°E / 31.777611; 35.2355


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary


Proper noun

Temple Mount

  1. One of the hills of Jerusalem, where the Biblical king Solomon built his great temple, which Roman emperor Vespasian's son and successor Titus leveled except for the wailing wall 70 AD during the failed Jewish rebellion


Simple English

The Temple Mount

The Temple Mount a religious site in the Old City of Jerusalem. In Judaism it is the location of the two Jewish Temples, and is believed to be the place where Adam was born, where Adam built an altar for God, where Cain and Abel offer there sacrifices, and where Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice.[1] Among Muslims, Temple Mount, or otherwise known as the Noble Sanctuary, is the site of Muhammad's ascent to heaven. The site is also associated with Jewish biblical prophets who are also venerated in Islam.


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address