(Cover photo credit: Andrew Shiva / Wikipedia)
The Temple Mount in Jerusalem is perhaps the most important religious site in the world.
Here you will find everything you need to know before visiting this holy Muslim site!
- What is the Temple Mount?
- Why is the Temple Mount important?
- Where is the Temple Mount located?
- What should I know before visiting the Temple Mount?
What is the Temple Mount?
The Temple Mount in Jerusalem is an extremely spiritual and unique site.
Sacred to Christians, Jews and Muslims alike, no other location in the World can compare to its holy significance!
Why is the Temple Mount important?
For Jews, the Temple Mount is by far the holiest site in Judaism. This is because many important events happened here according to Jewish tradition:
- This place is home for the Foundation Stone, which is considered the place from which the creation of the world began.
- It is here that God gathered the dust used to create the first human, Adam.
- It was on this rock that Adam, Cain and Abel, and Noah offered sacrifices to God.
- This rock is also the place of the Binding of Isaac, where Abraham fulfilled God’s test to see if he would be willing to sacrifice his son.
- It is also identified as the rock upon which Jacob dreamt about angels ascending and descending on a ladder and consequently consecrating and offering a sacrifice upon.
According to Jewish tradition, both Jewish Temples stood at the Temple Mount. This was the spot of the Holy of Holies of the Temple, the Most Holy Place in Judaism – since it was from the Holy of Holies that the High Priest communicated directly with God.
The site is also home for the Western Wall (known as The Wailing Wall or the Kotel). The Western Wall’s holiness in Judaism is a result of its proximity to the Temple Mount. Because of the Temple Mount entry restrictions (described later down), the Wall is the holiest place where Jews are permitted to pray. According to Jewish belief, the Foundation Stone lies behind it.
For all of these reasons, the Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism, which regards it as the place where God’s divine presence is manifested more than in any other place, and is the place Jews turn towards during prayer.
Due to its extreme sanctity, many Jews will not walk on the Mount itself, to avoid unintentionally entering the area where the Holy of Holies stood, since according to Rabbinical law, some aspect of the divine presence is still present at the site.
For Muslims, the Mount is the third holiest site in Islam. Revered as the Noble Sanctuary (“al Haram al Sharif” in Arabic), it is the location of Muhammad’s journey to Jerusalem and ascent to heaven (during the Night Journey). The site is also associated with Jewish biblical prophets who are also venerated in Islam.
Umayyad Caliphs commissioned the construction of the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock on the site.
The Dome of the Rock is built around the Foundation Stone, and sits in the middle of the Mount, in the area where the Holy Temple once stood. It was completed in 692 CE, making it one of the oldest extant Islamic structures in the world!
The Al Aqsa Mosque rests on the southern side of the Mount, facing Mecca.
For a few years in the early stages of Islam, Muhammad even instructed his followers to face the Mount during prayer.
For Christians, the New Testament specifies that the Second Temple (also known as Herod’s Temple) was the site of several events in the life of Jesus, and Christian loyalty to the site as a focal point remained long after his death.
Jesus Christ attended the Temple almost daily, to heal and to teach:
According to the Book of Matthew 21:14, Jesus performed miracles as “the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them.”
According to the Book of Luke 19:47, “He taught daily in the temple.”
One of the prophecies made by Christ is the destruction of the Second Temple. In Matthew 24:1-2 it says:
“As Jesus came out of the temple and was going away, his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. Then he asked them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly I tell you, not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”
And indeed, the Temple was sadly destroyed by the Roam Empire in 70 CE.
Where is the Temple Mount located?
The Temple Mount is located in the Old City of Jerusalem.
What should I know before visiting the Temple Mount?
Many (many) people and kingdoms ruled the Temple Mount over the years.
The hill is believed to have been inhabited since the 4th millennium BCE, starting with the Israelites, and continuing with the Persian Empire, the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Muslim Caliphate, the Crusaders, the Mamluks, the Ottoman Empire, the British Mandate, the Jordanian Kingdom and now Israel.
Though the Mount has been under Israeli control since the Six Days War of 1967, it is administered by the Islamic Waqf (an Islamic Religious Endowments organization).
In light of the dual claims of both Judaism and Islam, the Temple Mount is one of the most contested religious sites in the world.
As such, Jewish visits are often prevented or considerably restricted. Jews and other non-Islamic visitors can only visit from Sunday to Thursday, for four hours each day, and visits inside the mosques are not allowed.
Although freedom of access was enshrined in the law, as a security measure and due to tensions with the Muslim population, the Israeli government currently enforces 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. That is also why Jews with religious appearance must visit in groups monitored by Waqf guards and policemen.