Can Different Religions Peacefully Share a Sacred Site? A Temple Mount Tragedy

Can Different Religions Peacefully Share a Sacred Site? A Temple Mount Tragedy

One of the major points of contention between Israel and the Arab/Moslem world is over the most sacred piece of real estate on the planet. While Christianity has Rome, Constantinople, and Jerusalem vying for spiritual “seniority;” and Islam has Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem; Judaism has Jerusalem, and Jerusalem, and Jerusalem.

However, traditionally, the role of the holy city and, in particular, the Temple Mount, has been widely, if not grudgingly, recognized in importance by each of these traditions to the other.

Southern aerial view of the Temple Mount. (Andrew Shiva/ CC BY SA 4.0 )

Arguments Over Artifacts at the Temple Mount

It has only been in the last century, a result of a “Twice Promised Land” coming out of World War I, that we find disinformation and the re-writing of history taking place. But the greatest activity has taken place in the 21st century.

The Waqf, the Islamic religious authority that was granted control of the Temple Mount by Israel decades ago, decided to ‘remodel’ a series of stables beneath the Mount, create a mosque, and then an internal entry from just north of the Al Aqsa plaza. In doing so, tons of debris, filled with archaeological treasures pertaining to the history of the Temple Mount were unceremoniously dumped, with no regard for context, into the Kidron Valley – all in spite of Israeli law that forbids such activity unless overseen by the Israeli Antiquities Authority.

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Northeast exposure of Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount, in the Old City of Jerusalem. Considered to be the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina. (Andrew Shiva/ CC BY SA 4.0 )

To make matters worse, many stones, some dating to the tenth century BC, were re-used and modified for their building activity. Archaeologist Eilat Mazar said: “There is disappointment at the turning of a blind eye and the ongoing contempt for the tremendous archaeological importance of the Temple Mount. Heavy machinery and lack of documentation can damage ancient relics and erase evidence of the presence of the biblical structures. Any excavation, even if for technical reasons, must be documented, photographed and the dirt sifted for any remains of relics.”

Dr. Gabi Barkai slammed the way the excavations were being carried out, stating that, “They should be using a toothbrush, not a bulldozer.”

A view of the Southwest corner of the temple mount. One of the four minarets and the back of the Al-Aqsa Mosque can be seen atop to the Mount. Robinson's arch can be seen on the Western face. The ruins in the foreground are from the Roman, Byzantine, and Umayyad periods. Jerusalem (Photo from 2007). ( CC BY 2.0 )

The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, rejected the Israeli charges. “We don’t harm the antiquities; we are the ones who are taking care of the antiquities, unlike others who destroy them.”

Yusuf Natsheh, of the Islamic Waqf, argued that “remains unearthed would be from the 16th or 17th century Ottoman period.”

He said the Al Aqsa compound is an important religious institution. “We regret some Israeli groups try to use archaeology to achieve political ends, but their rules of archaeology do not apply to the Haram; it is a living religious site in an occupied land.”

The Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock, also known as the Haram Ash-Sharif. (Tony Kane/ CC BY 2.0 )

Sifting Through the Temple Mount’s History

In 2004, debris was transferred to camps set up at Tzurim Valley National Park, overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem. Here, a sifting project was begun and, over the years, the Temple Mount debris dumped in the Kidron Valley was moved to the sifting site (a total of 322 truckloads to date).

View of the Kidron Valley from the Old City of Jerusalem.

Objects testifying to the Jewish nature of the Temple Mount platform were dismissed by the Waqf. The Waqf was widely accused of attempting to hide evidence of the existence of the Jewish temples, which many Palestinian leaders say never existed. That debate continued to rage. “The Aqsa Mosque was an Islamic mosque since the world was created,” said Sheikh Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, in November 2015. “It was never anything other than a mosque.”

However, this flew in the face of what Islamic leaders said themselves about the Temple Mount earlier in the 20th century. But prior to 1948, even their own 1925 Waqf guidebook stated that the Dome of the Rock is situated on the universally accepted site of King Solomon’s Temple: “The site is one of the oldest in the world… its identity with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute. This, too, is the spot, according to the universal belief, on which David built an altar unto the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings.”

The Dome of the Rock, Temple Mount, Jerusalem.

Abbas himself called Israeli history in Jerusalem “illusions and legends” and “delusional myths,” referring to the “alleged Temple.”

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UNESCO’s Take on the Temple Mount

The destructive partisan biases in UNESCO were clearly evidenced in the autumn of 2016, as it would vote to ratify a resolution denying Jewish ties to Judaism’s holiest site, the Temple Mount. An affront to science and history, the resolution, which refers to the Temple Mount solely by its Muslim name of Al-Haram Al-Sharif – ostensibly eliminating its connection to Judaism and Christianity – was expected to be approved by the committee comprised of 21 member states at its 40th session.

As UNESCO approved a resolution that ignored a Jewish connection to the Temple Mount, the Israel Antiquities Authority produced a rare papyrus fragment from the 7th century BC, written in ancient Hebrew, that mentions Jerusalem. Archaeologists interpreted two lines of text as a king’s maidservant, from Na’arat, jars of wine, to Jerusalem.

Respecting the Records

And even more importantly, Israeli archaeologists revealed the existence of an ancient Muslim inscription testifying to the fact that the original name of the Dome of the Rock, Qubbat al-Sakhrah, was “Beit al Maqdis”– “Beit Hamikdash” in Hebrew; AKA the Jewish Temple – during the early Muslim era, Makor Rishon reported. According to archaeologists Assaf Avraham and Peretz Reuven, the inscription is dated to the 10th century AD.

It’s time for the western world, Jews, Christians, and Moslems of good faith, to recognize the sanctity and legitimacy of the Temple Mount for all religious traditions, and accept the archaeological, historical, and spiritual record with dignity and respect.

Temple Mount, Jerusalem.


Why Jews and Muslims Both Have Religious Claims on Jerusalem

The matter of Israel’s capital city has long been a source of dispute.ਊlthough nearly allਏoreign embassies in Israelਊre located in Tel Aviv, the country਌onsiders Jerusalem to be its capital. Jerusalem, which is one of the oldest cities in the world, has been formally divided between Israel and Palestine for nearly 70 years, yet changed hands many other times throughout the course of its over 5,000-year history.

Israel and Palestine’s dueling claims to the city are steeped in decades of conflict, during which Jewish settlers pushed Muslim Arabs out of their homes and established the state of Israel on their land in the middle of the 20th century. But the claims are also tied to the religions of Judaism and Islam, both of which recognize Jerusalem as a holy place.

On December 6, 2017, President Donald Trump broke with previous U.S. foreign policy and announced that the U.S. would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, effectively endorsing Israeli control of the city. On May 14, 2018, the U.S. relocated its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

Jerusalem seen through a door with the shape of the star of David. U.S. officials say President Donald Trump will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital Wednesday, Dec. 6, and instruct the State Department to begin the multi-year process of moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city. (Credit: Oded Balilty/AP Photo)

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are strongly tied to the ancient city, and followers of each of these religions have controlled all or part of the city over the past few thousand years. In 1,000 B.C.E., King David established Jewish control over Jerusalem. The city fell in and out of other hands during the next couple of millenia particularly during the crusades, when Christian crusaders fought competing Christian and Muslim factions for control of the city. And between 1517 and 1917, the Ottoman Empire—whose official religion was Islam—ruled the city.

Jerusalem features prominently in the Hebrew Bible. In the Jewish tradition, it is the place where Abraham, the first Patriarch of Judaism, nearly sacrificed his son Isaac to God thousands of years ago. Later, Abraham’s grandson Jacob (who took the name “Israel”) learned that Jerusalem is “the site that the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes, as a place established in His name,” according to the Book of Deuteronomy.

Religious Jewish men praying at The Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site, ahead of the Sabbath, 2005. (Credit: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Jerusalem was the capital of King David’s Israel in the Hebrew Bible, as well as the city where David’s son Solomon built his temple. In biblical times, Jewish people who could not make a pilgrimage to the city were supposed to pray in the direction of it.

According to the Quran, Jerusalem was also the last place the Prophet Muhammad visited before he ascended to the heavens and talked to God in the seventh century. Before that, he was flown from Mecca to Jerusalem overnight by a mythical creature.

Both this miraculous night journey and his communion with God are important events in Islam. During the night journey, Muhammad was purified in preparation for his meeting with God. Once in heaven, God told Muhammad that he should recite the salat, or ritual prayer, 50 times each day. However, Muhammad begged God to reduce the number to five times a day, which is the current standard for Muslim prayer.

TURKEY – APRIL 08: Walls of Constantinople (first half of the 5th century AD) and the city, Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)

Muhammad saw his mission as an extension of the Abrahamic traditions of Judaism and Christianity. Therefore, the first Qibla, or direction in which Muslims should pray, was Jerusalem (today, Muslims bow towards Mecca). In addition, Islamic tradition predicts that Jerusalem will play an important role in the future, naming it as one of the cities where the end of the world will play out.

Though the world doesn’t appear to be ending there right now, Trump’s announcement has increased tensions in the region. The president’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital drew praise from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and condemnation from Palestinian allies who worried that this move would make it more difficult to negotiate a long-sought peace treaty between the states.


Contents

The concept of the "Temple Mount" gained prominence in the first century CE, after the destruction of the Second Temple. [16] Although the term "Temple Mount" was first used in the Book of Micah (4:1) – literally as "Mount of the House" – it was not used again until approximately one thousand years later. [17] [18] The term was not used in the New Testament. [19] The term was used next in the Talmud's Tractate Middot (1:1–3, 2:1–2), in which the area was described in detail. [20] The term was used frequently in Talmudic texts thereafter. [21]

The Temple Mount forms the northern portion of a very narrow spur of hill that slopes sharply downward from north to south. Rising above the Kidron Valley to the east and Tyropoeon Valley to the west, [22] its peak reaches a height of 740 m (2,428 ft) above sea level. [23] 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 m 2 (37 acres). [24] 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 Gate of the Chain Street – a street in the Muslim Quarter at the level of the platform, actually sitting on a monumental bridge [25] [ better source needed ] the bridge is no longer externally visible due to the change in ground level, but it can be seen from beneath via the Western Wall Tunnel. [ citation needed ] [26]

The Temple Mount has historical and religious significance for all three of the major Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It has particular religious significance for Judaism and Islam, and the competing claims of these faith communities has made it one of the most contested religious sites in the world.

Judaism

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. [7] It was from the Holy of Holies that the High Priest communicated directly with God.

According to the rabbinic sages whose debates produced the Talmud, it was from here the world expanded into its present form and where God gathered the dust used to create the first human, Adam. [27] 2 Chronicles 3:1 refers to the Temple Mount in the time before the construction of the temple as Mount Moriah (Hebrew: הַר הַמֹּורִיָּה ‎, har ha-Môriyyāh). The "land of Moriah" (Hebrew: אֶרֶץ הַמֹּרִיָּה ‎, ʾeretṣ ha-Môriyyāh) is the name given by Genesis to the location of Abraham's binding of Isaac. [27] Since at least the first century CE, the two sites have been identified with one another in Judaism, this identification being subsequently perpetuated by Jewish and Christian tradition. Modern scholarship tends to regard them as distinct (see Moriah).

Jewish connection and veneration to the site arguably stems from the fact that it contains the Foundation Stone which, according to the rabbis of the Talmud, was the spot from where the world was created and expanded into its current form. [28] [29] It was subsequently the Holy of Holies of the Temple, the Most Holy Place in Judaism. [30] 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. [31] Similarly, when the Bible recounts that King David purchased a threshing floor owned by Araunah the Jebusite, [32] 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. [33] According to the Bible, David wanted to construct a sanctuary there, but this was left to his son Solomon, who completed the task in c. 950 BCE with the construction of the First Temple. [34]

According to Jewish tradition, both Jewish Temples stood at the Temple Mount, though archaeological evidence only exists for the Second Temple. [35] However, the identification of Solomon's Temple with the area of the Temple Mount is widespread. According to the Bible the site should function as the center of all national life—a governmental, judicial and religious center. [36] During the Second Temple period it functioned also as an economic center. According to Jewish tradition and scripture, [4] the First Temple was built by King Solomon the son of King David in 957 BCE and destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. The second was constructed under the auspices of Zerubbabel in 516 BCE and destroyed by the Roman Empire in 70 CE. In the 2nd century, the site was used for a temple to Jupiter Capitolinus. It was redeveloped following the Arab conquest. [37] Jewish texts predict that the Mount will be the site of a Third and final Temple, which will be rebuilt with the coming of the Jewish Messiah. A number of vocal Jewish groups now advocate building the Third Holy Temple without delay in order to bring to pass God's "end-time prophetic plans for Israel and the entire world." [38]

Several passages in the Hebrew Bible indicate that during the time when they were written, the Temple Mount was identified as Mount Zion. [39] The Mount Zion mentioned in the later parts of the Book of Isaiah ( Isaiah 60:14 ), in the Book of Psalms, and the First Book of Maccabees (c. 2nd century BCE) seems to refer to the top of the hill, generally known as the Temple Mount. [39] According to the Book of Samuel, Mount Zion was the site of the Jebusite fortress called the "stronghold of Zion", but once the First Temple was erected, according to the Bible, at the top of the Eastern Hill ("Temple Mount"), the name "Mount Zion" migrated there too. [39] The name later migrated for a last time, this time to Jerusalem's Western Hill. [39]

In 1217, Spanish Rabbi Judah al-Harizi found the sight of the Muslim structures on the mount profoundly disturbing. "What torment to see our holy courts converted into an alien temple!" he wrote. [40]

Christianity

The Temple was of central importance in Jewish worship in the Tanakh (Old Testament). In the New Testament, 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. [41] [42] [43] After the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, which came to be regarded by early Christians, as it was by Josephus and the sages of the Jerusalem Talmud, to be a divine act of punishment for the sins of the Jewish people, [44] [45] the Temple Mount lost its significance for Christian worship with the Christians considering it a fulfillment of Christ's prophecy at, for example, Matthew 23:28 and 24:2. It was to this end, proof of a biblical prophecy fulfilled and of Christianity's victory over Judaism with the New Covenant, [46] that early Christian pilgrims also visited the site. [47] Byzantine Christians, despite some signs of constructive work on the esplanade, [48] generally neglected the Temple Mount, especially when a Jewish attempt to rebuild the Temple was destroyed by the earthquake in 363. [49] It became a desolate local rubbish dump, perhaps outside the city limits, [50] as Christian worship in Jerusalem shifted to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and Jerusalem's centrality was replaced by Rome. [51]

During the Byzantine era, Jerusalem was primarily Christian and pilgrims came by the tens of thousands to experience the places where Jesus walked. [ citation needed ] After the Persian invasion in 614 many churches were razed and the site was turned into a dumpyard. The Arabs conquered the city from the Byzantine Empire which had retaken it in 629. The Byzantine ban on the Jews was lifted and they were allowed to live inside the city and visit the places of worship. Christian pilgrims were able to come and experience the Temple Mount area. [52] The war between Seljuqs and Byzantine Empire and increasing Muslim violence against Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem instigated the Crusades. The Crusaders captured Jerusalem in 1099 and 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 Solomon's Temple, 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. [ citation needed ]

In Christian art, the circumcision of Jesus was conventionally depicted as taking place at the Temple, even though European artists until recently had no way of knowing what the Temple looked like and the Gospels do not state that the event took place at the Temple. [53]

Though some Christians believe that the Temple will be reconstructed before, or concurrent with, the Second Coming of Jesus (also see dispensationalism), pilgrimage to the Temple Mount is not viewed as important in the beliefs and worship of most Christians. 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 Mount Gerizim, to which Jesus replies,

Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:21–24)

This has been construed to mean that Jesus dispensed with physical location for worship, which was a matter rather of spirit and truth. [54]

Islam

Almost immediately after the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem in 638 CE, Caliph 'Omar ibn al Khatab, disgusted by the filth covering the site, had it thoroughly cleaned, [55] and granted Jews access to the site. [56] Among Sunni Muslims, the Mount is widely considered the third holiest site in Islam. Revered as the Noble Sanctuary, the location 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. [8] Muslims preferred to use the esplanade as the heart for the Muslim quarter, since it had been abandoned by Christians, to avoid disturbing the Christian quarters of Jerusalem. [57] Umayyad Caliphs commissioned the construction of the al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock on the site. [9] The Dome was completed in 692 CE, making it one of the oldest extant Islamic structures in the world. The Al Aqsa Mosque rests on the far southern side of the Mount, facing Mecca. The Dome of the Rock currently sits in the middle, occupying or close to the area where the Holy Temple previously stood. [10]

A 13th-century claim to an extended region of holiness was made by Ibn Taymiyyah who asserted: "Al-Masjid al-Aqsa is the name for the whole of the place of worship built by Sulaymaan" [which, according to western tradition, presents] "the place of worship built by Solomon" known as Solomon's Temple. Ibn Taymiyyah had also opposed giving any undue religious honors to mosques (even that of Jerusalem), to approach or rival in any way the perceived Islamic sanctity of the two most holy mosques within Islam, Masjid al-Haram (in Mecca) and Al-Masjid al-Nabawi (in Madina). [58]

Muslims view the site as being one of the earliest and most noteworthy places of worship of God. For a few years in the early stages of Islam, Muhammad instructed his followers to face the Mount during prayer.

The site is also important as being the site of the "Farthest Mosque" (mentioned in the Quran as the location of Muhammad's miraculous Night Journey) to heaven.:

Exalted is He who took His Servant by night from al-Masjid al-Haram (the Sacred Mosque) to al-Masjid al-Aqsa (the Further Mosque), whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him of Our signs. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Seeing.

The hadith, a collection of the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, confirm that the location of the Al-Aqsa mosque is indeed in Jerusalem:

When the people of Quraish did not believe me (i.e. the story of my Night Journey), I stood up in Al-Hijr and Allah displayed Jerusalem in front of me, and I began describing Jerusalem to them while I was looking at it.

Muslim interpretations of the Quran agree that the Mount is the site of a Temple built by Sulayman, considered a prophet in Islam, that was later destroyed. [61]

After the construction, Muslims believe, the temple was used for the worship of one God by many prophets of Islam, including Jesus. [62] [63] [64] Other Muslim scholars have used the Torah (called Tawrat in Arabic) to expand on the details of the temple. [65]

Israelite period

The hill is believed to have been inhabited since the 4th millennium BCE. Assuming colocation with the biblical Mount Zion, its southern section would have been 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. Jewish tradition identifies it with Mount Moriah where the binding of Isaac took place. According to the Hebrew Bible, the Temple Mount was originally a threshing-floor owned by Araunah, a Jebusite. The prophet Gad suggested the area to King David as a fitting place for the erection of an altar to YHWH, since a destroying angel was standing there when God stopped a great plague in Jerusalem. [66]

David then bought the property from Araunah, for fifty pieces of silver, and erected the altar. YHWH instructed David to build a sanctuary on the site, outside the city walls on the northern edge of the hill. The building was to replace the Tabernacle, and serve as the Temple of the Israelites in Jerusalem. [67] The Temple Mount is an important part of Biblical archaeology.

Persian, Hasmonean and Herodian periods

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 began under Cyrus in around 538 BCE, and was 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, [68] more than doubled the size of the Temple Mount to approximately 36 acres (150,000 m 2 ). 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, and filling the necessary sections with earth and rubble. [69] A basilica, called by Josephus "the Royal Stoa", was constructed on the southern end of the expanded platform, which provided a focus for the city's commercial and legal transactions, and which was provided with separate access to the city below via the Robinson's Arch overpass. [70] In addition to restoration of the Temple, its courtyards and porticoes, Herod also built the 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 in 70 CE by Titus, the army commander and son of Roman emperor Vespasian.

Middle Roman period

The city of Aelia Capitolina was built in 130 CE by the Roman 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 overlapping the site of the former second Jewish temple, the Temple Mount. [71]

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 on the Temple Mount now two enormous graven images, which Jews considered idolatrous. It was also customary in Roman rites to sacrifice a pig in land purification ceremonies. [72] 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, are thought to have constituted for non-Hellenized Jews a new abomination of desolation, and thus Bar Kochba launched the Third Jewish Revolt. [ citation needed ] After the Third Jewish Revolt failed, all Jews were forbidden on pain of death from entering the city or the surrounding territory around the city. [73]

Late Roman period

From the 1st through the 7th centuries Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire, gradually became the predominant religion of Palestine and under the Byzantines Jerusalem itself was almost completely Christian, with most of the population being Jacobite Christians of the Syrian rite. [46] [49]

Emperor Constantine I promoted the Christianization of Roman society, giving it precedence over pagan cults. [74] One consequence was that Hadrian's Temple to Jupiter on the Temple Mount was demolished immediately following the First Council of Nicea in 325 CE on orders of Constantine. [75]

The Bordeaux Pilgrim, who visited Jerusalem in 333–334, during the reign of Emperor Constantine I, wrote that "There are two statues of Hadrian, and, not far from them, a pierced stone to which the Jews come every year and anoint. They mourn and rend their garments, and then depart." [76] The occasion is assumed to have been Tisha b'Av, since decades later Jerome related that that was the only day on which Jews were permitted to enter Jerusalem. [77]

Constantine's nephew Emperor Julian granted permission in the year 363 for the Jews to rebuild the Temple. [77] [78] In a letter attributed to Julian he wrote to the Jews that "This you ought to do, in order that, when I have successfully concluded the war in Persia, I may rebuild by my own efforts the sacred city of Jerusalem, which for so many years you have longed to see inhabited, and may bring settlers there, and, together with you, may glorify the Most High God therein." [77] Julian saw the Jewish God as a fitting member of the pantheon of gods he believed in, and he was also a strong opponent of Christianity. [77] [79] Church historians wrote that the Jews began to clear away the structures and rubble on the Temple Mount but were thwarted, first by a great earthquake, and then by miracles that included fire springing from the earth. [80] However, no contemporary Jewish sources mention this episode directly. [77]

Byzantine period

During his excavations in the 1930s, Robert Hamilton uncovered portions of a multicolor mosaic floor with geometric patterns inside the al-Aqsa mosque, but didn't publish them. [81] The date of the mosaic is disputed: Zachi Dvira considers that they are from the pre-Islamic Byzantine period, while Baruch, Reich and Sandhaus favor a much later Umayyad origin on account of their similarity to a known Umayyad mosaic. [81]

Sassanid 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 Jews in Palestine were allowed to set up a vassal state under the Sassanid Empire called the Sassanid Jewish Commonwealth which lasted for five years. Jewish rabbis ordered the restart of animal sacrifice for the first time since the time of Second Temple and started to reconstruct the Jewish Temple. Shortly before the Byzantines took the area back five years later in 615, the Persians gave control to the Christian population, who tore down the partially built Jewish Temple edifice and turned it into a garbage dump, [82] which is what it was when the Rashidun Caliph Umar took the city in 637.

Early Muslim period

In 637 Arabs besieged and captured the city from the Byzantine Empire, which had defeated the Persian forces and their allies, and reconquered the city. There are no contemporary records, but many traditions, about the origin of the main Islamic buildings on the mount. [83] [84] A popular account from later centuries is that the Rashidun Caliph Umar was led to the place reluctantly by the Christian patriarch Sophronius. [85] He found it covered with rubbish, but the sacred Rock was found with the help of a converted Jew, Ka'b al-Ahbar. [85] Al-Ahbar advised Umar to build a mosque to the north of the rock, so that worshippers would face both the rock and Mecca, but instead Umar chose to build it to the south of the rock. [85] It became known as the Al-Aqsa Mosque. According to Muslim sources, Jews participated in the construction of the haram, laying the groundwork for both the Al-Aqsa and Dome of the Rock mosques. [86] The first known eyewitness testimony is that of the pilgrim Arculf who visited about 670. According to Arculf's account as recorded by Adomnán, he saw a rectangular wooden house of prayer built over some ruins, large enough to hold 3,000 people. [83] [87]

In 691 an octagonal Islamic building topped by a dome was built by the Caliph Abd al-Malik around the rock, for a myriad of political, dynastic and religious reasons, built on local and Quranic traditions articulating the site's holiness, a process in which textual and architectural narratives reinforced one another. [88] The shrine became known as the Dome of the Rock ( قبة الصخرة , Qubbat as-Sakhra). (The dome itself was covered in gold in 1920.) In 715 the Umayyads, led by the Caliph al-Walid I, built the Aqsa Mosque ( المسجد الأقصى , al-Masjid al-Aqsa, lit. "Furthest Mosque"), corresponding to the Islamic belief of Muhammad's miraculous nocturnal journey as recounted in the Quran and hadith. The term "Noble Sanctuary" or "Haram al-Sharif", as it was called later by the Mamluks and Ottomans, refers to the whole area that surrounds that Rock. [89] [30]

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). The various inscriptions on the Dome walls and the artistic decorations imply a symbolic eschatological significance of the structure.

Crusader and Ayyubid period

The Crusader period began in 1099 with the First Crusade's capture of Jerusalem. After the city's conquest, the Crusading order known as the Knights Templar was granted use of the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount. This was probably by Baldwin II of Jerusalem and Warmund, Patriarch of Jerusalem at the Council of Nablus in January 1120, which gave the Templars a headquarters in the captured Al-Aqsa Mosque. [90] The Temple Mount had a mystique because it was above what were believed to be the ruins of the Temple of Solomon. [91] [92] The Crusaders therefore referred to the Al Aqsa Mosque as Solomon's Temple, and it was from this location that the new Order took the name of "Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon", or "Templar" knights.

In 1187, once he retook Jerusalem, Saladin removed all traces of Christian worship from the Temple Mount, returning the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque to their original purposes. It remained in Muslim hands thereafter, even during the relatively short periods of Crusader rule following the Sixth Crusade.

Mamluk period

There are several Mamluk buildings on and around the Haram esplanade, such as the late 15th-century al-Ashrafiyya Madrasa and Sabil (fountain) of Qaitbay. The Mamluks also raised the level of Jerusalem's Central or Tyropoean Valey bordering the Temple Mount from the west by constructing huge substructures, on which they then built on a large scale. The Mamluk-period substructures and over-ground buildings are thus covering much of the Herodian western wall of the Temple Mount.

Ottoman period

Following the Ottoman conquest of Palestine in 1516, the Ottoman authorities continued the policy of prohibiting non-Muslims from setting foot on the Temple Mount until the early 19th century, when non-Muslims were again permitted to visit the site. [30]

In 1867, a team from the Royal Engineers, led by Lieutenant Charles Warren and financed by the Palestine Exploration Fund (P.E.F.), discovered a series of tunnels near the Temple Mount. Warren secretly [ citation needed ] excavated some tunnels near the Temple Mount walls and was the first one to document their lower courses. Warren also conducted some small scale excavations inside the Temple Mount, by removing rubble that blocked passages leading from the Double Gate chamber.

British Mandatory period

Between 1922 and 1924, the Dome of the Rock was restored by the Islamic Higher Council. [93] The Zionist movement at the time was strongly opposed to any notion that the Temple itself might be rebuilt. Indeed, its armed wing, the Haganah militia, assassinated a Jewish man when his plan to blow up the Islamic sites on the Haram came to their attention in 1931. [94]

Jordanian period

Jordan undertook two renovations of the Dome of the Rock, replacing the leaking, wooden inner dome with an aluminum dome in 1952, and, when the new dome leaked, carrying out a second restoration between 1959 and 1964. [93]

Neither Israeli Arabs nor Israeli Jews could visit their holy places in the Jordanian territories during this period. [95] [96]

Israeli period

On 7 June 1967, during the Six-Day War, Israeli forces advanced beyond the 1949 Armistice Agreement Line into West Bank territories, taking control of the Old City of Jerusalem, inclusive of the Temple Mount.

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 religious holiday on the anniversary, called "Yom Yerushalayim" (Jerusalem Day), which became a national holiday to commemorate the reunification of Jerusalem. Many saw the capture of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount as a miraculous liberation of biblical-messianic proportions. [97] A few days after the war over 200,000 Jews flocked to the Western Wall in the first mass Jewish pilgrimage near the Mount since the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. Islamic authorities did not disturb Goren when he went to pray on the Mount until, on the Ninth Day of Av, he brought 50 followers and introduced both a shofar, and a portable ark to pray, an innovation which alarmed the Waqf authorities and led to a deterioration of relations between the Muslim authorities and the Israeli government. [98] The then Prime Minister of Israel, Levi Eshkol, gave control of access to the Temple Mount to the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf. The site has since been a flash-point between Israel and local Muslims.

In June 1969 an Australian tried to set fire to Al-Aqsa on April 11, 1982 a Jew hid in the Dome of the Rock and sprayed gunfire, killing 2 Palestinians and wounding 44 in 1974, 1977 and 1983 groups led by Yoel Lerner conspired to blow up both the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa on 26 January 1984 Waqf guards detected members of B'nei Yehuda, a messianic cult of former gangsters turned mystics based in Lifta, trying to infiltrate the area to blow it up. [99] [100] [101] On October 8, 1990, Israeli forces patrolling the site blocked worshippers from reaching it. A tear gas canister was set off among the female worshippers, which caused events to escalate. On 12 October 1990 Palestinian Muslims protested violently the intention of some extremist Jews to lay a cornerstone on the site for a New Temple as a prelude to the destruction of the Muslim mosques. The attempt was blocked by Israeli authorities but demonstrators were widely reported as having stoned Jews at the Western Wall. [99] [102] According to Palestinian historian Rashid Khalidi, investigative journalism has shown this allegation to be false. [103] Rocks were eventually thrown, while security forces fired rounds that ended up killing 21 people and injuring 150 more. [99] An Israeli inquiry found Israeli forces at fault, but it also concluded that charges could not be brought against any particular individuals. [104] In December 1997, Israeli security services preempted an attempt by Jewish extremists to throw a pig's head wrapped in the pages of the Quran into the area, in order to spark a riot and embarrass the government. [99]

Between 1992 and 1994, the Jordanian government undertook the unprecedented step of gilding the dome of the Dome of the Rock, covering it with 5000 gold plates, and restoring and reinforcing the structure. The Salah Eddin minbar was also restored. The project was paid for by King Hussein personally, at a cost of $8 million. [93] The Temple Mount remains, under the terms of the 1994 Israel–Jordan peace treaty, under Jordanian custodianship. [105]

On September 28, 2000, Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount. He toured the site, together with a Likud party delegation and a large number of Israeli riot police. The visit was seen as a provocative gesture by many Palestinians, who gathered around the site. Demonstrations quickly turned violent, with rubber bullets and tear gas being used. This event is often cited as one of the catalysts of the Second Palestinian Intifada. [106]

The situation between Jews and Muslims was confirmed in 1919 and Faisal–Weizmann Agreement concluded that:

Article V. No regulation nor law shall be made prohibiting or interfering with the free exercise of religion (. )
Article VI. The Mohammedan Holy Places shall be under Mohammedan control. [108]

In 1929 tensions around the Western Wall in which Jews were accused of violating the status quo generated riots during which 133 Jews and 110 Arabs were killed. [109] [110]

Following the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, the status quo was not respected any more after Jordan took control of the Old City of Jerusalem and Jews were prohibited from visiting their Holy Places in the city. [111]

Under Israeli control

A few days after the Six-Day War, on June 17, 1967, a meeting was held at al-Aqsa between Moshe Dayan and Muslim religious authorities of Jerusalem reformulating the status quo. [98] Jews were given the right to visit the Temple Mount unobstructed and free of charge if they respected Muslims' religious feelings and acted decently, but they were not allowed to pray. The Western Wall was to remain the Jewish place of prayer. 'Religious sovereignty' was to remain with the Muslims while 'overall sovereignty' became Israeli. [98] The Muslims objected to Dayan's offer, as they completely rejected the Israeli conquest of Jerusalem and the Mount. Some Jews, led by Shlomo Goren, then the military chief rabbi, had objected as well, claiming the decision handed over the complex to the Muslims, since the Western Wall's holiness is derived from the Mount and symbolizes exile, while praying on the Mount symbolizes freedom and the return of the Jewish people to their homeland. [98] The President of the High Court of Justice, Aharon Barak, in response to an appeal in 1976 against police interference with an individual's putative right to prayer on the site, expressed the view that, while Jews had a right to prayer there, it was not absolute but subject to the public interest and the rights of other groups. Israel's courts have considered the issue as one beyond their remit, and, given the delicacy of the matter, under political jurisdiction. [98] He wrote:

The basic principle is that every Jew has the right to enter the Temple Mount, to pray there, and to have communion with his maker. This is part of the religious freedom of worship, it is part of the freedom of expression. However, as with every human right, it is not absolute, but a relative right. Indeed, in a case where there is near certainty that injury may be caused to the public interest if a person's rights of religious worship and freedom of expression would be realized, it is possible to limit the rights of the person in order to uphold the public interest. [98]

Police continued to forbid Jews to pray on the Temple Mount. [98] Subsequently, several prime ministers also made attempts to change the status quo, but failed to do so. In October 1986, an agreement between the Temple Mount Faithful, the Supreme Muslim Council and police, which would allow short visits in small groups, was exercised once and never repeated, after 2,000 Muslims armed with stones and bottles attacked the group and stoned worshipers at the Western Wall. During the 1990s, additional attempts were made for Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, which were stopped by Israeli police. [98]

Until 2000, non-Muslim visitors could enter the Dome of the Rock, al-Aqsa Mosque and the Islamic Museum by getting a ticket from the Waqf. That procedure ended when the Second Intifada erupted. Fifteen years later, negotiation between Israel and Jordan might result in reopening of those sites once again. [112]

In the 2010s, fear arose among Palestinians that Israel planned to change the status quo and permit Jewish prayers or that the al-Aqsa mosque might be damaged or destroyed by Israel. Al-Aqsa was used as a base for attacks on visitors and the police from which stones, firebombs and fireworks were thrown. The Israeli police had never entered al-Aqsa Mosque until November 5, 2014, when dialog with the leaders of the Waqf and the rioters failed. This resulted in imposing strict limitations on entry of visitors to the Temple Mount. Israeli leadership repeatedly stated that the status quo would not change. [113] According to then Jerusalem police commissioner Yohanan Danino, the place is at the center of a "holy war" and "anyone who wants to change the status quo on the Temple Mount should not be allowed up there", citing an "extreme right-wing agenda to change the status quo on the Temple Mount" Hamas and Islamic Jihad continue to erroneously assert that the Israeli government plans to destroy Al-Aksa Mosque, resulting in chronic terrorist attacks and rioting. [114]

There have been several changes to the status quo: (1) Jewish visits are often prevented or considerably restricted. (2) Jews and other non-Islamic visitors can only visit from Sunday to Thursday, for four hours each day. (3) Visits inside the mosques are not allowed. (4) Jews with religious appearance must visit in groups monitored by Waqf guards and policemen. [113]

Many Palestinians believe the status quo is threatened since right-wing Israelis have been challenging it with more force and frequency, asserting a religious right to pray there. Until Israel banned them, members of Murabitat, a group of women, cried 'Allah Akbar' at groups of Jewish visitors to remind them the Temple Mount was still in Muslim hands. [115] [116]

An Islamic Waqf has managed the Temple Mount continuously since the Muslim reconquest of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1187. On June 7, 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, [117] ensuring protection of the Holy Places against desecration, as well as freedom of access thereto. [118] The site remains within the area controlled by the State of Israel, with administration of the site remaining in the hands of the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf.

Although freedom of access was enshrined in the law, as a security measure, 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. [119] At various times, when there is fear of Arab rioting upon the mount resulting in throwing stones from above towards the Western Wall Plaza, Israel has prevented Muslim men under 45 from praying in the compound, citing these concerns. [120] Sometimes such restrictions have coincided with Friday prayers during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. [121] Normally, West Bank Palestinians are allowed access to Jerusalem only during Islamic holidays, with access usually restricted to men over 35 and women of any age eligible for permits to enter the city. [122] Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, which because of Israel's annexation of Jerusalem, hold Israeli permanent residency cards, and Israeli Arabs, are permitted unrestricted access to the Temple Mount. [ citation needed ] The Mughrabi Gate is the only entrance to the Temple Mount accessible to non-Muslims. [123] [124] [125]

Due to religious restrictions on entering the most sacred areas of the Temple Mount (see following section), the Western Wall, a retaining wall for the Temple Mount and remnant of the Second Temple structure, is considered by some rabbinical authorities to be the holiest accessible site for Jews to pray at. A 2013 Knesset committee hearing considered allowing Jews to pray at the site, amidst heated debate. Arab-Israeli MPs were ejected for disrupting the hearing, after shouting at the chairman, calling her a "pyromaniac". Religious Affairs Minister Eli Ben-Dahan of Jewish Home said his ministry was seeking legal ways to enable Jews to pray at the site. [126]

Jewish religious law concerning entry to the site

During Temple times, entry to the Mount was limited by a complex set of purity laws. Persons suffering from corpse uncleanness were not allowed to enter the inner court. [127] Non-Jews were also prohibited from entering the inner court of the Temple. [128] A hewn stone measuring 60 x 90 cm. and engraved with Greek uncials was discovered in 1871 near a court on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem in which it outlined this prohibition:

ΜΗΟΕΝΑΑΛΛΟΓΕΝΗΕΙΣΠΟ
ΡΕΥΕΣΟΑΙΕΝΤΟΣΤΟΥΠΕ
ΡΙΤΟΙΕΡΟΝΤΡΥΦΑΚΤΟΥΚΑΙ
ΠΕΡΙΒΟΛΟΥΟΣΔΑΝΛΗ
ΦΘΗΕΑΥΤΩΙΑΙΤΙΟΣΕΣ
ΤΑΙΔΙΑΤΟΕΞΑΚΟΛΟΥ
ΘΕΙΝΘΑΝΑΤΟΝ

Translation: "Let no foreigner enter within the parapet and the partition which surrounds the Temple precincts. Anyone caught [violating] will be held accountable for his ensuing death." Today, the stone is preserved in Istanbul's Museum of Antiquities.

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. [30] While secular Jews ascend freely, the question of whether ascending is permitted is a matter of some debate among religious authorities, with a majority holding that it is permitted to ascend to the Temple Mount, but not to step on the site of the inner courtyards of the ancient Temple. [30] The question then becomes whether the site can be ascertained accurately. [30] A second complex legal debate centers around the precise divine punishment for stepping onto these forbidden spots.

There is debate over whether reports that Maimonides himself ascended the Mount are reliable. [129] One such report [ citation needed ] claims that he did so on Thursday, October 21, 1165, during the Crusader period. Some early scholars however, claim that entry onto certain areas of the Mount is 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. [130] There are also Christian and Islamic sources which indicate that Jews visited the site, [131] but these visits may have been made under duress. [132]

Opinions of contemporary rabbis concerning entry to the site

A few hours after the Temple Mount came under Israeli control during the Six-Day War, a message from the Chief Rabbis of Israel, Isser Yehuda Unterman and Yitzhak Nissim was broadcast, warning that Jews were not permitted to enter the site. [133] This warning was reiterated by the Council of the Chief Rabbinate a few days later, which issued an explanation written by Rabbi Bezalel Jolti (Zolti) that "Since the sanctity of the site has never ended, it is forbidden to enter the Temple Mount until the Temple is built." [133] The signatures of more than 300 prominent rabbis were later obtained. [134]

A major critic of the decision of the Chief Rabbinate was Rabbi Shlomo Goren, the chief rabbi of the IDF. [133] According to General Uzi Narkiss, who led the Israeli force that conquered the Temple Mount, Goren proposed to him that the Dome of the Rock be immediately blown up. [134] After Narkiss refused, Goren unsuccessfully petitioned the government to close off the Mount to Jews and non-Jews alike. [134] Later he established his office on the Mount and conducted a series of demonstrations on the Mount in support of the right of Jewish men to enter there. [133] His behavior displeased the government, which restricted his public actions, censored his writings, and in August prevented him from attending the annual Oral Law Conference at which the question of access to the Mount was debated. [135] Although there was considerable opposition, the conference consensus was to confirm the ban on entry to Jews. [135] The ruling said "We have been warned, since time immemorial [lit. for generations and generations], against entering the entire area of the Temple Mount and have indeed avoided doing so." [134] [135] According to Ron Hassner, the ruling "brilliantly" solved the government's problem of avoiding ethnic conflict, since those Jews who most respected rabbinical authority were those most likely to clash with Muslims on the Mount. [135]

Rabbinical consensus in the post-1967 period, held that it is forbidden for Jews to enter any part of the Temple Mount, [136] and in January 2005 a declaration was signed confirming the 1967 decision. [137]

While Rabbi Moshe Feinstein permitted, in principle, entry to some parts of the site, [138] most other Haredi rabbis are of the opinion that the Mount is off limits to Jews and non-Jews alike. [139] Their opinions against entering the Temple Mount are based on the current political climate surrounding the Mount, [140] along with the potential 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. [141] [142] The boundaries of the areas which are completely forbidden, while having large portions in common, are delineated differently by various rabbinic authorities.

However, there is a growing body of Modern Orthodox and national religious rabbis who encourage visits to certain parts of the Mount, which they believe are permitted according to most medieval rabbinical authorities. [30] These rabbis include: Shlomo Goren (former Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel) Chaim David Halevi (former Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv and Yafo) 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. One of them, Shlomo Goren, held that it is possible that Jews are even allowed to enter the heart of the Dome of the Rock in time of war, according to Jewish Law of Conquest. [143] These authorities demand an attitude of veneration on the part of Jews ascending the Temple Mount, ablution in a mikveh prior to the ascent, and the wearing of non-leather shoes. [30] Some rabbinic authorities are now of the opinion that it is imperative for Jews to ascend in order to halt the ongoing process of Islamization of the Temple Mount. Maimonides, perhaps the greatest codifier of Jewish Law, wrote in Laws of the Chosen House ch 7 Law 15 "One may bring a dead body in to the (lower sanctified areas of the) Temple Mount and there is no need to say that the ritually impure (from the dead) may enter there, because the dead body itself can enter". One who is ritually impure through direct or in-direct contact of the dead cannot walk in the higher sanctified areas. For those who are visibly Jewish, they have no choice, but to follow this peripheral route as it has become unofficially part of the status quo on the Mount. Many of these recent opinions rely on archaeological evidence. [30]

In December 2013, the two Chief Rabbis of Israel, David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef, reiterated the ban on Jews entering the Temple Mount. [144] They wrote, "In light of [those] neglecting [this ruling], we once again warn that nothing has changed and this strict prohibition remains in effect for the entire area [of the Temple Mount]". [144] In November 2014, the Sephardic chief rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, reiterated the point of view held by many rabbinic authorities that Jews should not visit the Mount. [105] On the occasion of an upsurge in Palestinian knifing attacks on Israelis, associated with fears that Israel was changing the status quo on the Mount, the Haredi newspaper Mishpacha ran a notification in Arabic asking 'their cousins', Palestinians, to stop trying to murder members of their congregation, since they were vehemently opposed to ascending the Mount and consider such visits proscribed by Jewish law. [145]

Dome of the Rock platform

A flat platform was built around the peak of the Temple Mount, carrying the Dome of the Rock the peak just breaches the floor level of the upper platform within the Dome of the Rock, in the shape of a large limestone outcrop, which is part of the bedrock. Beneath the surface of this rock there is a cave known as the Well of Souls, originally accessible only by a narrow hole in the rock itself the Crusaders hacked open an entrance to the cave from the south, by which it can now be entered. [ citation needed ]

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.

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. [146]

The lower platform also houses an ablution fountain (known as al-Kas), originally supplied with water via a long narrow aqueduct leading from the so-called Solomon's Pools near Bethlehem, but now supplied from Jerusalem's water mains.

There are several cisterns beneath the lower platform, designed to collect rain water as a water supply. These have various forms and structures, seemingly built in different periods, 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 [147] ):

  • 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), [148] 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. [149]
  • 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, [150] 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.

Gates

The retaining walls of the platform contain several gateways, all currently blocked. In the eastern 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 (the "house of Abu Sa'ud") 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. [151]

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. [152] 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. [153] 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.

In the process of investigating Cistern 10, Warren discovered tunnels that lay under the Triple Gate passageway. [154] 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.

Altogether, there are six major sealed gates and a postern, listed here counterclockwise, dating from either the Roman/Herodian, Byzantine, or Early Muslim periods:

  • Bab al-Jana'iz/al-Buraq (Gate of the Funerals/of al-Buraq) eastern wall a hardly noticeable postern, or maybe an improvised gate, a short distance south of the Golden Gate
  • Golden Gate (Bab al-Zahabi) eastern wall (northern third), a double gate:
  • Warren's Gate western wall, now only visible from the Western Wall Tunnel
  • Bab an-Nabi (Gate of the Prophet) or Barclay's Gate western wall, visible from the al-Buraq Mosque inside the Haram, and from the Western Wall plaza (women's section) and the adjacent building (the so-called house of Abu Sa'ud)
  • Double Gate (Bab al-Thulathe possibly one of the Huldah Gates) southern wall, underneath the Al-Aqsa Mosque
  • Triple Gate southern wall, outside Solomon's Stables/Marwani Mosque
  • Single Gate southern wall, outside Solomon's Stables/Marwani Mosque

There are currently eleven open gates offering access to the Muslim Haram al-Sharif.

  • Bab al-Asbat (Gate of the Tribes) north-east corner
  • Bab al-Hitta/Huttah (Gate of Remission, Pardon, or Absolution) northern wall
  • Bab al-Atim/'Atm/Attim (Gate of Darkness) northern wall
  • Bab al-Ghawanima (Gate of Bani Ghanim) north-west corner
  • Bab al-Majlis / an-Nazir/Nadhir (Council Gate / Inspector's Gate) western wall (northern third)
  • Bab al-Hadid (Iron Gate) western wall (central part)
  • Bab al-Qattanin (Gate of the Cotton Merchants) western wall (central part)
  • Bab al-Matarah/Mathara (Ablution Gate) western wall (central part)

Two twin gates follow south of the Ablution Gate, the Tranquility Gate and the Gate of the Chain:

  • Bab as-Salam / al-Sakina (Tranquility Gate / Gate of the Dwelling), the northern one of the two western wall (central part)
  • Bab as-Silsileh (Gate of the Chain), the southern one of the two western wall (central part)
  • Bab al-Magharbeh/Maghariba (Moroccans' Gate/Gate of the Moors) western wall (southern third) the only entrance for non-Muslims

A twelfth gate still open during Ottoman rule is now closed to the public:

  • Bab as-Sarai (Gate of the Seraglio) a small gate to the former residence of the Pasha of Jerusalem western wall, northern part (between the Bani Ghanim and Council gates).

Solomon's Stables/Marwani Mosque

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 Solomon's Stables. [155] They were used as stables by the Crusaders, but were built by Herod the Great – along with the platform they were built to support.

Minarets

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.

Due to the extreme political sensitivity of the site, no real archaeological excavations have ever been conducted on the Temple Mount itself. Protests commonly occur whenever archaeologists conduct projects near the Mount. This sensitivity has not, however, prevented both Jewish and Muslim works from accusations of destroying archeological evidence on a number of occasions. [156] [157] [158] 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 and others. On 2016, UNESCO criticized the Israeli excavations, under the pretext of the Israeli aggressions on Al-Aqsa Mosque, after Israel prevented UNESCO experts from accessing the holy sites there to monitor the excavations. [159] [160]

After the Six-Day War of 1967, Israeli archeologists began a series of excavations near the site at the southern wall that uncovered finds from the Second Temple period through Roman, Umayyad and Crusader times. [161] Over the period 1970–88, a number of tunnels were excavated in the vicinity, including one that passed to the west of the Mount and became known as the Western Wall Tunnel, which was opened to the public in 1996. [162] [163] 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. [164]

In October 1999, the Islamic Waqf, and the Islamic Movement conducted an illegal [ citation needed ] dig which inflicted much archaeological damage. The earth from this operation, which has archeological wealth relevant to Jewish, Christian and Muslim history, was removed by heavy machinery and unceremoniously dumped by trucks into the nearby Kidron Valley. Although the archeological finds in the earth are already not in situ, this soil still contains great archeological potential. No archeological excavation was ever conducted on the Temple Mount, and this soil was the only archeological information that has ever been available to anyone. For this reason Israeli archaeologists Dr. Gabriel Barkay and Zachi Zweig established a project sifting all the earth in this dump: the Temple Mount Sifting Project. Among finds uncovered in rubble removed from the Temple Mount were:

  • The imprint of a seal thought to have belonged to a priestly Jewish family mentioned in the Old Testament's Book of Jeremiah.
  • More than 4300 coins from various periods. Many of them are from the Jewish revolt that preceded the destruction of the Second Temple by Roman legions in 70 CE emblazoned with the words "Freedom of Zion"
  • Arrowheads shot by Babylonian archers 2,500 years ago, and others launched by Roman siege machinery 500 years later.
  • Unique floor slabs of the 'opus sectile' technique that were used to pave the Temple Mount courts. This is also mentioned in Josephus accounts and the Babylonian Talmud.

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. [165] 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. [166] 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. [167] 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. [168] The works sparked condemnation from Arab leaders. [169]

In July 2007 the Muslim religious trust which administers the Mount began digging a 400-metre-long, 1.5-metre-deep trench [170] from the northern side of the Temple Mount compound to the Dome of the Rock [171] in order to replace 40-year-old [172] electric cables in the area. Israeli archaeologists accused the waqf of a deliberate act of cultural vandalism. [171]

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. Since the Waqf is granted almost full autonomy on the Islamic holy sites, Israeli archaeologists have been prevented from inspecting the area, and are restricted to conducting excavations around the Temple Mount. [ citation needed ] Muslims allege that the Israelis are deliberately damaging the remains of Islamic-era buildings found in their excavations. [173]

  1. ^"New Jerusalem Finds Point to the Temple Mount". cbn.com.
  2. ^PEF Survey of Palestine, 1883, volume III Jerusalem, p.119: "The Jamia el Aksa, or 'distant mosque' (that is, distant from Mecca), is on the south, reaching to the outer wall. The whole enclosure of the Haram is called by Moslem writers Masjid el Aksa, 'praying-place of the Aksa,' from this mosque."
    Yitzhak Reiter:

"This article deals with the employment of religious symbols for national identities and national narratives by using the sacred compound in Jerusalem (The Temple Mount/al-Aqsa) as a case study. The narrative of The Holy Land involves three concentric circles, each encompassing the other, with each side having its own names for each circle. These are: Palestine/Eretz Israel (i.e., the Land of Israel) Jerusalem/al-Quds and finally The Temple Mount/al-Aqsa compound. Within the struggle over public awareness of Jerusalem's importance, one particular site is at the eye of the storm—the Temple Mount and its Western Wall—the Jewish Kotel—or, in Muslim terminology, the al-Aqsa compound (alternatively: al-Haram al-Sharif) including the al-Buraq Wall. "Al-Aqsa" for the Palestinian-Arab-Muslim side is not merely a mosque mentioned in the Quran within the context of the Prophet Muhammad's miraculous Night Journey to al-Aqsa which, according to tradition, concluded with his ascension to heaven (and prayer with all of the prophets and the Jewish and Christian religious figures who preceded him) rather, it also constitutes a unique symbol of identity, one around which various political objectives may be formulated, plans of action drawn up and masses mobilized for their realization", "Narratives of Jerusalem and its Sacred Compound", Israel Studies 18(2):115-132 (July 2013)

"Al-Aqsa Mosque, also referred to as Al-Haram Ash-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary), comprises the entire area within the compound walls (a total area of 144,000 m2) - including all the mosques, prayer rooms, buildings, platforms and open courtyards located above or under the grounds - and exceeds 200 historical monuments pertaining to various Islamic eras. According to Islamic creed and jurisprudence, all these buildings and courtyards enjoy the same degree of sacredness since they are built on Al-Aqsa's holy grounds. This sacredness is not exclusive to the physical structures allocated for prayer, like the Dome of the Rock or Al-Qibly Mosque (the mosque with the large silver dome)"
Mahdi Abdul Hadi Archived 2020-02-16 at the Wayback Machine

USA Today: "A view of the Al-Aqsa compound (Temple Mount) in Jerusalem's Old City" [1]
Al Jazeera: "Israeli Deputy Minister Tzipi Hotovely referred to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound as 'the centre of Israeli sovereignty, the capital of Israel'. In response, Netanyahu's office later that night put out a statement saying that 'non-Muslims visit the Temple Mount [Al-Aqsa compound]' but are not permitted to pray there. ' " [2]


How Did the Muslims Come to Control the Temple Mount? #AskFOI

AskFOI is a segment on our blog where you get to participate by asking questions on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ by simply typing out a question about the Bible, Israel, or prophecy with the hashtag #AskFOI and I’ll select the most relevant to answer on the FOI Blog.

Our first #AskFOI question comes from Flora, who asks, “How did the Muslims come to have control of the Temple Mount?”

This is a great first question, with a complex answer.

First of all, the Temple Mount is by far one of the most holy sites in the entire world. It’s revered and honored by the Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

To the Christians the Temple Mount is sacred because it’s the place Jesus was dedicated to the Lord it’s where He taught and where He overturned the money tables. He even prophesied against the Temple. It’s also where many of the apostles taught about Jesus in the book of Acts.

Finally, to the Muslims the Temple Mount is considered the third most holy site in Islam. In Muslim tradition it’s believed that Muhammad ascended to Allah from the Temple Mount. The Dome of the Rock is a Muslim shrine that marks the location from which Muhammad ascended. Also, the famous Al-Asqa Mosque sits at the southern end of the Mount.

This small but very sacred site has been passed from hand-to-hand over the past 3,000 years. The ancient Israelites controlled it, as have the Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Crusaders, Turks, British, Jordanians, and now the modern Israelis.

So if the modern Israelis control East Jerusalem, how do the Muslims have control of the Temple Mount?

In 1967 during the Six-Day War the Jordanians, who had control of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, attacked Israel with the help of Syria and Egypt. The Israelis pushed the Jordanians out of the West Bank and as a result took East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.

After the dust settled from the Six-Day War, Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol returned the authority of the Temple Mount to the Islamic Waqf. The Waqf are the Islamic guardians of Muslim holy sites they watch over them and make sure they are being managed properly. Levi Eshkol returned the Temple Mount to the Islamic Waqf as a gesture of peace to the Arab world. He vowed, “No harm whatsoever shall come to the places sacred to all religions.”

So while the Muslims have authority to manage the Temple Mount according to their laws, traditions, and practices, the Israelis technically have control over the Temple Mount. The Israeli police manage the Temple Mount, standing guard at the entrances and exits. The Israeli police work with the Islamic Waqf to provide safe entrance at specific times during the day for non-Muslims to tour the Temple Mount.

There is one last thing I want you to think about. I said earlier that the Temple Mount has been controlled by different people, nations, and empires over the past 3,000 years. Even though many people lay claim to the rights of the Temple Mount, only one group of people actually paid for the property.

Second Samuel 24 says that David was commanded by the prophet Gad to erect an altar on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. King David approached Araunah and asked to purchase the threshing floor from him. Araunah refused and wished to give the threshing floor to King David. King David replied, “‘No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price nor will I offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God with that which cost me nothing.’ So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver” (v. 24).

Araunah’s threshing floor is the site of the Temple Mount, and we have written record of King David purchasing it for a price. From what I know there is no written record of anybody else purchasing the property of the Temple Mount from King David or any of his people, which I believe makes the Israelis sole owners and guardians of the sacred Temple Mount.

About the Author

Chris Katulka

Chris Katulka is the assistant director of North American Ministries for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, the host of The Friends of Israel Today radio program, a Bible teacher, and writer for Israel My Glory magazine.


Can Different Religions Peacefully Share a Sacred Site? A Temple Mount Tragedy - History

I n March I stood beside the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on my third visit to Israel and wondered at the past, present, and future of this amazing place.

The story of the nation Israel is largely the story of the Temple Mount, and it should interest every believer, because it is at the heart of Bible prophecy and the believer&rsquos own future is tied up with it.

The Jerusalem Temple Mount is at the heart and soul of history, because God has placed Israel at the center of the nations to be a light to the world.

Israel sits at the crossroads of Africa, Asia, and Europe, the three continents that were first settled by Noah&rsquos sons after the Flood.

God put Israel, the land of the Bible, at the center of the nations as a witness to Himself. Israel&rsquos very location testifies to the fact that her God is the true God.

&ldquoThus saith the Lord God This is Jerusalem: I have set it in the midst of the nations and countries that are round about her&rdquo (Ezekiel 5:5).

&ldquoFor the LORD hath chosen Zion he hath desired it for his habitation. This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell for I have desired it&rdquo (Psalm 132: 13-14).

It is Israel&rsquos failure to live up to this calling that has brought such great trouble upon her and upon the city that lies at the center of her hopes and aspirations.

The Jerusalem Temple Mount is at the heart and soul of history, because it is here that the divine atonement for man&rsquos sin was made. It is here that the eternal Son of God suffered, bled, and died for man&rsquos eternal crimes. It is here that the atonement was made which redeems individual souls who put their trust in it, and which will ultimately redeem the creation itself in a New Heaven and New Earth.

Jewish tradition says that Adam and Eve were created on Mt. Moriah, but the Bible does not confirm this. In fact, the biblical description of the location of the Garden of Eden places it farther north in association with the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

The biblical history of the Temple Mount begins in about 1918 BC, when Melchizedek was king of Salem in the time of Abraham. Melchizedek was a type of Christ, his name meaning &ldquoking of righteousness.&rdquo When Abraham returned from his victory over the Mesopotamian kings who had taken Lot captive, Melchizedek met him with bread and wine, and Abraham gave him tithes (Gen. 14:18-19).

In about 1863 BC , Abraham was instructed to offer his son Isaac, the inheritor of God&rsquos promise, on Mt. Moriah (Genesis 22:2). God provided a ram in the place of Isaac to signify the coming of the Messiah to make the perfect atonement for man&rsquos sin (Gen. 22:11-14). This pointed to the Lamb of God who would die in the sinner&rsquos stead at this very place nearly two millennia later. Abraham named the place Jehovah-jireh , the Lord will provide, and indeed Jehovah has provided!

In Mt. Moriah God reaffirmed the Abrahamic covenant (Gen. 22:15-18). This covenant promises that the Seed of Abraham, Jesus Christ, will inherit the throne of His father David, and that throne will be established in Jerusalem.

In 1017 BC, David purchased the threshingfloor of Ornan on Mt. Moriah (2 Chr. 3:1). He built an altar and the Lord consumed it with fire from heaven (1 Ch. 21:26). David knew by prophecy that this was the place where the temple would be built (1 Ch. 22:1).

In 957 B.C . the First Temple was built by Solomon on Mt. Moriah (2 Chron. 3:1). It was built according to the divine plans given to his father David (1 Chronicles 22:5-6 28:11-12, 19), and the glory of God filled it (1 Kings 8:10-11).

Between 800-700 BC , the Temple was defiled by Israel&rsquos own kings. In 880 BC, Athaliah, mother of Ahaziah, turned the Temple over to Baal worship (2 Ch. 24:7). In 740 BC, Ahaz cut up all the vessels and shut the doors (2 Ch. 28:24). In 700 BC, Manasseh installed idols in the Temple (2 Ch. 33:4, 7).

In 641 BC , the book of the Law was found in the Temple during the reign of Josiah, and he humbled himself before God to obey His law (2 Ch. 34-35).

In 593 BC , the glory of God departed from the Temple in preparation for its destruction (Ezek. 10:18 11:23).

In 586 BC , the First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonian armies under Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 25:9). The reason was Israel&rsquos sin against God (2 Chron. 26:15-21).

In 572 BC , while living in Babylon fourteen years after the destruction of the First Temple, Ezekiel delivered a lengthy prophecy that looked beyond the Second and Third Temples and described the Millennial Temple that will be built when the Messiah rules in His kingdom (Ezekiel 40-48).

In 534 BC, Daniel prophesied from the Babylonian captivity that a &ldquovile person&rdquo would flatter the Jews, desecrate the temple (obviously the Second Temple that was yet to be built), cause the Jewish sacrifice to cease, and persecute the Jewish people (Dan. 11:30-35). Daniel also prophesied that some of the Jews would &ldquobe strong, and do exploits&rdquo but they would eventually fall.

The Second Temple was built by Ezra in 516 BC after the Jews returned from the 70-year captivity. There is no record that divine plans were given for its construction, and the glory of God never filled it.

In 168 BC the Syrian king Antiochus Epiphanes, an incredibly proud man who struck a coin with his image inscribed with &ldquoAntiochus, God Manifest,&rdquo having won the Jews&rsquo affections through flattery, plundered and desecrated the Temple. He sacrificed a pig on the altar and erected a statue of Zeus (Jupiter) in the Holy Place. Antiochus outlawed sabbath-keeping and circumcision, burned the Jewish Scriptures, and forced the Jews to sacrifice to Saturn and Bacchus, the god of debauchery. He killed over 80,000 Jews and sold 40,000 into slavery. He committed horrible atrocities such as forcing a mother to watch as her seven sons were roasted on a flat iron. Mothers who circumcised their sons were thrown off the walls of Jerusalem with their infants. The ensuing Maccabean revolt led by brave Jews was successful for a while, but eventually failed and great numbers were slaughtered. These events are mere shadows of the coming Antichrist.

In 63 BC the Roman armies conquered Jerusalem, and the emperor Pompey rode his horse into the Temple.

Beginning in 19 BC the Second Temple was enlarged and glorified by Herod the Great. Herod encouraged the corruption of Jewish worship through admixture with paganism. He placed a golden eagle, the symbol of Rome&rsquos power, over the eastern entrance, ignoring the fact that God&rsquos law forbids graven images. Further, the eagle is an unclean bird according to Jewish law. It was Herod who ordered the murder of Jewish male infants under two years old in an attempt to kill the baby Jesus.

In 3 BC , baby Jesus was presented to God and Mary&rsquos offering of purification was made.

In AD 33 , Jesus prophesied that the Temple would be surrounded by an army and destroyed. He also said that Jerusalem&rsquos people would be killed. &ldquoAnd when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation&rdquo (Luke 19:41-44).

In AD 33 Jesus drove the moneychangers from the Temple for the second time in His ministry and was soon thereafter arrested by the Jewish and Roman authorities and crucified outside the city at Golgotha. Jesus died in fulfillment of the Passover Lamb.

The day that Jesus died, the veil in the Temple dividing the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies was rent from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51), thus signifying that the way into the very presence of God was open for sinners through faith in the atonement of Christ. Three days later Jesus rose from the dead and instructed His disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15).

In AD 70 the Second Temple was destroyed by Roman legions under General Titus, after a siege of five months during which the city was surrounded. The Jewish historian Josephus said that over a million Jews were killed, including thousands of children. Nearly 100,000 Jews were taken prisoner, and thousands of these died by crucifixion, by being burned alive, and by being forced to fight wild animals and gladiators in the arenas. The Second Temple was pulled down on the same day that the First Temple was destroyed 656 years earlier, and it was destroyed for the same reason.

As Jesus had prophesied, the buildings on the Temple Mount were destroyed. Some of the stones were thrown down to the road below and can still be seen today.

Josephus said the Romans razed Jerusalem so thoroughly that &ldquonothing was left that could ever persuade visitors that it had once been a place of habitation.&rdquo

The Coliseum in Rome was built with Jewish slave labor and with wealth confiscated from Israel.

In AD 71 the first in a series of Vespasian coins was struck in silver, bronze, and gold. (Some might have been made from gold taken from the Temple.) The Emperor Vespasian&rsquos head appears on one side. (He led the Roman armies against Israel until his son Titus took over when he was crowned emperor at Caesarea Maritima in 69 A.D.) The words Ivdaea Capta (&ldquoJudea has been conquered&rdquo) or Ivdaea Devicta (&ldquoJudea has been defeated&rdquo) were engraved around the rim. Israel was usually depicted as a weeping woman sitting by a palm tree with her hands tied behind her back or in front, though in some she is standing. On some coins she is guarded by the Roman emperor clothed in his military gear and standing in a victory pose with one foot on an enemy soldier&rsquos helmet. In publishing these coins, the Roman authorities were unwittingly depicting the ancient prophecy of Isaiah that because of her sin Israel would fall and &ldquoshe being desolate shall sit upon the ground&rdquo (Isaiah 3:26). The coins continued to be issued by two other emperors (Vespasian&rsquos sons) until 96 A.D. Another coin depicted the execution of the Jewish revolt leader Simon son of Giora. He was taken to Rome, publicly displayed, then executed. The coin features Vespasian&rsquos head on one side and a triumphal Roman procession on the other, with Vespasian standing in a four-horse chariot and Simon being led to his death.

Since the destruction of the Second Temple, the Jews have observed Tisha B&rsquoAv (meaning ninth of Av) as the day of mourning over their loss. The practice began after the destruction of the First Temple and was reestablished in AD 71. The observance falls in July or August of the Gregorian calendar. On Tisha B&rsquoAv, the Torah is draped in black. There is fasting and mourning, with the reading of the book of Lamentations and Jewish poetry called kinnot. Orthodox Jews believe that Tisha B&rsquoAv will be kept until the Messiah comes, at which time it will become a celebration.

In AD 82 the Arch of Titus was dedicated in Rome to celebrate the destruction of Jerusalem. It was built by the Emperor Domitian in honor of his older brother Titus, who led the Roman Tenth Legion against Jerusalem and afterwards became emperor. The Arch addresses Titus as &ldquodivine.&rdquo Inside the Arch are depictions of the articles taken from the Temple, including the menorah and the silver trumpets.

From AD 132-135 Shimon ben Kosiba led the Second Jewish Revolt to reestablish control of Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. When he liberated Jerusalem, he was called the Messiah by Rabbi Akiba ben Joseph and renamed Bar Kokhba (&ldquoSon of the Star&rdquo) based on the Messianic prophecy of Numbers 24:17. The Jews struck the coin of Bar Kokhba depicting the Temple with the Ark of the Covenant inside and the Messianic star on the roof. The other side was inscribed with &ldquoTo the Freedom of Jerusalem.&rdquo The revolt was put down by the Romans with terrible brutality with the death and enslavement of more than half a million Jews. Judea was reduced to rubble, with 50 fortified towns and nearly 1,000 villages razed. Jewish children were allegedly wrapped in Torah scrolls and burned alive. It must also be noted that the Jews had extended their own brutality to the Christians that refused to curse Jesus and accept Simon&rsquos claim to Messiahship.

In AD 135 the Roman Emperor Hadrian built a pagan temple on the Temple Mount. It was dedicated to Rome&rsquos pagan gods and goddesses. Hadrian was a great worshiper of Jupiter, having erected the famous Olympian Jupiter temple in Athens. But he also worshipped himself and required worship from his subjects in what was called the Imperial Cult. On the Temple Mount he honored himself as a god with an equestrian statue. A temple of Aphrodite was built over the tomb which Christians held as the tomb of Jesus, and since this was only about 40 years after the death of the Apostle John, it was doubtless the correct tomb. Two hundred years later Constantine built the Church of the Holy Sepulchre over it, and it still stands there today. Hadrian outlawed the study and teaching of the Torah and made it a capital offense to practice Judaism. He rebuilt Jerusalem as a Roman city, with two north-south cardos (colonnaded boulevards), and renamed the city Aelia Capitolina. Aelia is derived from Emperor Hadrian&rsquos family name Aelius, and Capitolina refers to the cult of the Capitoline Triad in Rome (Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva). Hadrian renamed Israel Syria Palestina . Jews were prohibited from entering Jerusalem on pain of death, except one day during Tisha B&rsquoAv, the festival that commemorates the destruction of the Temple. Hadrian thought he had put an end to Israel, but he didn&rsquot reckon on Israel&rsquos God.

In AD 325 the &ldquoChristian&rdquo Emperor Constantine tore down the temple of Aphrodite and built an octagon church on the site by the name of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The Byzantine emperors continued to control the city until 614.

In 614 Jerusalem was conquered by the Persians led by Khosrau II, head of the Sassanid Empire, assisted by Jews. Tens of thousands of Christians were slaughtered, churches were destroyed, and the rest of the Christians were exiled to Persia.

In 629 the Byzantines captured Jerusalem under the leadership of the Emperor Heraclius and reestablished the churches, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

In 637 Jerusalem was captured by the Arab armies of Umar ibn al-Khattab.

In 638 the al-Aqsa Mosque was built on the southern end of the Temple Mount to commemorate the myth of Muhammad&rsquos Night Journey. The Temple Mount became known as the Haram el-Sharif (&ldquoNoble Enclosure&rdquo) by the Moslems.

In 692 the Dome of the Rock was built on the Temple Mount to commemorate Muhammad&rsquos Night Journey. The rock inside the mosque is the top of Mount Moriah, where Abraham was sent to sacrifice Isaac (Leen Ritmeyer, Jerusalem the Temple Mount , p. 131). The blue, green, and white decorative tiles on the upper half of the outer walls date to the 1960s and were made in Turkey. They replaced the original ones dating to Suleiman the Magnificent (r. 1520-1566). The 24-karat gold gilding of the dome was funded by King Hussein of Jordan in 1994.

In 1099 the Roman Catholic Crusaders took control of Jerusalem by massacring Muslims and possibly Jews who had joined the Muslims in defending the city. They converted the Dome of the Rock into a church called the Templum Domini (&ldquoTemple of the Lord&rdquo), putting a cross on the top, and Al-Aqsa mosque became the headquarters of the Knights Templar.

In 1119 , the Knights Templar made the al-Aqsa Mosque their headquarters, taking their name from its new Crusader name.

In 1187 the Muslim leader Saladin defeated the Crusaders and restored Jerusalem to Islamic control. He banned all non-Muslim access to the Temple Mount.

In 1229 Jerusalem was recaptured by Catholic Crusaders. The mosques on the Temple Mount were again used as churches.

In 1247 the Muslims recaptured the city and held on to it until modern times.

From 1260 to 1517 Jerusalem was ruled by the Mamluks.

In 1517 Jerusalem came under control of the Ottoman Turks. The Ottoman&rsquos rule over Jerusalem lasted 400 years.

In 1541 Sultan Suleiman I closed the Eastern Gate (also called the Golden Gate) to prevent the Jewish Messiah from entering there. An Islamic graveyard was built in front of the gate, which exists to this day. This is supposed to prevent the Messiah from entering this way because, as a Jew, he will not walk through a graveyard.

In 1700 a group of 500 ascetic Jews led by Rabbi Judah he-Hasid arrived in Jerusalem from Europe to prepare for the coming of the Messiah. he-Hasid died a few days later, though, and the movement fizzled out within 20 years.

Between 1808 and 1812 , another group of Messianic ascetic Jews, known as Perushim, immigrated to the Holy Land from Lithuania to rebuild the waste places and ultimately establish the Third Temple. One of their leaders, Rabbi Avraham Solomon Zalman Zoref, even sent one of his sons overseas to locate and return the &ldquoten lost tribes&rdquo of Israel, but the rabbi was eventually assassinated by the Arabs. (I don&rsquot know what happened to the son.) These early attempts to restore Israel failed completely because it was not God&rsquos time.

In 1866 Jews became a majority in Jerusalem for the first time in 1200 years, and the southern end of the Western Wall was modified to facilitate Jewish prayer, but they were still restricted to a narrow alley that ran along the wall. The Amoraim, who were rabbinical teachers that lived between 200 and 500 A.D., taught that the Shekinah glory never left the Temple Mount and that it remained at the Western Wall (Price, The Battle for the Last Days Temple , p. 68). This is the basis of the prayers at the Wailing Wall to this day.

In 1917 , the British took control of the land of Israel from the Ottoman Empire, and General Edmund Allenby entered Jerusalem on foot.

During the British Mandate , when England controlled Jerusalem ( 1917-1948 ), Jews were not allowed on the Temple Mount. They were restricted to praying silently in the alley along the Western Wall. They were forbidden to make any noise, even audible prayers, or to blow the shofar.

In 1931 , the British gave the Waqf or Islamic Trust the Temple Mount as its exclusive property.

On May 14, 1948 , the new state of Israel was announced. The official declaration of statehood announced: &ldquoWe hereby proclaim the establishment of the Jewish State in Palestine, to be called Medinath Yisrael (The State of Israel). . The State of Israel will be open to the immigration of Jews from all countries of their dispersion . Our call goes out to the Jewish people all over the world to rally to our side in the task of immigration and development and to stand by us in the great struggle for the fulfillment of the dream of generations for the redemption of Israel.&rdquo U.S. President Harry Truman, a Baptist, immediately announced his recognition of Israel in spite of fierce opposition from his own State Department. Jews celebrated throughout the world. In Rome they paraded under the Arch of Titus. Prior to 1948, Jews had refused to walk through the arch.

On May 25, 1948 , the Temple Mount and the old city of Jerusalem (east Jerusalem) were captured by Jordan. Jews continued to be restricted from the Mount. Under Jordanian control over the next nineteen years, 58 Jewish synagogues were destroyed, Jewish sites were desecrated, and the Western Wall was turned into a garbage dump.

On June 7, 1967 , Israel recaptured the old city and the Temple Mount, regaining control for the first time in 1,897 years. Colonel Motta Gur, a paratrooper, announced in Hebrew, &ldquoThe Temple Mount is in our hands! I repeat, the Temple Mount is in our hands!&rdquo Lt. Col. Uzi Eilam blew the shofar and soldiers sang &ldquoJerusalem of Gold&rdquo and recited the Shehechianu Blessing : &ldquoBlessed art Thou Lord God King of the Universe who has sustained us and kept us and has brought us to this day!&rdquo The Star of David flew briefly over the Dome of the Rock. General Shlomo Goren, chaplain of the Israel Defense Forces and later to become chief rabbi of Israel, announced, &ldquoWe have taken the city of God. We are entering the Messianic era for the Jewish people.&rdquo Carrying a Torah and blowing the shofar, Goren led the soldiers in recitation of prayer at the Wailing Wall. A few days after the war the first significant Jewish gathering was held on the Mount since 69 A.D., when 200,000 Jews massed there to celebrate--a celebration that proved to be short-lived.

On June 17, 1967 , in an attempt to appease the Muslims and foster inter-religious harmony, Israel&rsquos Defense minister Moshe Dayan, a &ldquosecular Jew&rdquo and a profane man with no love for God&rsquos Word, returned control of the Temple Mount to the Palestinian Waqf. The Israeli Knesset approved this decision. Dayan said in his autobiography that Jews should &ldquoview the Temple Mount as a historic site relating to past memory.&rdquo The Waqf is the same organization that has managed the Temple Mount since the Muslims overthrew the Crusaders in 1187. Not surprisingly, they have refused to allow Jews to worship on their own Mount. In fact, they have proclaimed the entire area a mosque.

In August 1967 , the Chief Rabbinate of Israel warned Jews &ldquofrom entering any part of the Temple Mount.&rdquo The following sign is still posted at the entrance to the Mount by the authority of the chief rabbis: &ldquoNOTICE AND WARNING: Entrance to the area of the Temple Mount is forbidden to everyone by Jewish Law owing to the sacredness of the place.&rdquo This is based on their superstitious fear that someone might tread on the place where the Holy of Holies once stood. They also say that currently there is no possibility of proper cleansing since the purification water made from the ashes of a red heifer does not exist. There is no consensus on this, though. Other rabbis have encouraged Jews to visit certain parts of the mount, after bathing in a mikva (a pool for ceremonial immersion).

In the late 1960s the Temple Mount Faithful was established to rebuild the Temple. Its leader, Gershon Salomon, is a descendant of the aforementioned Rabbi Avraham Zoref, who in the early 1800s was one of the pioneers of the modern movement to prepare for the rebuilding of the Temple. Salomon is a military officer who has fought in most of Israel&rsquos wars, beginning with the War of Independence. During a battle in 1958 on the Golan Heights, a battle in which his company of 120 Israeli soldiers was ambushed by thousands of Syrians, Salomon was run over by a tank and seriously injured (he claims he actually died). When the Syrians were about to shoot him to make sure he was dead, they suddenly ran away, leaving the battlefield in the hands of the little company of Israelis. The Syrians later reported to UN officers that they had seen thousands of angels around Salomon. He says that during that experience he saw the light of God and he knew he still had work to do, which was the rebuilding of the Temple and the preparation for the &ldquocoming of Messiah ben David.&rdquo Salomon was also one of the soldiers that liberated the Temple Mount in 1967.

In 1986 , the Temple Institute was founded with the objective of seeing &ldquoIsrael rebuild the Holy Temple on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem.&rdquo They are building &ldquothe temple in waiting&rdquo by preparing architectural designs and constructing the actual articles to be used in the new Temple. At much expense ($20 million has been donated so far) and based on extensive research they have fashioned the high priest&rsquos garments, including the golden crown and breastplate with its 12 precious stones inscribed with the names of the tribes of Israel a copper laver an incense altar silver trumpets gold- and silver-plated shofars harps and many other things. Levi priests are even being trained.

In 1996 , the Islamic Waqf began building massive mosques inside the Temple Mount and in the process removing evidence of the ancient Jewish temples. Tens of thousands of square feet of archaeologically rich soil has been removed. Any stones with decorations or Hebrew inscriptions were cut up to obliterate the markings and the stones were fashioned into new building material.

In January 2005 the Jewish Sanhedrin met for the first time in 1,600 years. In June of that year it was reported that the newly formed Sanhedrin was calling upon all groups involved in Temple Mount research to prepare detailed architectural plans for the reconstruction of the Jewish Holy Temple (&ldquoNew Sanhedrin Plans Rebuilding of Temple,&rdquo WorldNetDaily , June 8, 2005).

In December 2007 the Temple Institute&rsquos large menorah was moved to an outside location on the Western Wall Plaza across from the Temple Mount. It was fashioned from 95 pounds of pure gold, valued at $2 million. Prior to that it had stood farther away in the old Roman Cardo (the main thoroughfare through Jerusalem). The plan is to move the menorah ever closer to the Temple Mount itself and ultimately to place it in a rebuilt Temple. The Temple Institute compared the dedication of the menorah in its new location with the dedication of the Arch of Titus in Rome 1,900 years ago. The difference is dramatic. Then, the menorah was moving away from the Temple, whereas today it is moving back toward the Temple.

In 2013 , a representative of the Temple Institute told us it would take only a few months to build the Third Temple.

In coming days the Third Temple will be built under the false peace program of the Antichrist and will be desecrated by him (Daniel 9:27 Mat. 24:15 2 Thess. 2:3-4 Rev. 11:1-2).

After Christ&rsquos return, the glorious Millennial Temple will be built. It is mentioned in the following prophecies: Isaiah 2:2-3 56:6-7 60:7, 13 Jeremiah 33:17-18 Ezekiel 37:26-28 40-48 Haggai 2:7-9 Zechariah 6:12-15 14:20 Malachi 3:1-5. Some of the Psalms also speak prophetically of the Millennial Temple (Psa. 68:29 100:4 132:13-17). In fact, the Psalms will be sung in that glorious Temple.

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Architecture

Exterior detail / Wikimedia Commons

The Dome is in the shape of a Byzantine martyrium, a structure intended for the housing and veneration of saintly relics, and is an excellent example of middle Byzantine art. al-Maqdisi reports that surplus funds consisting of 100,000 gold dinar coins were melted down and cast on the dome’s exterior, “which at the time had a strong glitter that no eye could look straight at it.” [13] During the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent the exterior of the Dome of the Rock was covered with Iznik tiles. The work took seven years. Haj Amin Al-Husseini, appointed Grand Mufti by the British during the Mandate, along with Yacoub Al Ghussein implemented restoration of Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

The Dome of the Rock, in 1913 / Wikimedia Commons

In 1955, an extensive program of renovation was begun by the government of Jordan, with funds supplied by the Arab governments and Turkey. The work included replacement of large numbers of tiles dating back to the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, which had become dislodged by heavy rain. In 1960, as part of this restoration, the dome was covered with a durable aluminium and bronze alloy made in Italy. The restoration was completed in August 1964. In 1998, the golden dome covering was refurbished following a donation of $8.2 million by King Hussein of Jordan, who sold one of his houses in London to fund the 80 kilograms of gold required.

The interior of the dome is lavishly decorated with mosaic, faience, and marble, much of which was added several centuries after its completion. It also contains Qur’anic inscriptions. Surah Ya-Seen is inscribed across the top of the tile work and was commissioned in the sixteenth century by Suleiman the Magnificent. Additionally, al-Isra is inscribed above this.

According to Professor Shlomo Dov Goitein, the inscriptions decorating the interior clearly display a spirit of polemic against Christianity, while stressing at the same time the Qur’anic doctrine that Jesus Christ was a true prophet. The formula la sharika lahu, “God has no companion,” is repeated five times, the verses from sura Maryam 16:34-37, which strongly deny Jesus’ sonship to God, are quoted together with the remarkable prayer: Allahumma salli(with ya read salli without ya) ala rasulika wa’abdika ‘Isa bin Maryam—”In the name of the One God (Allah) Pray for your Prophet and Servant Jesus son of Mary.” He believes that this shows that rivalry with Christendom, together with the spirit of Islamic mission to the Christians, was at the work at the creation of the famous Dome.

On the walls of the Dome of the Rock is an inscription in a mosaic frieze that includes the following words:

Bless your envoy and your servant Jesus son of Mary and peace upon him on the day of birth and on the day of death and on the day he is raised up again. It is a word of truth in which they doubt. It is not for God to take a son. Glory be to him when he decrees a thing he only says be, and it is.

This appears to be the earliest extant citation from the Qur’an, with the date recorded as 72 after the Hijra (or 691-692 C.E.), which historians view as the year of the Dome’s construction.


5. Differences between Shintoism and Buddhism

In the history of Japan, Buddhism and Shintoism were closely knit together, and there are rituals where forms of Shinto and Buddhism are both mixed. Hence, it can be difficult to recognize the differences between the two. But, even though Buddhism and Shintoism are coexisting peacefully, there are many differences between them. Here is a simple list of differences between Shintoism and Buddhism in Japan that help you recognize shrines from temples and understand the two beliefs better.

ShintoismBuddhism
God8 million deitiesBuddha
PurposeAnimism, wish for family and local communityProtection of the nation, go to heaven after death
Ritual SiteShrinesTemples
CanonN/ASutra
OriginJapanIndia
TrainingN/AStrict training to attain enlightenment


Contents

Mount Olympus is the highest mountain peak in Greece. It was once regarded as the “home of the Greek Gods/The Twelve Olympians of the Hellenistic World". It was also considered the site of the War of the Titans (Titanomachy) where Zeus and his siblings defeated the Titans.

Mount Othrys is a mountain in Central Greece, which is believed to be the home of the Titans during the ten-year war with the Gods of Mount Olympus.

Mount Ida, also known as Mountain of the Goddess, refers to two specific mountains: one in the Greek island of Crete and the other in Turkey (formerly known as Asia Minor).

Mount Ida is the highest mountain on the island of Crete is the sacred mountain of the Titaness Rhea, also known as the mother of the Greek Gods. It is also believed to be the cave where Greek God Zeus was born and raised.

The other Mount Ida is located in Northwestern Turkey alongside the ruins of Troy (in reference to the Hellenistic Period). The mountain was dedicated to Cybele, the Phrygian (modern-day Turkey) version of Earth Mother. Cybele was the goddess of caverns and mountains. Some refer to her as the “Great Mother” or “Mother of the Mountain”. The mythic Trojan War is said to have taken place at Mount Ida and that the Gods gathered upon the mountaintop to observe the epic fight. Mount Ida in Turkey is also represented in many of the stories of Greek author Homer such as Iliad and Odyssey.

Mount Athos, located in Greece, is also referred to as the Holy Mountain. It has great historical connections with religion and classical mythology. In Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox forms of Christianity, it is believed that after the Ascension of the Lord, the Virgin Mary landed on the island and came upon a pagan temple. It was there that the pagan practitioners converted from paganism to Christianity. The Virgin Mary then blessed the land and claimed it her own. [2]

In classical mythology, Mount Athos is named after the Thracian giant who battled Poseidon, God of the Sea, during the clash of the titans and Gods. It is also said that Greek historian was given the task of creating a canal through the mountain after the failed journey of Persian leader, Xerxes. Over time, Alexander the Great has become associated with the mountain for his worldly powers. The myth states that Roman architect Dinocrates had wanted to carve Alexander the Great's figure onto the top of the mountain in tribute to him. [3]

The ancient Inca displayed a connection with death and their mountains. It is well known by scholars that the Inca sensed a deep reservoir of spirituality along the mountain range. Situating their villages in the mountains, they felt these places acted as portal to the gods. Ritual child sacrifices called Capachochas were conducted annually, where the most precious gift that could be given (innocent, blemishless, perfect human life) would be sacrificed to the gods. Tremendous effort would be taken as the sacrificial victims would be paraded alive throughout the cities, with multiple festivals and feasts taking place. The final destination would be the tops of some of the highest mountains near their villages, leaving these sacrifices to freeze in the snow. These would take place during great times of distress, during times of famine, violent periods of war, and even during times of political shift. This connection with the mountain as a sacred space is paramount. There would be no other place that would be sufficient or acceptable enough for the gods to accept these gifts. It is neither a surprise nor a coincidence that their honored dead were placed on the highest peaks of the mountains to express the shared connection between the sacred mountain, the gods, and the dead. [4]

Various cultures around the world maintain the importance of mountain worship and sacredness. One example is the Taranaki peoples of New Zealand. The Taranaki tribe view Mount Taranaki as sacred. The tribe was historically sustained by this mountain's waterways. As in other instances in Māori mythology, the mountain is anthropomorphised in various stories. For the tribespeople, Mount Taranaki has a deep spiritual significance and is seen as a life force. It is viewed as the place where life is given and to where people are returned after death. [5]

In Korea, people have maintained ancient ways of worshiping mountain spirits. While they are not in fact worshiping the land itself, the gods associated with this worship are united to the land. These spirits are female entities to whom people pay tribute while passing by the mountains, asking for good luck and protection. People also travel to these mountains to ask for fertility. While people generally hold to these female deities for protection or to perpetuate life, one of their most important functions is to protect the dead. The ponhyangsansin is a guardian spirit that is protecting an important clan grave site in the village. Each mountain goddess has an equally interesting story that is tied to their accounts of war against Japan, and the historical legacy of their emperors. Each spirit learned difficult lessons and experienced some sort of hardship. These legacies in the mountains serve as a kind of monument to the history of Korea. While many of the accounts may be true, their details and accuracy are shrouded by time and ritual. While the inaugurations of new ponhyang san sin are not being conducted, fallen important clansmen and leaders are strategically placed in the mountains in order for these strong, heroine-like spirits may fiercely guard their graves. The history of Korea is in turn protecting its own future. [6]

In Japan, Mount Kōya-san is the home to one of the holiest Buddhist monastery complexes in the country. It was founded by a saint, Kukai, who is also known as Kōbō Daishi and is regarded as a famous wandering mystic his teachings are famous throughout Japan and he is credited with being an important figure in shaping early Japanese culture. Buddhists believe that Kobo Dashi is not dead, but will instead awake and assist in bringing enlightenment to all people, alongside the Buddha and other bodhisattvas. It is believed that he was shown the sacred place to build the monastery by a forest god this site is now the location of a large cemetery that is flanked by 120 esoteric Buddhist temples. Approximately a million pilgrims visit Mount Kōya-san a year these pilgrims have included both royals and commoners who wish to pay their respects to Kobo Dashi. Mount Fuji, known as Fuji-san in Japanese, is another sacred mountain in Japan. Several Shinto temples flank its base, which all pay homage to the mountain. A common belief is that Fuji-san is the incarnation of the earth spirit itself. The Fuki-ko sect maintains that the mountain is a holy being, and the home to the goddess Sengen-sama. Annual fire festivals are held there in her honor. Fuji-san is also the site of pilgrimages reportedly, 40,000 people climb up to its summit every year. [7]

Tibet's Mount Kailash is a sacred place to five religions: Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism, Bon Po (a native Tibetan religion prior to Buddhism), Sikhism and Ayyavazhi religions. According to Hinduism and Ayyavazhi, Mount Kailash is the home of the deity Shiva. In Hindu religion, Mount Kailash also plays an important role in Rama's journey in the ancient Sanskrit epic, Ramayana. Buddhists hold that Mount Kailash is the home of Samvara, a guardian deity, and a representation of the Buddha. Buddhists believe that Mount Kailash has supernatural powers that are able to clean the sins of a lifetime of any person. Followers of Jainism believe that Kailash is the site where the founder of Jainism reached enlightenment. Bon Po teaches that Mount Kailash is the home of a wind goddess. Followers of Sikhism believe the 1st Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak arrived at Mt. Kailash during the 3rd Uddasi (divine journey) and debated with the Siddhas.

Mount Meru is a cosmic mountain which is described to be one of the highest points on Earth and is the center of all creation. In the Hindu religion, it is believed that Meru is home to the god Shiva and Parvati. In Indian classical mythology it is believed that the sun, moon, and stars all revolve around Mount Meru. Folklore suggests the mountain rose up from the ground piercing the heavens giving it the moniker "navel of the universe". [8]

According to the Torah, and consequently the Old Testament of the Bible, Mount Sinai is the location that Moses received the Ten Commandments directly from God. The tablets form the covenant, which is a central cornerstone of Jewish faith. Saint Catherine's Monastery is located at the foot of Sinai. It was founded by empress Helena, who was the mother of the first Christian Roman emperor, Constantine. It was completed under the rule of Justinian two centuries later. The monastery was visited by the prophet Muhammed, who blessed it and promised “that it would be cherished by Muslims for all time”. [9] Today, the monastery is home to a group of Greek Orthodox monks, as well as a large collection of Byzantine art, illuminated manuscripts, icons, and books the collection of icons in particular has been proclaimed one of the oldest in the world.

The Navajo possess a strong belief system in regards to the natural-supernatural world and have a belief that objects have a supernatural quality. For example, the Navajo consider mountains to be sacred. There are four peaks, which are believed to have supernatural aspects. The mountains each represent a borderline of the original Navajo tribal land. The mountain ranges include Mount Taylor, the San Francisco Peaks, Blanca Peak, and Hesperus Peak located in the La Plata Mountains.

Each mountain/peak is representative of a color, direction, and correlates with a cultural light phenomenon dealing with the cosmic scheme of the rising and of the setting sun. Directionally, the mountains are described in a clockwise motion following the movement of the Sun beginning with the eastern mountain of Blanca Peak. Blanca Peak is associated with the color white and the "Dawn Man" referring to the rising of the sun. Next in the south is Mount Taylor, which is associated with the color blue and the "Horizontal Blue Man" referring to the daytime. In the west is the San Francisco Peaks, which is representative of the color yellow and the "Horizontal Yellow Woman" and is associated with the setting of the sun. And finally in the north is the Hesperus Peak of the La Plata Mountains which is given the color black and belongs to the light phenomenon of the "Darkness Woman" representing the nighttime. [10]

History shows that mountains were commonly part of a complex system of mountain and ancestor worship. Having immortalized fallen brethren in the edifice, the people share a common allegiance with all the other people of a community. The meanings that were etched into the mountain and mound terrain connected the villagers. They were all subject to the same landscape and village history, which were bound together by their cultural significance. The history of ancestors could be told by simply pointing at specific mountains and remembering the stories that were passed down throughout the generations. The worship of ancestors and the mountains were largely inseparable. An interconnected web between history, landscape, and culture was thus formed. [11] Examples of this would be the Hindu belief that Mount Kailas is the final resting place for the souls of the dead, as well as the large cemetery placed on Mount Kōya-san.

Sacred mountains can also provide an important piece of a culture's identity. For example, Bruno Messerli and Jack Ives write, “The Armenian people regard Mount Ararat, a volcano in eastern Turkey believed to be the site of Noah's Ark in the Bible, to be a symbol of their natural and cultural identity”. [12] As a result of the mountain's role as a part of a cultural identity, even people who do not live close to the mountain feel that events occurring to the mountain are relevant to their own personal lives. This results in communities banning certain activities near the mountain, especially if those activities are seen as potentially destructive to the sacred mountain itself.

To date, Kailash has never been climbed, largely due to the fact that the idea of climbing the mountain is seen as a major sacrilege. Instead, the worshipful embark on a pilgrimage known as the kora. The kora consists of a 32-mile path that circles the mountain, which typically takes five days with little food and water. Various icons, prayer flags, and other symbols of the four religions that believe Kailash is sacred mark the way. To Buddhists and Hindus, the pilgrimage is considered a major moment in a person's spiritual life. Olsen writes, “One circuit is believed to erase a lifetime of sin, while 108 circuits is believed to ensure enlightenment”. [13]

As one of the most sacred mountains in the Middle East, mentioned in the Old Testament can be seen on the mountain's summit, such as the area where Moses “sheltered from the total glory of God”.

Sacred Mountains are often seen as a site of revelation and inspiration. Mount Sinai is an example, as this is the site where the covenant is revealed to Moses. Mount Tabor is where it is supposed Jesus was revealed to be the Son of God. Prophet Muhammed is said to have received his first revelation on Mount Hira. [14] The mountains' roles as places of revelation and transformation often serve to attract tourists as much as they do religious pilgrims. However, in some cases, the financial revenue is overlooked and sacred mountains are conserved first due to their role in the community. [15]

Members of The Aetherius Society conduct pilgrimages to 19 mountains around the world that they describe as being "holy mountains". [16]

Sacred mountains are often viewed as the source of a power which is to be awed and revered. Often, this means that access to the sacred mountain is restricted. This could result in climbing being banned from a sacred mountain completely (as in the case of Mount Kailash) or for secular society to give the mountain a wide berth. Because of the respect accorded to a mountain's sacred power, many areas have been declared off limit for construction and remain conserved. For example, a large amount of forest has been preserved due to its proximity to Mount Kōya-san. Additionally, sacred mountains can be seen as the source of something vital. This could be a blessing, water, life, or healing. Mount Kailash's role as the source for four major rivers is celebrated in India and not simply seen as mundane. Rather, this also adds to its position as a sacred place, especially considering the sacred position of the Ganges river in Indian culture. Mountains that are considered home to deities are also central to prayers for the blessings from the gods reputed to live there. This also creates a sense of purity in the source of the mountain. This prompts people to protect streams from pollution that are from sacred mountains, for example.

Views of preservation and sacredness become problematic when dealing with diverse populations. When one observes the sacred mountain of the Sacramento Valley in the United States, it becomes clear that methods and opinions stretch over a vastly differing body of protesters. Shasta Mountain was first revered by the Native American tribe, the Wintu. Shasta was in effect a standing monument for the individuals of their cultural history. This bounded view of sacred mountains changed drastically during the 1800s. It is commonly assumed that sacred mountains are limited by a single society, trapped in a time capsule with only one definition to explain it: the indigenous tribe. Shasta's glory had expanded to multiple regions of the world, communities of differing religions making their pilgrimage up to the summits of this glorious mountain. The Wintu tribe did not hold a monopoly on the sacredness anymore. There were others contesting to the meanings, adding new rituals and modifying old ones. With the advent of new technology and desires to turn this mountain into a skiing lodge, angry voices from all over the world rose up with variants of demands on why and how we should preserve this beautiful mountain.

Almost every day different religious practices such as nude bathing, camping out with magic crystals, yoga, and many “quasi-Christian” groups such as the I AM march their ways up to the tips of this mountain. With this activity the mountain pathways become clustered, cluttered and littered. Even the pathways’ existence leads to erosion, and further slow degradation of the mountain. The Wintu tribe has voiced concerns and asked for support from the government to regulate the activities practiced on “their” mountain saying that “they are disturbed by the lack of respect” shown for this piece of land. It has become greatly debated if the more vulnerable and “spiritually desirable” places of the mountain should be closed and maintained only by the Wintu tribe, who see this land as a sacred graveyard of their ancestors, or open to all who seek spiritual fulfillment such as the modern-day group of the I AM. [17]


Temple Mount and Al-Haram al-Sharif

Undeniably, two temples &mdash the most sacred sites for the Jewish people in both ancient times and today &mdash once resided at the Temple Mount. The first temple, which housed the Ark of the Covenant, was destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 B.C., while the second temple, built by King Herod (who reigned around 39 B.C to 1 B.C.), was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70 during a Jewish revolt against the Roman Empire. Though surviving archaeological remains of the temples are sparse (in part, because it is difficult to carry out excavations there due to ongoing conflicts), professional historians and archaeologists do not question the past existence of the two Jewish temples.

The site is also important to Christians. The Mount of Olives, where Jesus ascended to heaven, is located just to the east and the fourth century Church of the Holy Sepulchre is also located near the Temple Mount. [Proof of Jesus Christ? 6 Pieces of Evidence Debated]


10 sites of religious pilgrimage

As Lumbini, the birthplace of the Lord Buddha, is threatened by development, we take a look at several awe-inspiring centres of worship that draw devotees from all around the world.

Lumbini, the birthplace of the Lord Buddha and a place of pilgrimage for Buddhists worldwide, is under threat of development.

This winter, Buddhist monks began peacefully organizing in Nepal to protest against the formation of the Lumbini Development National Steering Committee, which Buddhists fear will bring industrialization and commercialization to this spiritual destination.

Almost every religion in the world recognizes the spirituality of travel. In scripture, various places are given great significance for the roles they play in different belief systems. Some are the birthplaces of gods, some are thought to be gifts from the gods, some are centres of religious leadership and some are simply beautiful places to worship. These destinations, awe-inspiring even to the people in their own religion, draw pilgrims from all corners of the world each year.

Lumbini
Location: Rupandehi, Nepal
Religion: Buddhism
Significance: birthplace of the Lord Buddha

Siddhartha Gautama, who eventually became the Lord Buddha, is said to have been born in a garden in Lumbini, Nepal, in 623 BC. Siddhartha was a prince who left his palace at the age of 29 to seek enlightenment. Lumbini began attracting pilgrims after 249 BC, when the Indian emperor King Ashoka first travelled there. The Ashokan Pillar in Lumbini Garden marks the king’s pilgrimage and is inscribed with a dedication to the Buddha. Other sacred monuments include the stone slab where Siddhartha was born, housed by the Maya Devi Temple, and the pool in which Siddhartha was bathed after being born, called Puskarni.

Vatican City
Location: surrounded by Rome, Italy
Religion: Catholicism
Significance: home of the Pope and centre of the Roman Catholic Church

Vatican City, or the Holy See, became an independent state in 1929, though it has been the home of the Pope, the leader of the Catholic Church, since 1378. St Peter’s Basilica houses the tomb of the first Pope, the apostle St Peter, who was crucified and buried there. Other attractions include the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican Gardens and the Vatican Museums.

Wittenberg
Location: Saxony, Germany
Religion: Protestantism
Significance: birthplace of the Protestant Reformation

In 1517, Martin Luther challenged students and clerics in Wittenberg to a debate about the Catholic Church’s selling of indulgences in exchange for salvation. He wrote the controversial Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences and nailed its pages to the door of Castle Church, an act which many regard as having launched the Protestant Reformation. Luther was excommunicated from the Catholic Church four years later.

During the Seven Years’ War, much of Wittenberg was destroyed, but Castle Church was rebuilt in the 1800s and the text of Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses was inscribed into the church’s front doors. Inside the church, Luther’s tomb is joined by the tombs of two other Protestant thinkers, Phillip Melanchthon and Frederick the Wise. Other Wittenberg attractions include Luther’s restored house St Mary’s Church (or City Church) where Luther preached, was married, and had his children baptized and the house of Phillip Melanchthon, Luther’s collaborator.

Mecca
Location: Makkah, Saudi Arabia
Religion: Islam
Significance: birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad

Non-Muslims are not allowed inside Mecca, the holiest place in Islam, so this excursion is only for believers. Every year, millions of Muslims embark on a journey to Mecca, called the Hajj. The pilgrimage is meant to promote unity among followers of Islam. It is so central to Islam that one of the religion’s Five Pillars is for every able-bodied adult to carry out the Hajj at least once in their lifetime, providing they can afford to. Mecca is where Muhammad, the prophet who founded Islam, was born, and where he received the first revelation of the Qur’an. Pilgrims visit the Grand Mosque in order to praise Allah before the Kaaba, Islam’s most sacred building.

Badrinath
Location: Uttarakhand, India
Religion: Hinduism
Significance: the most important site of the Char Dham, the four Hindu pilgrimage centres

Nestled within the Himalayas, Badrinath is a sacred place of the god Vishnu. Some believe that the Vyas Caves, just outside this holy town, is where the Sanskrit epic the Mahabharata was written. The area’s main attraction is Badrinath Temple, built in the 9 th Century by Garhwal kings. It is primarily a place to worship Vishnu, although other gods are also represented. After visiting the temple, take a spiritual cleanse in one of the area’s natural hot springs, Tapt Kund and Surya Kund.

Golden Temple
Location: Amritsar, India
Religion: Sikhism
Significance: holiest place of worship for Sikhs

The Harmandir Sahib, or Golden Temple, is the most important gudwara, or temple, in Sikhism. It was built in the early 1600s from marble and then overlaid with gold leaf. Inside the temple, visitors can find the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy text of Sikhism. Around the temple is a body of water called the Amrit Sarovar, or Pool of Nectar. Within the temple, one impressive site is a dining hall where volunteers serve food to 3,500 people in need.

Western Wall
Location: Jerusalem, Israel
Religion: Judaism
Significance: the holiest of Jewish sites

After the First Temple had been destroyed by the Babylonians, the Second Temple (built to replace the first) was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. Subsequently, the remaining wall, Kotel, or Western Wall, became a place of worship and mourning for the old temples. As a result, it is often called the Wailing Wall.

Shrine of the Bab
Location: Haifa, Israel
Religion: Bahá’í Faith
Significance: mausoleum of the founder of the precursor religion to the Bahá’í Faith

The Shrine of Báb, located on Mount Carmel, combines beautiful buildings with beautiful greenery. It is the burial place of Báb, the founder of a new religion in the 1800s which broke with Islam and was therefore repressed by the Persian government. Bábism led to the birth of the Bahá’í Faith. In the shrine, meander about the Hanging Gardens of Haifa, the terraced gardens designed by Iranian architect Fariborz Sahba.

Palitana
Location: Gujarat, India
Religion: Jainism
Significance: most sacred city for Jains

In the holy city of Palitana, Shatrunjaya Hill is an important place of worship in Jainism, a belief system that revolves around non-violence toward all living things – people, animals, even insects. Shatrunjaya is a hill of steps stretching 591m high. Along the way are 863 marble Jain temples, comprising the holiest place on earth for Jainsm.

Sri Pada
Location: Sri Lanka
Religion: Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism
Significance: religious destination for four major religious groups

Anyone in the world can appreciate the beauty of the holy mountain Sri Pada. Perhaps that is why four different religions consider the peak a sacred site worthy of pilgrimage. A rock formation near the summit takes a different shape in each belief system: Buddhists believe it is the footprint of the Buddha Muslims believe it is the footprint of the prophet Adam Hindus believe it is the footprint of Shiva and, Christians believe it is the footprint of St Thomas.


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