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Temple Mount

The Temple Mount (or Noble Sanctuary) is a hill in the eastern part of Old Jerusalem. The two ancient Jerusalem Temples once stood here, and since the 7th century it has been the place of Muslim worship. The Temple Mount is one of the most contested religious sites in the world.

The Jews built the First Temple there 3000 years ago, and it is the holiest site in Judaism. The Temple was the central sites of Jewish worship. The destruction of both temples, five hundred years apart, were central points in Jewish history. Jews have prayed from the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem for the last 2,000 years. The Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall, is the one remaining wall of the Temple Mount. For all practical purposes this wall is the holiest site in Judaism. Many Jews pray there, and often leave written prayers addressed to God in the cracks of the wall

Aerial view of Temple Mount with the dome of the rock in the center, and the Al Aqsa Mosque on the upper left of the the compound Full Size Version

After the Muslim conquest of this region, the Temple Mount became known to Muslims as al-Harm al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary). Islam regards the Noble Sanctuary (Temple Mount) "one of the three most important sites in Islam". According to an Islamic source, "the entire area is regarded as a mosque". Since the 7th century it has housed Muslim holy structures, the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

It is the holiest site to the Jews, third holiest site in Islam, and of special significance to Christians. According to a Muslim legend, Muhammad journeyed to Jerusalem in a dream, and in this dream he went to the Temple Mount, ascending from there to Heaven to receive the Qur'an.

Early Legends and the First Temple

Muslims, Christians, and Jews identify the Temple Mount with many of the key events in their religious narratives of the early history of the world. According to an early rabbinic account, it was from here that God gathered the earth that was formed into Adam (some Christians later chose Golgotha[?] as the site), and it was here that Adam--and later Cain, Abel, and Noah--offered sacrifices to God. To Jews and Christians, this is also the site where Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice, though Muslims identify that site with the rock of the Kaaba in Mecca.

In the Bible, the Temple Mount first appears as a threshing floor owned by Araunah the Jebusite (2 Samuel, 24:18-25) overlooking Jerusalem, which King David purchased to erect an altar. As his hands were "bloodied," he was forbidden from constructing the Temple there, so this task was left to his son Solomon, who completed the task c. 950 B.C. That Temple was destroyed by the Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians in 586 B.C.

According to Islam, the Prophet Muhammed ascended to heaven in a dream for receiving the Qur'an from a rock on the Temple Mountain (Jerusalem is never actually mentioned in the Qur'an, but it is traditionally assumed to be meant by the word "al-Aqsa", "The Most Distant", found there).

Islamic law allows mosques to be built on top of conquered temples, churches, synagogues and the like; many historians hold that this was the original reason for the Muslim building of two new Islamic holy sites on top of the remains of the Jewish Temple, the legend being developed some years later.

In 690 A.D., after the Islamic conquest of Palestine, an octagonal Muslim shrine[?] (but not a mosque) was built around the rock, which became known as the Dome of the Rock (Qubbat as-Sakhra). Two decades later, a mosque called Al-Aqsa was built on the spot. It was destroyed several times in earthquakes. The current version dates from the first half of the 11th century. Both buildings are considered holy to Muslims and make Jerusalem the third-holiest city, after Mecca and Medina. The mosques are administered by the Waqf, an Islamic trust that has been granted almost total autonomy starting in 1967.


Many Israelis object to Arab "occupation" of the Temple Mount. One small extremist group, the Temple Mount and Eretz Yisrael Faithful Movement advocates the removal of the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa mosque, which they deem signs of "Islamic conquest and domination" and suggests they be "rebuilt at Mecca". This group is supported only by a small minority of the Israeli public.

In recent years many complaints have been voiced about Muslim construction and excavation underneath the Temple Mount. Many archaeologists fear that this will lead to the destabilization of the Temple Mount and the Wailing Wall). It is also believed that the Palestinians are deliberately removing significant amounts of archaeological evidence about the Jewish past of the site. Since the Waqf is granted almost full autonomy on the site, Jewish archaeologists have been forbidden from inspecting this area for themselves.

In autumn 2002, a distortion of about 70 cm developed in the Southern Wall part of the complex, probably because of the Waqf's building activity on the Mountain. The Waqf has denied this allegation and didn't allow a Jewish inspection of the work; the existence of the distortion is nevertheless a clear indication of the possibility of a collapse of the two thousand year-old wall.

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See also: Judaism - Al-Aqsa Mosque - Dome of the Rock - Islam

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