Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Temple Mount

The Temple Mount is one of the controversial areas of Jerusalem due to two major religions considering the site sacred. Those religions are Judaism and Islam.

For Judaism, the Temple Mount is its most sacred site. It’s where First and Second Temples were located and the direction Jews face when they pray.

The First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in the 6th Century BC while the Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

Here’s a photo of what they think the Second Temple looked like:

Within both Temples, there was an area called “Holy of Holies”. It was the inner sanctum of the Tabernacle, hidden behind a thick curtain. It is said this was the curtain that was torn when Jesus died on the cross.

Only the high priest could enter this area and only then, once a year on the Day of Atonement (ie: “Yom Kippur”).  The high priest was permitted to enter the enclosure to burn incense and sprinkle the blood of a sacrificial animal on the Mercy Seat of the Ark. By doing so, the high priest atoned for his own sins and those of the people.

What was behind this curtain that was so sacred that only one person could enter, once a year ?? It is where God appears on Earth and it is where the High Priest can communicate directly with God - but again, only him and only on the one day a year.

In the First Temple, it was where the Ark of the Covenant was kept. By the time the Second Temple was rebuilt, the Ark of the Covenant had disappeared but the Tabernacle contained a raised stone where Ark of the Covenant used to be.

Here’s a map I found on the net, detailing where it is thought the Inner Sanctum of Second Temple (and the Holy of Holies) resided:

After the destruction of the Second Temple and the Jewish Revolt of 135 AD, the Jews were expelled from Jerusalem and the whole of Judea.

They were only allowed to return in the 7th Century AD and by then, the Temple Mount was in the hands of the Muslims.

Due to the extreme sanctity of the site, many Jews will not walk on the Mount itself, to avoid unintentionally entering the area where the “Holy of Holies” was located (there is alot of speculation as to the exact spot). According to Rabbinical law, some aspect of God’s presence is still present at the site.

Jews are allowed to visit the holy site (and small numbers do every year) but they can be arrested for praying or even moving their lips in what appears to be prayer (prayer is not allowed).

For the Muslims, the site is sacred because it is where Mohammed ascended to heaven on his “Night Journey”.

The site is dominated by the building known as the Dome of the Rock

It is not a mosque but a shrine, built by the caliph Abd al-Malik from 688 AD to 691 AD. It protects a stone where, it is said, Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac and, as mentioned earlier, Mohammed ascended to heaven. That stone is known as “The Foundation Stone”.

Non-Muslims are not allowed to enter this building so here’s a photo of the Foundation Stone:

The golden dome you now see was originally made of real gold, but was replaced with copper and then aluminium. The aluminium is now covered with gold leaf, a donation from the late King Hussein of Jordan

The site is administered by a Waqf (an Islamic trust).

Here are photos from the visit:

Looking at the Western corner of the complex
Rosie (aka Lucy) about to go through Security  to the Temple Mount
The warning to Jews about entering the Temple Mount complex
The view of the Western Wall from the walkway leading up to the Temple Mount
A bit disturbing - riot shields at the ready at the entrance

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