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“Market of Knowledge” on the Temple Mount (2002)

The Temple Mount in Jerusalem is sacred to millions of people and may be described as the holiest mountain on earth. According to Jewish tradition the rock in its centre is the foundation stone for the whole world, and in the days of the patriarchs, Isaac was almost sacrificed by Abraham on the same rock.

Historically David constructed an altar on this mountain, and Solomon built a temple on the site. The temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, rebuilt, and destroyed again, this time by the Romans, in 70 CE. In the late Roman period, sculptures of the Roman emperors may have been displayed on the mountain, and a pagan shrine was built there, but it was mostly in ruins until the end of the 7th century CE.

The Muslims restored the sacred mountain by identifying the rock in its centre as the one from which Muhammad ascended to heaven to receive the daily prayers of Islam. Accordingly a monumental memorial structure was built around the rock (the “Dome of the Rock”), and a mosque nearby. In 1099 CE the Crusaders conqueredJerusalem. They identified the Dome of the Rock and the mosque as “temples” and refurnished them as a church and a palace respectively. In 1187 CE the Muslims recaptured Jerusalem and returned the monuments to their original Muslim use.

In 1967, after nearly a millennium, the Jewish people of the state of Israel took control over the old city, but the state of Israel decided to leave the Temple Mount and its Muslim monuments under the authority of the Muslim religious authority, the Waqf. Israel insisted on controlling the security of the Temple Mount, and specified that no excavations be made without scientific supervision.

During the recent tension between the Palestinians, (mostly Muslims), and the state of Israel, the Waqf carried out illegal construction work in the south eastern part of the Temple Mount. Because there was no archaeological supervision of the work, there is no way of knowing exactly what was found there, or the exact stratigraphy(the composition of layers) at the site.  Yet in spite of the poor documentation, archaeologist Dan Bahat recently published in the Hebrew periodical

Qadmoniot an account of the work as best as he could record it, and suggested that the Muslim “market of knowledge” (“Suq el-Ma’rifa”) institution stood above “Solomon’s Stables” at that area.

Bahat also added an artist’s reconstruction of the area, drawn by artist Mark Kunin. Perhaps further research with more scientific tools will illuminate this interesting suggestion.