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Covering an area of 35 acres, the Temple Mount holds immense religious significance for Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Judaism reveres it as the site of the world’s creation, the bonding place on Isaac, and the location of the First and Second Temples. For Christians, the Temple Mount’s Second Temple is significant for being visited by Jesus several times. According to Islamic tradition, the Temple Mount marks the spot from which Prophet Mohamad ascended to Heaven. Over the years the Temple Mount developed as a complex symbol of interfaith relations – and a heavily contested site.

History of the Temple Mount

By Jewish tradition, the Temple Mount is where “the Lord formed man of the dust of the ground” (Genesis 2:7). It is also where Abraham bound Isaac for sacrifice (Genesis 22:1-19). The Book of Samuel records how David bought this mountain from Aravnah, the Jebusite, and David’s son Solomon built a temple at its top (I Kings 6-7). The Babylonians destroyed this temple in 586 BC, yet the Jews rebuilt it upon returning from Babylonian exile. In 167 CE, Antiochus IV defiled the Jewish Temple, an event that led to the Maccabean revolt. After three years of struggle, the Maccabees purified it, an event marked to this day by Judaism in the light festival of Hanukkah. In the first century BCE, Herod the Great doubled the plaza size around the temple by constructing massive retaining walls. The temple itself was replaced with a new, grander edifice.

Jesus and the Temple Mount

The Temple and the Temple Mount played a major rold in Jesus’ life and teachings. Jesus was presented to the Lord as a baby in front of this temple (Luke 2:22), and at the age twelve, he remained there for three days having depates with teachers (Luke 2:42-50). As an adult, Jesus overturned the tables of the moneychangers at the Temple (Matthew 21:12) and argued with the Pharisees (John 10). When Jesus died, “the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matthew 27:51). And as he had prophesied (Luk 19:41-44), the temple was eventually destroyed.

The Temple Mount in Roman to Mulsim Times

In  66 CE, the Jews declared a rebellion against the Romans. The consequences were swift and dramatic. A Roman joint force suppressed the uprising with much power and cruelty, burning their temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD. Millions of Jews were killed or enslaved, and the Temple Mount remained desolater for six centuries.

Following the Mulsim conquest of the Holy Land, the Ummayeds restored the temple mount; in 691 AD, they completed an octagonal monument where the Jewish temple once stood. Known as the Dome of the Rock, it commemorates Solomon’s Temple and Mohammad’s Night Journey. In the following centuries, Muslim powers developed further the Temple Mount, adding a grand mosque, the Al-Aqsa mosque, and additional monuments.

The Western Wall of the Temple Mount

Since the 16th century, Jews have venerated the remains of one of the Temple Mount’s retaining walls – the Western Wall. Revered as the most tangible remnant of the Jewish Temple, today it is both a religious monument and a national symbol. According to the Jewish faith, at the end of times a Messiah will restore the Jewish temple at the Temple Mount, above the Western Wall.

Touring the Temple Mount

A visit to the Temple Mount is limited, open exclusively to tourists five days a week for a few hours daily. A modest dress code is required and it often requires enduring a lengthy queue for security screening. The predominant architectural features on the site are Muslim, notably the Al-Aksa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. However, with the proper guidance, one can still trace remnants from the Second Jewish Temple.

A tour of the Temple Mount can integrated into a day tour of Jerusalem.

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