The Temple Mount, in Arabic Haram Ash-Sharif, is one of the most important religious sites in the Old City of Jerusalem. It has been used as a religious site for thousands of years. At least four religions are known to have used the Temple Mount: Judaism, Islam, Christianity, and Roman paganism.
Judaism regards the Temple Mount as the place where God chose the Divine Presence to rest (Isa 8:18); 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 man, Adam. The site is the location of Abraham's binding of Isaac, and of two Jewish Temples later destroyed, and it is here that the third and final Temple will also be built. The location is the holiest site in Judaism 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. It was from the Holy of Holies that the High Priest communicated directly with God.
Among Sunni Muslims, the Mount is widely considered to be the third holiest site in Islam. Revered as the Noble Sanctuary and 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. After the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem in 637 CE, Umayyad Caliphs commissioned the construction of the al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock on the site. The Dome was completed in 692 CE, making it one of the oldest extant Islamic structures in the world, after the Kaabah. 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 Bible mandates the Holy Temple be rebuilt.
In light of the dual claims of both Judaism and Islam, it is one of the most contested religious sites in the world. Since the Crusades, the Muslim community of Jerusalem has managed the site as a Waqf, without interruption. As part of the Old City, controlled by Israel since 1967, both Israel and the Palestinian Authority claim sovereignty over the site, which remains a major focal point of the Arab-Israeli conflict. In an attempt to keep the status quo, the Israeli government enforces a controversial ban on prayer by non-Muslim visitors.
Jerusalem, Israel, 2012.
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