January 19th 2015
If Jerusalem is the center of the world, then the Temple Mount is the center of Jerusalem. You may have heard any number of misguided untruths about this holy site, so let’s review the facts.
Referred to in Hebrew as Har HaBayit, the Temple Mount is the holiest site in Jewish tradition. It was the location of the First and Second Holy Temples and is believed to be the location where the eventual Third Holy Temple will stand. It is also the place where the Biblical stories of the Binding of Isaac and Jacob’s dream occurred.
Located in the Old City of Jerusalem, the Temple Mount is a flat courtyard platform just above the Kotel (the Western Wall) and is home to approximately 100 structures of various ages. It is most easily recognized by the golden dome, known as the Dome of the Rock, which appears in many images of Jerusalem. The Dome of the Rock is actually an Islamic shrine and not a mosque at all – the Al Aqsa mosque is a grey structure built on the southern side of the Temple Mount.
The basic history of the Temple Mount begins in the Bible’s book of Genesis. It is identified as Mount Moriah, where Abraham brought his son Isaac as an intended sacrifice. Approximately 3,000 years ago, King Solomon built the First Holy Temple on the same spot. The First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in the year 586 BCE, and the Jews of Israel were exiled to Babylon. In a fulfillment of prophecy, the Jews returned to Jerusalem 70 years later and built the Second Holy Temple on the same spot. The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE, and the Temple Mount was left in ruins until the 7th century, when Muslim leaders built a house of prayer on the site.
During Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, the Temple Mount and the entire Old City of Jerusalem fell to the hands of the Jordanians. It wasn’t until the Six Day War in 1967 that the Zionist leadership regained control of the Temple Mount for the first time since the destruction of the Second Temple. Through political negotiations, administration of the Temple Mount was handed over to Islamic hands in 1967, and it remains under the control of an Islamic Waqf today.