Haram Ash-Sharīf (Temple Mount) – Jerusalem

Haram Ash-Sharif (the Temple Mount) is one of the most important sites in all three Abrahamic religions. The Temple Mount is traditionally believed to be the site of the biblical Mount Moriah, where Abraham was commanded by God to sacrifice his son Isaac (who was subsequently stopped by an angel). The site is known today as the Temple Mount because it is where King Solomon built the First Temple in the 10th century BCE (which was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 587 BCE) and where King Herod built the Second Temple in 516 BCE (destroyed in 70 CE by the Romans during the Jewish Revolt). Jews refuse to enter the Temple Mount because it is believed that the Holy of Holies, the most sacred area of the temple and where God’s divine presence rests, which is therefore off limits until the arrival of the Messiah, is located on the grounds.

The silver al-Aqsa Mosque (1st photo), built in 715, and gold Masjid Qubbat As-Sakhrah (the Dome of the Rock – photos 3-10) dominate the Temple Mount. These mosques are the third holiest Islamic site after the Ka’ba (Mecca) and al-Masjid al-Nabawi (the Mosque of the Prophet in Medina). The Dome of the Rock enshrines the rock where it is believed that Abraham almost sacrificed his son Ishmael (instead of Issac – what Christians and Jews believe), and the area where Muhammad ascended to heaven after his miraj from Mecca to Jerusalem.

The Temple Mount is accessible to non-Muslims sporadically – only for a couple of hours a day and closes randomly. Although there are many entrances to the Temple Mount, the only one permitted to non-Muslims is up a tunnel ramp in the Western Wall Plaza. We arrived at the ramp 10 minutes before the Temple Mount was to be closed. We rushed through an X-ray machine and metal detectors and ran up the ramp, barely noticing piles of riot shields and batons lining the walls. (When I later asked about them I was told they were used by Israeli soldiers to stop protesters who would throw rocks over the Western Wall into the plaza). The first thing I noticed was how open and peaceful the Temple Mount was. The rest of the Old City is filled with hectic, narrow side streets with never an open area besides two small ones right outside the Western Wall and the Holy Sepulchre. In contrast, the Temple Mount is a refreshing, peaceful, 35-acre open space. Security didn’t kick us out until twenty minutes after closing time so we were able to wander the grounds and gwak at the Dome of the Rock – probably the most impressive site in all of Jerusalem.

~ by jonathanmtsai on December 10, 2010.

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