Inscriptions on the Dome of Rock regarding Jews and Christians: "O People of the Book! Do not exaggerate in your religion nor utter aught concerning God save the truth. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary was only a Messenger of God, and His Word which He conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from Him. So believe in God and His messengers and say not "Three". God is  only One God. Far be it removed from His transcendent majesty that He should have a son".


A chronic rivalry between Christian denominations in the Church of Holy Sepulchre dictates that the key to the church remain to this day in the hands of the Muslim guardians at least since the time of Saladin.


Following 1967 war, Moshe Dayan officially endorsed the status quo regarding the Temple Mount. The entire area, including the mosques, buildings and gateways to the Mount remained in the of the Waqf, Muslim religious authority. Jews and Christians were permitted to visit but not pray.

 








































 

Mount Moriah


Mount Moriah is a long and narrow hilltop that begins in the South where Kidron and Hinnom Valleys converge and rises to it's highest peak (777 meters above sea level) around the Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem. It is physically less imposing than nearby Mount Zion and Mount of Olives but from historical and religious prospective it's the most valuable real estate in the world.

Moriah is central to the history of Judaism. The first time it is mentioned in the Bible is in Genesis 22:2 when God was testing Abraham's obedience. He required that Abraham takes his beloved son Isaak to Mount Moriah, build an altar and sacrifice him on it. "And He said: Take your son Isaak, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the heights that I will point out to you".

  Sacrifice of Isaac by Juan de Valdés Leal

                                          Sacrifice of Isaac by Juan de Valdés Leal , 1657-1659

As Abraham is about to obey God's will, the angel of the Lord stops him at the last minute by saying: “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me. And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. And Abraham named that site Adonai-yireh, hence the present saying "On the mount of the Lord, there is a vision" (Genesis 22:12-14).

The selection of Mount Moriah as the place for the future Temple came about when King David made a faithful decision to count the number of fighting men. God was angered by King David's actions and as punishment sends the famine and plague across the entire kingdom. David was in great distress over his sin, but then Prophet Gad had a vision in which Lord instructed him on how to make things right.

"And Gad came that day to David, and said to him, Go up, erect an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver. And David built there an altar to the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the Lord heeded the prayers for the land, and the plague was withdrawn from Israel". (II Samuel 24:18-24).

King David designated the Mount Moriah site as his capital and the center for the worship of the one God. By doing so he was able to unite the tribes of Israel and Judah into one Kingdom, not the least due to the geographic location of Mount Moriah. It was situated on the border between the northern and southern tribes, but held by neither of them.

Eventually Mount Moriah was chosen as the site of the permanent altar. The stone on which the Ark of the Covenant rested was called "Eben shetiyyah" or "the Foundation Stone" on which the world was based. According to Jewish tradition, The Foundation Stone was thrown into primeval waters by God, and the world grew out of it. The west side of the mountain was selected for the Temple site because the Shehinah ( the divine presence of God and his cosmic glory) rests in the West.

David began preparations for the construction of the Temple by designing architectural and building plans and ordering cedarwood from Abibaal, the Phoenician King of Tyre, as the building material. He even brought in many skilled laborers and stonemasons from the entire region to start the construction, but God did not give him the permission to build a Temple.

In 1 Chronicles 22:8-10, David reveals a reason: "But this word of the Lord came to me: You are not to build a house for my Name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in my sight. But you will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest, and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side. His name will be Solomon, and I will grant Israel peace and quiet during his reign. He is the one who will build a house for my Name".

Even though David did not build a Temple himself, his contribution to this great enterprise was still very significant. He was the one who selected the site, built an altar to God on the threshing floor, succeeded in unifying Jerusalem and linking it to his dynasty, to the Temple and at the end linking it to God.

In the fourth year of his reign Solomon began the construction of the Temple. "Solomon began to build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to his father David, at the place that David had prepared on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite". (Chronicles 3:1).

Ancient Jewish historian Josephus Flavius provides a description of the Temple in his work Jewish Antiquities: "The foundations of the Temple were made of the great stone, buried deep into the ground. The body of the building was white marble, 60 cubits long and 20 wide, and stood two two stories tall. In front was a porch, and surrounding it were 30 smaller rooms that were interconnected. The roof was made of cedar and the walls also adorned in intervals with boards of cedar covered with gold".

When the construction of the Temple was completed, Solomon made arrangements to bring the Ark of the Covenant from it's tent in the citadel onto the Temple. "When all work Solomon has done for the Temple of the Lord was finished he brought in the things his father David has dedicated, the silver and gold and all furnishings and he placed them in the treasuries of God's Temple. (I Chronicles 5:1).

Within the Temple the builders created a small room called the Holy of Holies where the Ark was to be kept. "Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the fathers’ houses of the people of Israel, in Jerusalem, to bring up the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord out of the city of David, which is Zion". (I Chronicles 5:2).

Solomon made a sacrifice at the altar and then had priests bring the Arc into the Holy of Holies and place it beneath the wings of two golden cherubim. That room became a center of Hebrew religion as the Jews believed it was the dwelling place for the All Mighty himself.

King Solomon and the kings of Judah after him, gradually built a number of monumental structures in the city which essentially were extensions of the Temple. Mount Mariah was fortified and the old city walls were expended. The entire city of Jerusalem functioned as a provider of services to thousands of pilgrims flocking the city during the religious festivals.

In 26BCE, King Herod embarked on a massive re-building campaign to enlarge and improve the Temple Mount. At the time of King David, the Temple Mount was just a small hill. Herod expended the Temple platform beyond the boundaries of Mount Mariah by building arches underneath and filling them with a top soil. He spared no funds for his rebuilding project and the end result was a magnificent complex of buildings that became known far beyond the walls of Jerusalem.

Mount Moriah, Temple Mount

                                                    Mount Moriah, Temple Mount Jerusalem

Following the destruction of Jerusalem by the Titus in the year 70, the area of the Temple was left in ruins under successive rule of Romans and Byzantines. The site was used as a garbage dump until the Muslim conquest of the city by the Caliph Omar ibn al-Khattab in 638. He ordered the clearing of the site and the building of a "house of prayer", a wooden structure and a precursor to Al-Aqsa Mosque. It was an event that signified the shift of ownership of Mount Moriah and the Temple Mount from Christians to Muslims.

In 691CE, the Umayyad Caliph Abdel-Malik built a Dome of the Rock in the center of Mount Mariah to enshrine the outcrop of bedrock believed to be the "place of the sacrifice". It was build on the top the ruins of where the Jewish Temple once stood. The purpose of the monumental structure was to attract the Muslim pilgrims and also to compete with grandiose Christian basilicas that dominated the Jerusalem's skyline.

In 705CE, Abdel-Malik's son, Caliph al-Walid I built a large mosque at the southern end of the Temple Mount which came to be called a Masjid Al-Aqsa or al-Aksa mosque. Its regarded by the Muslims as the departure point of Prophet Muhammad's Night Journey. It is considered to be the third holiest place in Islam after Mecca and Medina. While the entire Temple Mount compound is referred to by Muslims as Al-Aqsa it is also often called al-Haram ash-Sharif or Nobel Sanctuary.

On the western side of the Temple Mount is situated the Western or Wailing Wall, known in Hebrew as the Kotel. It extends for 1601 feet of which 197 feet are an accessible space. The Western Wall is a retaining wall originally erected as part of the expansion of the Second Temple by Herod the Great. After the Romans destroyed the Temple in 70CE, Western Wall was the only structure spared, probably because it was an outer wall that was not a part of the Temple itself.

For centuries, the Western Wall was located in a narrow alley just 12 feet wide that could accommodate only a small number of worshipers. New segments of the wall were uncovered and became available to public since Israel gained access to the site in 1967 as a result of the Six Day War. Israelis also created a plaza in front of the wall as an area for prayer to accommodate thousands of visitors.

In the recent years there has been a concerted effort from Palestinian leadership to deny the Jewish connection to Jerusalem and Mount Moriah in particular. Back in 2000, against all evidence, then Palestinian President Yasser Arafat claimed that "Solomon's Temple was not in Jerusalem, but in Nablus". Since that statement, "Temple Denial" has become a central tenet of Palestinian political ideology.

In his interview to Al-Hayat Al-Jadida in August 22, 2012 Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, described Jewish history in Jerusalem as “illusions and legends” and referred to the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem as the “alleged Temple.” The revisionist history is not new to Mr. Abbas who in his younger days wrote a dissertation essentially denying the Holocaust.

In October of 2015, Sheikh Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, claimed that a Jewish Temple never existed on the Temple Mount. In an interview with Israeli Channel 2, the venerable mufti said that “the Aksa Mosque was an Islamic mosque since the world was created.”

These political statements were made despite the fact that early Arab historians make it clear that Caliph Omar ibn al-Khattab knew he was building the first Al-Aqsa mosque on part of the platform where Jewish Temple once stood. As late as 1935, the Supreme Muslim Council in Jerusalem, under the notorious mufti, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, actually published a guidebook that gave the history of the Temple Mount, establishing that “its identification with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute.”  

The importance of the role a tiny hill called Mount Moriah played in the history of the world is incredible. What is even more incredible that it's status is just as relevant today as it was three millennia ago. Hopefully people will learn to respect each other's history and heritage instead of using it as tools of political warfare because it is the only way they can coexist in the peace.