The 3 big Holiest sites in The Jerusalem – Intruduction

Temple Mount Compound

Dome Of The Rock. not to confuse with Al-Aqsa Mosque.

If you will take a look at the map of the old city, you will see on the southeast side this big compound which takes a big chunk of the Old City. This compound is where the Jewish temple used to be,  according to the Hadith, where Muhammad flew with his horse on his night journey.

I really recommend reading the Wikipedia page of those places. I will write here some of the highlights and things which are not on the English page.

A Sebil, water fountain for the public to drink and purify before the prayers.

The Jewish Temple

The place is according to the tradition where the Binding of Isaac accrued by Abraham. King Solomon built the first temple which later was destroyed by the Babylonians. Oh, they also expelled the Jews.

After the Jews returned they built a second temple which is known as Herod's temple. This temple was lacking the Arc of the covenant which disappeared after the destruction of the first temple. The holy of the holiest was empty.

Well, there is no temple today right? So yea this one was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. The Romans left the place in ruins and built a small pagan temple. As they became Christians the ruins were a proof to Jesus prophet of the destruction of the temple.

Haram esh-Sharif

When the Muslim came in the 7th century, the Caliph Umar was advised by a Jewish convert to Islam to build a worship place over the Temple Mount because of its holiness. They cleared the rebels and built the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Later it was identified as the place where Muhammad finished his night journey from Mecca on his magical creature Al-Buraq. The compound is called by the Muslims Haram esh-Sharif.

The Dome was built as an exact copy of the Byzantine church of the holy sepulcher before it was destroyed by the Persians. You see, it's quite hard to say what is original in this place, Most of the things were destroyed and re-built.
-Another example?
The dome was destroyed in an earthquake in the 11th century and was rebuilt after.

Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Fun Fact:
During the time of the Crusaders, the place was the Knights Templar headquarters and there was a big cross decorating the top of the dome.

I don’t know if you red all the links I gave you but that’s a lot of info, your head is probably hurt and you are confused. But I guess you understood this - If Jerusalem is the heart of the Holy Land, the Old City is the heart of Jerusalem, The Temple Mount is the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem.

Some of the delicate artwork on the dome.

POLITICAL SENSITIVITY

Until the year of 2000, anyone could visit inside the Dome of the Rock and the Mosque. In the year 2000, a violent clash erupted between Israel and the Palestinians (known as Intifada Al Aqsa). Since then, because of the sensitivity of the place that any small provocation here can spark violent, only Muslims can enter the buildings. None Muslims can visit the Temple Mount during certain hours.

Because the place is so sensitive as a none Muslim you can enter only through the Mugrabim entrance which is next to the Western Wall on a wooden bridge. You will go through a security check and you are not allowed to have any religious things or prayer books. Modest clothes are necessary.

Visiting hours in the temple mount:

Summer:

  • Sunday-Thursday:
    08:30-11:30
    13:30-14:30

Winter:

  • Sunday-Thursday:
    07:30-10:30
    12:30-13:30

The Western Wall

The Western Wall and the Temple Mount compound above it. Silver dome to the right is Al-Aqsa mosque. The golden dome is Dome of the rock. The Western Wall is in the middle.

Unlike what a lot of people think, the Western Wall is not the holiest place to Judaism. It is just a wall.

-But hey! they all go to pray there! Jews from all over the world goes there!

-I will explain:
The Western Wall was one of the walls surrounding the Temple, to be more accurate it was the wall on the west side (surprising huh?). There is nothing holy about it. Yea, it’s the last standing remain of the temple, but why praying at the Western Wall?

Danger ! Holy of the Holiest

In the Jewish temple, there used to be a section which was the holy of the holiest. Only the high priest could go there, and only on one day a year. On Yom Kippur the holiest day in Judaism.

Most of the Haredim and some religious Jews don’t visit the Temple Mount. You might even see a sign which states that the main rabies of Israel prohibiting going to the Temple Mount. Why is that? Because the location of the holy of the holiest is under dispute, a Jew might go up there and stand in the holy of the holiest and that’s, of course, is a big no-no.

A sign warns Jews from going to the Temple Mount.

The Jews who go to the Temple Mount believe that the holy of the holiest is inside the Dome of the Rock, and anyway, they don’t go in there.

Western wall today

The Synagogue next to the wall.
So we understand why some of the Jews don’t go to the temple mount compound, but why praying at the wall next to it?

Because it was the outer wall of the temple, once you stand behind the Western Wall you are 100% not in the temple compound and can be sure you are not in the holy of the holiest. It’s the closest you can be without accidentally being there.

Simple no?

Today the area next to the Western Wall is functioning as a big synagogue. There is a separation between men and woman and modest clothes are required. In the men area, you can go to the left into a big corridor and see a small synagogue with people studying the scriptures.

 

 

There is a tradition of writing notes with wishes and putting it between the ancient stones.

Western Wall online wishes:

Have a wish but can't make it to the Western Wall?
-No problem!
its startup country no? just ask this guys

Prayers before Yom Kippur. the holiest holiday in Judaism.

 

Church of the Holy Sepulture

The place where according to the Catholics, the Orthodox, the Armenians, the Copts, the Ethiopian or in short, all the Christians except some Protestants, Jesus was crucified and buried.

Short Background:

Ethiopian Orthodox
The place was first recognized as the Crucifixion site by Helena mother of Constantine, the first Roman Emperor who converted to Christianity in the year of 326. 

If your first reaction is but how can it be?! It said that Jesus was crucified on a hill outside of the city and this church is inside! Remember that the city wall and border changed a lot during the history and during the time of Jesus it was outside of the city.

The Romans, after they converted to Christianity and known as Byzantine, built the first church over the place.

In 614 the Persians destroyed the church and it was re-construct by the Byzantine as they re-capture the place. They didn’t finish the construction because then the first Muslim conquest arrived in the land. They didn’t destroy it but halted all the construction.

Crosses carved by visitors for centuries over the walls.

A later Muslim ruler who was more zealot ordered to destroy the church. It was re-built and re-destroyed several times.
At 1099 the crusaders ruled Jerusalem for 88 years and when Salah A –din came he ordered to not harm the church and allowed Christians to settle in Jerusalem as he didn’t want to provoke more crusades.

The church went through more serious of damaging by rulers, earthquakes and once by a drunk monk who started a fire. All combined with serious reconstruction as It went like that until the 20th as the church got the figure it has today.

Tension between the sects

The church is known for the tension between all the sects taking place there.  Each sect claims for rights and privilege in the church and a lot of time they can't agree on things. They split the churches areas and rooms according to each sect power and made an agreement about who is allowed to do what.

For example, the court outside belongs to everyone, but only the Greeks can swipe the floor, only the Franciscans and the Greeks can have a mess in the church. Few areas are under disputes to whom they belong and they still haven't been repaired since the last fire in the 19 century.

As part of the disputes, they decided that the church key will be kept by a Muslim family and not by one of the sects.

To be fair with all sects, the church door key is kept by a Muslim family. On the door itself and the pillars, you can see signatures of enthusiastic pilgrims.

Fun Fact:
Another thing that you can see is a wooden ladder on the right top corner of the main entrance to the church. If you'll look at photos from 10 years ago 30 years ago and even 100 years ago… the ladder is there. The ladder belongs to the Armenian and it was used to exit the church if it was locked. As part of showing their rights, they want to keep it there.

 

The church entrance. The Orange circle is the ladder.
The white arrow shows the way into the Ethiopian part and into a nice court.
Yea I know. it's all too much info, confusing and complex.
Welcome to Jerusalem. Go have a rest now....
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