These places are the reason why The city is sacred to the 3 Abrahamic religions. Each place with its own uniqueness and atmosphere. The Temple Mount is the most important one, the western wall is a part of it, the Holy Sepulture is here because of the Temple Mount.
Temple Mount Compound
If you will take a look at the map, you will see on the southeast side this big compound that 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.
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.
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.
The dome was destroyed in an earth quake in the 11th century and was re-built after.
During the time of the crusaders, the place was the knights Templars headquarters and there was a big cross decorating the top of the dome.
I don’t know if you read 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.
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) and 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 cloths are necessary.
Visiting hours in the Temple Mount:
The Western Wall
Unlike what a lot of people think, the Western Wall is not the holiest place to Judaism. It is just a wall.
–But hey! Jews from all over the world go to pray 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.
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.
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
Ok so we understand why some of the Jews don’t go to the temple mount compound, but why praying at 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.
Today the area next to the Western Wall is functioning as a big synagogue. There is a separation between men and woman and modest cloths 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.
Church of the Holy Sepulture
The place where according to the Catholics, the orthodox, the Armenians, the Copts, the Ethiopians or in short, all the Christians except some Protestants, Jesus was crucified and buried.
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.
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 building is not impressive from the outside as most of it is covered by other structures which hide it.