|The Al-Aqsa Mosque (Masjid al-Aqsa)|
Al-Aqsa Mosque compound (or simply al-Aqsa)
Jerusalem's sacred (or holy) esplanade
|Elevation||740 m (2,430 ft)|
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The Temple Mount (Hebrew: הַר הַבַּיִת, romanized: Har haBayīt, lit. 'Mount of the House [of the Holy]'), also known as al-Ḥaram al-Sharīf (Arabic: الحرم الشريف, lit. 'The Noble Sanctuary'), al-Aqsa Mosque compound, or simply al-Aqsa Mosque (المسجد الأقصى, al-Masjid al-Aqṣā, lit. 'The Furthest Mosque'), and sometimes as Jerusalem's sacred (or holy) esplanade, is a hill in the Old City of Jerusalem that has been venerated as a holy site in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam for thousands of years.
The present site is a flat plaza surrounded by retaining walls (including the Western Wall), which were originally built by King Herod in the first century BCE for an expansion of the Second Jewish Temple. The plaza is dominated by two monumental structures originally built during the Rashidun and early Umayyad caliphates after the city's capture in 661 CE: the main praying hall of al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, near the center of the hill, which was completed in 692 CE, making it one of the oldest extant Islamic structures in the world. It stands where past Jewish temples are commonly believed to have stood. The Herodian walls and gates, with additions from the late Byzantine, early Muslim, Mamluk, and Ottoman periods, flank the site, which can be reached through eleven gates, ten reserved for Muslims and one for non-Muslims, with guard posts of the Israel Police in the vicinity of each. The courtyard is surrounded on the north and west by two Mamluk-era porticos (riwaq) and four minarets.
The Temple Mount is often considered the holiest site in Judaism.[a] According to Jewish tradition and scripture, the First Temple was built by King Solomon, the son of King David, in 957 BCE, and was destroyed by the Neo-Babylonian Empire in 586 BCE. As no scientific excavations have ever been conducted on the site, no archaeological evidence has been found to verify this. The Second Temple was constructed under the auspices of Zerubbabel in 516 BCE, was renovated by King Herod, and was destroyed by the Roman Empire in 70 CE. Orthodox Jewish tradition maintains it is here that the third and final Temple will be built when the Messiah comes. The Temple Mount is the place Jews turn towards during prayer. Jewish attitudes towards entering the site vary. Due to its extreme sanctity, many Jews will not walk on the Mount itself, to avoid unintentionally entering the area where the Holy of Holies stood, since, according to rabbinical law, there is still some aspect of the divine presence at the site.
Among Muslims, the whole plaza is revered as "the Noble Sanctuary" or as the al-Aqsa Mosque, the second oldest mosque in Islam, and one of the three Sacred Mosques, the holiest sites in Islam. The courtyard (sahn) can host more than 400,000 worshippers, making it one of the largest mosques in the world. For Sunni and Shia Muslims alike, it ranks as the third holiest site in Islam. The plaza includes the location regarded as where the Islamic prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven, and served as the first "qibla", the direction Muslims turn towards when praying. As in Judaism, Muslims also associate the site with Solomon and other prophets who are also venerated in Islam. The site, and the term "al-Aqsa", in relation to the whole plaza, is also a central identity symbol for Palestinians, including non-Muslim Palestinians.
Since the Crusades launched by the Latin Church (11th–13th century), the Muslim community of Jerusalem has managed the site through the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf. The site, along with the whole of East Jerusalem (which includes the Old City), was controlled by Jordan from 1948 until 1967, and has been occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War of 1967. Shortly after capturing the site, Israel handed its administration back to the Waqf under the Jordanian Hashemite custodianship, while maintaining Israeli security control. The Israeli government enforces a ban on prayer by non-Muslims as part of an arrangement usually referred to as the "status quo." The site remains a major focal point of the Arab–Israeli conflict.
The name of the site is disputed, primarily between Muslims and Jews, in the context of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Some Arab-Muslim commentators and scholars attempt to deny Jewish connection with the Temple Mount, while some Jewish commentators and scholars attempt to belittle the importance of the site in Islam. During a 2016 dispute over the name of the site, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova stated: "Different peoples worship the same places, sometimes under different names. The recognition, use of and respect for these names is paramount."
The concept of the Har haBayīt – commonly translated as "Temple Mount" in English – gained prominence in the first century CE, after the destruction of the Second Temple. The term Har haBayīt was first used in the books of Micah (4:1) and Jeremiah (26:18) – literally as "Mount of the House" , a literary variation of the longer phrase "Mountain of the House of the Lord"– the abbreviation was not used again in the later books of the Hebrew Bible or in the New Testament. The conception of the Temple as being located on a holy mountain possessing special qualities is found repeatedly in Psalms, with the surrounding area being considered an integral part of the Temple itself. The term Har haBayīt is used throughout the Mishnah and later Talmudic texts.
The governmental organization which administers the site, the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf (part of the Jordanian government), have stated that the name "The Temple Mount" is a "strange and alien name" and a "newly-created Judaization term". In 2014, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) issued a press release urging journalists not to use the term "Temple Mount" when referring to the site. In 2017, it was reported that Waqf officials harassed archeologists such as Gabriel Barkay and tour guides who used the term at the site. According to Jan Turek and John Carman, in modern usage, the term Temple Mount can potentially imply support for Israeli control of the site.
2 Chronicles 3:1 refers to the Temple Mount in the time before the construction of the temple as Mount Moriah (Hebrew: הַר הַמֹּורִיָּה, har ha-Môriyyāh).
Several passages in the Hebrew Bible indicate that during the time when they were written, the Temple Mount was identified as Mount Zion. The Mount Zion mentioned in the later parts of the Book of Isaiah (Isaiah 60:14), in the Book of Psalms, and the First Book of Maccabees (c. 2nd century BCE) seems to refer to the top of the hill, generally known as the Temple Mount. According to the Book of Samuel, Mount Zion was the site of the Jebusite fortress called the "stronghold of Zion", but once the First Temple was erected, according to the Bible, at the top of the Eastern Hill ("Temple Mount"), the name "Mount Zion" migrated there too. The name later migrated for a last time, this time to Jerusalem's Western Hill.
The English term "al-Aqsa Mosque" is a translation of either al-Masjid al-'Aqṣā (Arabic: ٱلْمَسْجِد ٱلْأَقْصَىٰ) or al-Jâmi' al-Aqṣā (Arabic: ٱلْـجَـامِـع الْأَقْـصّى). Al-Masjid al-'Aqṣā – "the farthest mosque" – is derived from the Quran's Surah 17 ("The Night Journey") which writes that Muhammad travelled from Mecca to the mosque, from where he subsequently ascended to Heaven. Arabic and Persian writers such as 10th century geographer Al-Maqdisi, 11th century scholar Nasir Khusraw, 12th century geographer Muhammad al-Idrisi and 15th century Islamic scholar Mujir al-Din, as well as 19th century American and British Orientalists Edward Robinson, Guy Le Strange and Edward Henry Palmer explained that the term Masjid al-Aqsa refers to the entire esplanade plaza which is the subject of this article – the entire area including the Dome of the Rock, the fountains, the gates, and the four minarets – because none of these buildings existed at the time the Quran was written.
Al-Jâmi' al-Aqṣá refers to the specific site of the silver-domed congregational mosque building, also referred to as Qibli Mosque or Qibli Chapel (al-Jami' al-Aqsa or al-Qibli, or Masjid al-Jumah or al-Mughata), in reference to its location on the southern end of the compound as a result of the Islamic qibla being moved from Jerusalem to Mecca. The two different Arabic terms translated as "mosque" in English parallels the two different Greek terms translated as "temple" in the New Testament: Greek: ίερόν, romanized: hieron (equivalent to Masjid) and Greek: ναός, romanized: naos (equivalent to Jami'a), and use of the term "mosque" for the whole compound follows the usage of the same term for other early Islamic sites with large courtyards such as the Mosque of Ibn Tulun in Cairo, the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus and the Great Mosque of Kairouan.
The term "al-Aqsa" as a symbol and brand-name has become popular and prevalent in the region. For example, the Al-Aqsa Intifada (the uprising that broke out in September 2000), the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades (a coalition of Palestinian nationalist militias in the West Bank), al-Aqsa TV (the official Hamas-run television channel), al-Aqsa University (Palestinian university established in 1991 in the Gaza Strip), Jund al-Aqsa (a Salafist jihadist organization that was active during the Syrian Civil War), the Jordanian military periodical published since the early 1970s, and the associations of both the southern and northern branches of the Islamic Movement in Israel are all named Al-Aqsa after this site.
During the period of Mamluk (1260-1517) and Ottoman rule (1517-1917), the wider compound began to also be popularly known as the Haram al-Sharif, or al-Ḥaram ash-Sharīf (Arabic: اَلْـحَـرَم الـشَّـرِيْـف), which translates as the "Noble Sanctuary". It mirrors the terminology of the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca; see Haram for further details. Usage of the name Haram al-Sharif by local Palestinians has waned in recent decades, in favor of the traditional name of Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Some scholars have used the terms Sacred Esplanade or Holy Esplanade as a "strictly neutral term" for the site. A notable example of this usage is the 2009 work Where Heaven and Earth Meet: Jerusalem's Sacred Esplanade, written as a joint undertaking by 21 Jewish, Muslim and Christian scholars. In recent years, the term is also used by the UN and its subsidiary organs.
The Temple Mount forms the northern portion of a very narrow spur of hill that slopes sharply downward from north to south. Rising above the Kidron Valley to the east and Tyropoeon Valley to the west, its peak reaches a height of 740 m (2,428 ft) above sea level. In around 19 BCE, Herod the Great extended the Mount's natural plateau by enclosing the area with four massive retaining walls and filling the voids. This artificial expansion resulted in a large flat expanse which today forms the eastern section of the Old City of Jerusalem. The trapezium shaped platform measures 488 m (1,601 ft) along the west, 470 m (1,540 ft) along the east, 315 m (1,033 ft) along the north and 280 m (920 ft) along the south, giving a total area of approximately 150,000 m2 (37 acres). The northern wall of the Mount, together with the northern section of the western wall, is hidden behind residential buildings. The southern section of the western flank is revealed and contains what is known as the Western Wall. The retaining walls on these two sides descend many meters below ground level. A northern portion of the western wall may be seen from within the Western Wall Tunnel, which was excavated through buildings adjacent to the platform. On the southern and eastern sides the walls are visible almost to their full height. The platform itself is separated from the rest of the Old City by the Tyropoeon Valley, though this once deep valley is now largely hidden beneath later deposits, and is imperceptible in places. The platform can be reached via Gate of the Chain Street – a street in the Muslim Quarter at the level of the platform, actually sitting on a monumental bridge;[better source needed] the bridge is no longer externally visible due to the change in ground level, but it can be seen from beneath via the Western Wall Tunnel. 
In 1980, Jordan proposed that the Old City be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it was added to the List in 1981. In 1982, it was added to the List of World Heritage in Danger.
On 26 October 2016, UNESCO passed the Occupied Palestine Resolution that condemned Israeli escalating aggression and illegal measures against the waqf, called for the restoration of Muslim access and demanded that Israel respect the historical status quo and also criticized Israel for its continuous "refusal to let the body's experts access Jerusalem's holy sites to determine their conservation status". While the text acknowledged the "importance of the Old City of Jerusalem and its walls for the three monotheistic religions", it referred to the sacred hilltop compound in Jerusalem's Old City only by its Muslim name Al-Haram al-Sharif.
In response, Israel denounced the UNESCO resolution for its omission of the words "Temple Mount" or "Har HaBayit", stating that it denied Jewish ties to the site. Israel froze all ties with UNESCO. In October 2017, Israel and the United States announced they would withdraw from UNESCO, citing anti-Israel bias.
See also: Religious significance of Jerusalem
The Temple Mount has historical and religious significance for all three of the major Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It has particular religious significance for Judaism and Islam.
See also: Jerusalem in Judaism
The Temple Mount is considered the holiest site in Judaism. According to Jewish tradition, both Temples stood at the Temple Mount. Jewish tradition further places the Temple Mount as the location for a number of important events which occurred in the Bible, including the Binding of Isaac, Jacob's dream, and the prayer of Isaac and Rebekah. According to the Talmud, the Foundation Stone is the spot from where the world was created and expanded into its current form. Orthodox Jewish tradition maintains it is here that the third and final Temple will be built when the Messiah comes.
The Temple Mount is the place Jews turn towards during prayer. Jewish attitudes towards entering the site vary. Due to its extreme sanctity, many Jews will not walk on the Mount itself, to avoid unintentionally entering the area where the Holy of Holies stood, since, according to rabbinical law, there is still some aspect of the divine presence at the site.
See also: Temple in Jerusalem
According to the Hebrew Bible, the Temple Mount was originally a threshing-floor owned by Araunah, a Jebusite. The Bible narrates how David united the twelve Israelite tribes, conquered Jerusalem and brought the Israelites' central artifact, the Ark of the Covenant, into the city. When a great plague struck Israel, a destroying angel appeared on Araunah's threshing floor. The prophet Gad then suggested the area to David as a fitting place for the erection of an altar to Yawheh. David bought the property from Araunah, for fifty pieces of silver, and erected the altar. God answered his prayers and stopped the plague. David subsequently the site for a future temple to replace the Tabernacle and house the Ark of the Covenant; God forbade him from building it, however, because he had "shed much blood".
The First Temple was instead constructed under David's son Solomon, who became an ambitious builder of public works in ancient Israel:
Then Solomon began to build the house of the LORD at Jerusalem in Mount Moriah, where [the LORD] appeared unto David his father; for which provision had been made in the Place of David, in the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.— 2 Chronicles 3:1
Solomon placed the Ark in the Holy of Holies—the windowless innermost sanctuary and most sacred area of the temple in which God's presence rested; entry into the Holy of Holies was heavily restricted, and only the High Priest of Israel entered the sanctuary once per year on Yom Kippur, carrying the blood of a sacrificial lamb and burning incense. According to the Bible, the site functioned as the center of all national life—a governmental, judicial and religious center.
The Genesis Rabba, which was probably written between 300 and 500 CE, states that this site is one of three about which the nations of the world cannot taunt Israel and say "you have stolen them," since it was purchased "for its full price" by David.
The First Temple was destroyed in 587/586 BCE by the Neo-Babylonian Empire under the second Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar II, who subsequently exiled the Judeans to Babylon following the fall of the Kingdom of Judah and its annexation as a Babylonian province. The Jews who had been deported in the aftermath of the Babylonian conquest of Judah were eventually allowed to return following a proclamation by the Persian king Cyrus the Great that was issued after the fall of Babylon to the Achaemenid Empire. In 516 BCE, The returned Jewish population in Judah, under Persian provincial governance, rebuilt the Temple in Jerusalem under the auspices of Zerubbabel, yielding what is known as the Second Temple.
During the Second Temple Period, Jerusalem was the center of religious and national life for Jews, including those in the Diaspora. The Second Temple is believed to have attracted tens and maybe hundreds of thousands during the Three Pilgrimage Festivals. The holiday of Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of the Temple at the beginning of the Maccabean revolt in the 2nd century BCE. During the first century BCE, the Temple was renovated by Herod. It was destroyed by the Roman Empire at the height of the First Jewish-Roman War in 70 CE. Tisha B'Av, an annual fast day in Judaism, marks the destruction of the First and Second Temples, which according to Jewish tradition, occurred on the same day on the Hebrew calendar.
In 1217, Spanish Rabbi Judah al-Harizi found the sight of the Muslim structures on the mount profoundly disturbing. "What torment to see our holy courts converted into an alien temple!" he wrote.
The Book of Isaiah foretells the international importance of the Temple Mount:
And it shall come to pass in the end of days, that the mountain of the LORD'S house shall be established as the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many peoples shall go and say: 'Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths.' For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.— Isaiah 2:2-3
In Jewish tradition, the Temple Mount is also believed to be the location of Abraham's binding of Isaac. 2 Chronicles 3:1 refers to the Temple Mount in the time before the construction of the temple as Mount Moriah (Hebrew: הַר הַמֹּורִיָּה, har ha-Môriyyāh). The "land of Moriah" (אֶרֶץ הַמֹּרִיָּה, eretṣ ha-Môriyyāh) is the name given by Genesis to the location of the binding of Isaac. Since at least the first century CE, the two sites have been identified with one another in Judaism, this identification being subsequently perpetuated by Jewish and Christian tradition. Modern scholarship tends to regard them as distinct (see Moriah).
According to the rabbinic sages whose debates produced the Talmud, the Foundation Stone, which sits below the Dome of the Rock, was the spot from where the world was created and expanded into its current form, and where God gathered the dust used to create the first human, Adam.
Jewish texts predict that the Mount will be the site of a Third and final Temple, which will be rebuilt with the coming of the Messiah. The rebuilding of the Temple remained a recurring theme among generations, particularly in thrice-daily Amidah (Standing prayer), central prayer of the Jewish liturgy, which contains a plea for the building of a Third Temple and the restoration of sacrificial services. A number of vocal Jewish groups now advocate building the Third Temple without delay in order to bring to pass God's "end-time prophetic plans for Israel and the entire world."
See also: Jerusalem in Christianity
The Temple was of central importance in Jewish worship in the Tanakh (Old Testament). In the New Testament, Herod's Temple was the site of several events in the life of Jesus, and Christian loyalty to the site as a focal point remained long after his death. After the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, which came to be regarded by early Christians, as it was by Josephus and the sages of the Jerusalem Talmud, to be a divine act of punishment for the sins of the Jewish people, the Temple Mount lost its significance for Christian worship with the Christians considering it a fulfillment of Christ's prophecy at, for example, Matthew 23:38 and Matthew 24:2. It was to this end, proof of a biblical prophecy fulfilled and of Christianity's victory over Judaism with the New Covenant, that early Christian pilgrims also visited the site. Byzantine Christians, despite some signs of constructive work on the esplanade, generally neglected the Temple Mount, especially when a Jewish attempt to rebuild the Temple was destroyed by the earthquake in 363. It became a desolate local rubbish dump, perhaps outside the city limits, as Christian worship in Jerusalem shifted to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and Jerusalem's centrality was replaced by Rome.
During the Byzantine era, Jerusalem was primarily Christian and pilgrims came by the tens of thousands to experience the places where Jesus walked. After the Persian invasion in 614 many churches were razed and the site was turned into a dumpyard. The Arabs conquered the city from the Byzantine Empire which had retaken it in 629. The Byzantine ban on the Jews was lifted and they were allowed to live inside the city and visit the places of worship. Christian pilgrims were able to come and experience the Temple Mount area. The war between Seljuqs and Byzantine Empire and increasing Muslim violence against Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem instigated the Crusades. The Crusaders captured Jerusalem in 1099 and the Dome of the Rock was given to the Augustinians, who turned it into a church, and al-Aqsa Mosque became the royal palace of Baldwin I of Jerusalem in 1104. The Knights Templar, who believed the Dome of the Rock was the site of the Solomon's Temple, gave it the name "Templum Domini" and set up their headquarters in al-Aqsa Mosque adjacent to the Dome for much of the 12th century.
In Christian art, the circumcision of Jesus was conventionally depicted as taking place at the Temple, even though European artists until recently had no way of knowing what the Temple looked like and the Gospels do not state that the event took place at the Temple.
Though some Christians believe that the Temple will be reconstructed before, or concurrent with, the Second Coming of Jesus (also see dispensationalism), pilgrimage to the Temple Mount is not viewed as important in the beliefs and worship of most Christians. The New Testament recounts a story of a Samaritan woman asking Jesus about the appropriate place to worship, Jerusalem (as it was for the Jews) or Mount Gerizim (as it was for the Samaritans), to which Jesus replies:
Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.— John 4:21–24
This has been construed to mean that Jesus dispensed with physical location for worship, which was a matter rather of spirit and truth.
See also: Jerusalem in Islam
Main article: Holiest sites in Islam
Among both Sunni and Shia Muslims, the entire plaza, known as the al-Aqsa Mosque, also known as Haram al-Sharif or "the Noble Sanctuary", is considered the third holiest site in Islam. According to Islamic tradition, the plaza is the location of Muhammad's ascension to heaven from Jerusalem, and served as the first "qibla", the direction Muslims turn towards when praying. As in Judaism, Muslims also associate the site with Abraham, and other prophets who are also venerated in Islam. Muslims view the site as being one of the earliest and most noteworthy places of worship of God. They preferred to use the esplanade as the heart for the Muslim quarter, since it had been abandoned by Christians, to avoid disturbing the Christian quarters of Jerusalem. Umayyad Caliphs commissioned the construction of al-Aqsa Mosque on the site, including the shrine known as the "Dome of the Rock". The Dome was completed in 692 CE, making it one of the oldest extant Islamic structures in the world. The Al-Aqsa Mosque, sometimes known as the Qibli Mosque, rest on the far southern side of the Mount, facing Mecca.
Early Islam regarded the Foundation Stone as the location of Solomon's Temple, and the first architectural initiatives on the Temple Mount sought to glorify Jerusalem by presenting Islam as a continuation of Judaism and Christianity. Almost immediately after the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem in 638 CE, Caliph 'Omar ibn al Khatab, reportedly disgusted by the filth covering the site, had it thoroughly cleaned, and granted Jews access to the site. According to early Quranic interpreters and what is generally accepted as Islamic tradition, in 638 CE Umar, upon entering a conquered Jerusalem, consulted with Ka'ab al-Ahbar—a Jewish convert to Islam who came with him from Medina—as to where the best spot would be to build a mosque. Al-Ahbar suggested to him that it should be behind the Rock "... so that all of Jerusalem would be before you." Umar replied, "You correspond to Judaism!" Immediately after this conversation, Umar began to clean up the site—which was filled with trash and debris—with his cloak, and other Muslim followers imitated him until the site was clean. Umar then prayed at the spot where it was believed that Muhammad had prayed before his night journey, reciting the Quranic sura Sad. Thus, according to this tradition, Umar thereby reconsecrated the site as a mosque.
Muslim interpretations of the Quran agree that the Mount is the site of the Temple originally built by Solomon, considered a prophet in Islam, that was later destroyed. After the construction, Muslims believe, the temple was used for the worship of the one God by many prophets of Islam, including Jesus. Other Muslim scholars have used the Torah (called Tawrat in Arabic) to expand on the details of the temple. The term Bayt al-Maqdis (or Bayt al-Muqaddas), which frequently appears as a name of Jerusalem in early Islamic sources, is a cognate of the Hebrew term bēt ha-miqdāsh (בית המקדש), the Temple in Jerusalem. Mujir al-Din, a 15th century Jerusalemite chronicler, mentions an earlier tradition related by al-Wasti, according which "after David built many cities and the situation of the children of Israel was improved, he wanted to construct Bayt al-Maqdis and build a dome over the rock in the place that Allah sanctified in Aelia."
According to the Qur'an, Muhammad was transported to a site named Al-Aqsa Mosque—"the furthest place of prayer" (al-Masjid al-'Aqṣā) during his Night Journey (Isra and Mi'raj). The Qur'an describes how Muhammad was taken by the miraculous steed Buraq from the Great Mosque of Mecca to al-Aqsa Mosque where he prayed. After Muhammad finished his prayers, the angel Jibril (Gabriel) traveled with him to heaven, where he met several other prophets and led them in prayer.
Glory be to the One Who took His servant ˹Muḥammad˺ by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque whose surroundings We have blessed, so that We may show him some of Our signs. Indeed, He alone is the All-Hearing, All-Seeing.
The Qur'an does not mention the exact location of "the furthest place of prayer", and the city of Jerusalem is not mentioned by any of its names in the Qur'an. According to the Encyclopaedia of Islam, the phrase was originally understood as a reference to a site in the heavens. A group of Islamic scholars understood the story of Muhammad's ascension from al-Aqsa Mosque as relating to the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. Another group disagreed with this identification and preferred the meaning of the term as referring to heaven. Al-Bukhari and Al-Tabari, for example, are believed to have rejected the identification with Jerusalem. Eventually, a consensus emerged around the identification of the "furthest place of prayer" with Jerusalem, and by implication the Temple Mount. Later hadiths referred to Jerusalem as the site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque:
Narrated Jabir bin `Abdullah:
That he heard Allah's Messenger saying, "When the people of Quraish did not believe me (i.e. the story of my Night Journey), I stood up in Al-Hijr and Allah displayed Jerusalem in front of me, and I began describing it to them while I was looking at it."
Some scholars point to the political motives of the Umayyad dynasty which led to the sanctification of Jerusalem in Islam. According to the Encyclopaedia of Islam, the Night Journey was associated with Jerusalem by the Umayyads as a political means to advance the glory of Jerusalem to compete with the glory of the sanctuary in Mecca then controlled by Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr. The construction of the Dome of the Rock was interpreted by Ya'qubi, a 9th-century Abbasid historian, as an Umayyad attempt to redirect the Hajj from Mecca to Jerusalem by creating a rival to the Ka'aba.
Other academics attribute the holiness of Jerusalem to the rise and expansion of a certain type of literary genre, known as al-Fadhail or history of cities. The Fadhail of Jerusalem inspired Muslims, especially during the Umayyad period, to embellish the sanctity of the city beyond its status in the holy texts. Based on the writings of the eighth century historians Al-Waqidi and al-Azraqi, some scholars have suggested that al-Aqsa Mosque mentioned in the Qur'an is not in Jerusalem but in the village of al-Ju'ranah, 18 miles northeast of Mecca.
Later medieval scripts, as well as modern-day political tracts, tend to classify al-Aqsa Mosque as the third holiest site in Islam.
The historical significance of al-Aqsa Mosque in Islam is further emphasized by the fact that Muslims turned towards al-Aqsa when they prayed for a period of 16 or 17 months after migration to Medina in 624; it thus became the qibla ("direction") that Muslims faced for prayer. Muhammad later prayed towards the Kaaba in Mecca after receiving a revelation during a prayer session  in the Masjid al-Qiblatayn. The qibla was relocated to the Kaaba where Muslims have been directed to pray ever since.
The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation refers to al-Aqsa Mosque as the third holiest site in Islam (and calls for Arab sovereignty over it).
Main article: Archaeological remnants of the Jerusalem Temple
The hill is believed to have been inhabited since the 4th millennium BCE.
Main article: First Temple
According to archeologists, the Temple Mount served as the center of the religious life of biblical Jerusalem as well as the royal acropolis of the Kingdom of Judah. The First Temple is believed to have once been a part of a much larger royal complex. Some scholars believe that, in accordance with biblical accounts, the royal and religious compound on the Temple Mount was built by Solomon during the 10th century BCE as a separate entity, which was later incorporated into the city. Knauf argued that the Temple Mount already served as the cultic and governmental center of Jerusalem as early as in the Late Bronze Age. Alternatively, Na'aman suggested that Solomon built the Temple on a much smaller scale than the one described in the Bible, which was enlarged or rebuilt during the 8th century BCE. In 2014, Finkelstein, Koch and Lipschits proposed that the tell of ancient Jerusalem lies beneath the modern-day compound, rather than the nearby archeological site known as the City of David, as mainstream archaeology believes; however, this proposal was rejected by other scholars of the subject.
iAll scholars agree that the Iron Age Temple Mount was smaller than the Herodian compound still visible today. Some scholars, such as Kenyon and Ritmeyer, argued that the walls of the First Temple compound extended eastward as far as the Eastern Wall. Ritmeyer identifies specific courses of visible ashlars located on to the northern and south of the Golden Gate as Judean Iron Age in style, dating them to the construction of this wall by Hezekiah. More such stones are supposed to survive underground. Ritmeyer has also suggested that one of the steps leading to the Dome of the Rock is actually the top of a remaining stone course of the western wall of the Iron Age compound.
The First Temple was destroyed in 587/586 BCE by the Neo-Babylonian Empire under Nebuchadnezzar II.
Construction of the Second Temple began under Cyrus in around 538 BCE, and was completed in 516 BCE. Evidence of a Hasmonean expansion of the Temple Mount has been recovered by archaeologist Leen Ritmeyer.
In 67 BCE a quarrel broke out between Aristobulus II and Hyrcanus II on the Hasmonean throne. Roman general Pompey, who had been invited to participate in the conflict, decided to side with Hyrcanus; Aristobulus and his followers barricaded themselves inside the Temple Mount and destroyed the bridge linking it to the city. When the Roman Army arrived in Jerusalem, Pompey ordered the moat defending the Temple Mount from the north to be filled in. To accomplish this, Pompey waited for Sabbaths, so the defenders wouldn't disrupt the work. After a three-month siege, the Romans were able to topple one of the guard towers and storm the Temple Mount. Pompey himself entered the Holy of Holies, but did not harm the Temple, and allowed the priests to continue their work as usual.
Around 19 BCE, Herod the Great further expanded the Mount and rebuilt the temple. The ambitious project, which involved the employment of 10,000 workers, more than doubled the size of the Temple Mount to approximately 36 acres (150,000 m2). Herod leveled the area by cutting away rock on the northwest side and raising the sloping ground to the south. He achieved this by constructing huge buttress walls and vaults, and filling the necessary sections with earth and rubble. A basilica, called by Josephus "the Royal Stoa", was constructed on the southern end of the expanded platform, which provided a focus for the city's commercial and legal transactions, and which was provided with separate access to the city below via the Robinson's Arch overpass. In addition to restoration of the Temple, its courtyards and porticoes, Herod also built the Antonia Fortress, abutting the northwestern corner of the Temple Mount, and a rainwater reservoir, Birket Israel, in the northeast.
When Jerusalem was besieged by the Romans during the First Jewish-Roman War in 70 CE, the Temple Mount became a major center of fighting. As the Romans retook the site, the Second Temple, the Antonia Fortress, the stoas and other structures were destroyed. Massive stone collapses from the upper walls were discovered laying over the Herodian street that runs along the Western Wall. Some of the stones burned at temperatures reaching 800 °C (1472°F). The Trumpeting Place inscription, a monumental Hebrew inscription which was thrown down by Roman legionnaires, was found in one of the stone piles.
The city of Aelia Capitolina was built in 130 CE by the Roman emperor Hadrian, and occupied by a Roman colony on the site of Jerusalem, which was still in ruins from the First Jewish Revolt in 70 CE. Aelia came from Hadrian's nomen gentile, Aelius, while Capitolina meant that the new city was dedicated to Jupiter Capitolinus, to whom a temple was built overlapping the site of the former second Jewish temple, the Temple Mount.
Hadrian had intended the construction of the new city as a gift to the Jews, but since he had constructed a giant statue of himself in front of the Temple of Jupiter and the Temple of Jupiter had a huge statue of Jupiter inside of it, there were on the Temple Mount now two enormous graven images, which Jews considered idolatrous. It was also customary in Roman rites to sacrifice a pig in land purification ceremonies. After the Third Jewish Revolt, all Jews were forbidden on pain of death from entering the city or the surrounding territory around the cite.
From the first through the seventh centuries Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire, gradually became the predominant religion of Palestine and under the Byzantines Jerusalem itself was almost completely Christian, with most of the population being Jacobite Christians of the Syrian rite.
Emperor Constantine I promoted the Christianization of Roman society, giving it precedence over pagan cults. One consequence was that Hadrian's Temple to Jupiter on the Temple Mount was demolished immediately following the First Council of Nicea in 325 CE on orders of Constantine.
The Bordeaux Pilgrim, who visited Jerusalem in 333–334, during the reign of Emperor Constantine I, wrote that "There are two statues of Hadrian, and, not far from them, a pierced stone to which the Jews come every year and anoint. They mourn and rend their garments, and then depart." The occasion is assumed to have been Tisha b'Av, since decades later Jerome related that that was the only day on which Jews were permitted to enter Jerusalem.
Constantine's nephew Emperor Julian granted permission in the year 363 for the Jews to rebuild the Temple. In a letter attributed to Julian he wrote to the Jews that "This you ought to do, in order that, when I have successfully concluded the war in Persia, I may rebuild by my own efforts the sacred city of Jerusalem, which for so many years you have longed to see inhabited, and may bring settlers there, and, together with you, may glorify the Most High God therein." Julian saw the Jewish God as a fitting member of the pantheon of gods he believed in, and he was also a strong opponent of Christianity. Church historians wrote that the Jews began to clear away the structures and rubble on the Temple Mount but were thwarted, first by a great earthquake, and then by miracles that included fire springing from the earth. However, no contemporary Jewish sources mention this episode directly.
During his excavations in the 1930s, Robert Hamilton uncovered portions of a multicolor mosaic floor with geometric patterns inside al-Aqsa mosque, but didn't publish them. The date of the mosaic is disputed: Zachi Dvira considers that they are from the pre-Islamic Byzantine period, while Baruch, Reich and Sandhaus favor a much later Umayyad origin on account of their similarity to a known Umayyad mosaic.
In 610, the Sassanid Empire drove the Byzantine Empire out of the Middle East, giving the Jews control of Jerusalem for the first time in centuries. The Jews in Palestine were allowed to set up a vassal state under the Sassanid Empire called the Sassanid Jewish Commonwealth which lasted for five years. Jewish rabbis ordered the restart of animal sacrifice for the first time since the time of Second Temple and started to reconstruct the Jewish Temple. Shortly before the Byzantines took the area back five years later in 615, the Persians gave control to the Christian population, who tore down the partially built Jewish Temple edifice and turned it into a garbage dump, which is what it was when the Rashidun Caliph Umar took the city in 637.
In 637 Arabs besieged and captured the city from the Byzantine Empire, which had defeated the Persian forces and their allies, and reconquered the city. There are no contemporary records, but many traditions, about the origin of the main Islamic buildings on the mount. A popular account from later centuries is that the Rashidun Caliph Umar was led to the place reluctantly by the Christian patriarch Sophronius. He found it covered with rubbish, but the sacred Rock was found with the help of a converted Jew, Ka'b al-Ahbar. Al-Ahbar advised Umar to build a mosque to the north of the rock, so that worshippers would face both the rock and Mecca, but instead Umar chose to build it to the south of the rock. It became known as al-Aqsa Mosque. According to Muslim sources, Jews participated in the construction of the haram, laying the groundwork for both al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock mosques. The first known eyewitness testimony is that of the pilgrim Arculf who visited about 670. According to Arculf's account as recorded by Adomnán, he saw a rectangular wooden house of prayer built over some ruins, large enough to hold 3,000 people.
In 691 an octagonal Islamic building topped by a dome was built by the Caliph Abd al-Malik around the rock, for a myriad of political, dynastic and religious reasons, built on local and Quranic traditions articulating the site's holiness, a process in which textual and architectural narratives reinforced one another. The shrine became known as the Dome of the Rock (قبة الصخرة, Qubbat as-Sakhra). (The dome itself was covered in gold in 1920.) In 715 the Umayyads, led by the Caliph al-Walid I, built al-Aqsa Mosque (المسجد الأقصى, al-Masjid al-'Aqṣā, lit. "Furthest Mosque"), corresponding to the Islamic belief of Muhammad's miraculous nocturnal journey as recounted in the Quran and hadith. The term "Noble Sanctuary" or "Haram al-Sharif", as it was called later by the Mamluks and Ottomans, refers to the whole area that surrounds that Rock.
The Crusader period began in 1099 with the First Crusade's capture of Jerusalem. After the city's conquest, the Crusading order known as the Knights Templar was granted use of Al-Aqsa Mosque to use as their headquarters. This was probably by Baldwin II of Jerusalem and Warmund, Patriarch of Jerusalem at the Council of Nablus in January 1120. The Temple Mount had a mystique because it was above what were believed to be the ruins of the Temple of Solomon. The Crusaders therefore referred to al-Aqsa Mosque as Solomon's Temple, and it was from this location that the new Order took the name of "Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon", or "Templar" knights.
In 1187, once he retook Jerusalem, Saladin removed all traces of Christian worship from the Temple Mount, returning the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque to their original purposes. It remained in Muslim hands thereafter, even during the relatively short periods of Crusader rule following the Sixth Crusade.
There are several Mamluk buildings on and around the Haram esplanade, such as the late 15th-century al-Ashrafiyya Madrasa and Sabil (fountain) of Qaitbay. The Mamluks also raised the level of Jerusalem's Central or Tyropoean Valley bordering the Temple Mount from the west by constructing huge substructures, on which they then built on a large scale. The Mamluk-period substructures and over-ground buildings are thus covering much of the Herodian western wall of the Temple Mount.
Following the Ottoman conquest of Palestine in 1516, the Ottoman authorities continued the policy of prohibiting non-Muslims from setting foot on the Temple Mount until the early 19th century, when non-Muslims were again permitted to visit the site.[better source needed]
In 1867, a team from the Royal Engineers, led by Lieutenant Charles Warren and financed by the Palestine Exploration Fund (P.E.F.), discovered a series of tunnels near the Temple Mount. Warren secretly excavated some tunnels near the Temple Mount walls and was the first one to document their lower courses. Warren also conducted some small scale excavations inside the Temple Mount, by removing rubble that blocked passages leading from the Double Gate chamber.
Main article: 1929 Palestine riots
Between 1922 and 1924, the Dome of the Rock was restored by the Islamic Higher Council. The Zionist movement at the time was strongly opposed to any notion that the Temple itself might be rebuilt. Indeed, its armed wing, the Haganah militia, assassinated a Jewish man when his plan to blow up the Islamic sites on the Haram came to their attention in 1931.
Jordan undertook two renovations of the Dome of the Rock, replacing the leaking, wooden inner dome with an aluminum dome in 1952, and, when the new dome leaked, carrying out a second restoration between 1959 and 1964.
Neither Israeli Arabs nor Israeli Jews could visit their holy places in the Jordanian territories during this period.
On 7 June 1967, during the Six-Day War, Israeli forces advanced beyond the 1949 Armistice Agreement Line into West Bank territories, taking control of the Old City of Jerusalem, inclusive of the Temple Mount.
The Chief Rabbi of the Israeli Defense Forces, Shlomo Goren, led the soldiers in religious celebrations on the Temple Mount and at the Western Wall. The Israeli Chief Rabbinate also declared a religious holiday on the anniversary, called "Yom Yerushalayim" (Jerusalem Day), which became a national holiday to commemorate the reunification of Jerusalem. Many saw the capture of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount as a miraculous liberation of biblical-messianic proportions. A few days after the war over 200,000 Jews flocked to the Western Wall in the first mass Jewish pilgrimage near the Mount since the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. Islamic authorities did not disturb Goren when he went to pray on the Mount until, on the Ninth Day of Av, he brought 50 followers and introduced both a shofar, and a portable ark to pray, an innovation which alarmed the Waqf authorities and led to a deterioration of relations between the Muslim authorities and the Israeli government.
In June 1969 an Australian set fire to the Jami'a al-Aqsa. On April 11, 1982, a Jew hid in the Dome of the Rock and sprayed gunfire, killing 2 Palestinians and wounding 44; in 1974, 1977 and 1983 groups led by Yoel Lerner conspired to blow up both the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa. On 26 January 1984 Waqf guards detected members of B'nei Yehuda, a messianic cult of former gangsters turned mystics based in Lifta, trying to infiltrate the area to blow it up.
On 15 January 1988, during the First Intifada, Israeli troops fired rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters outside the mosque, wounding 40 worshipers.
On October 8, 1990, Israeli forces patrolling the site blocked worshippers from reaching it. A tear gas canister was set off among the female worshippers, which caused events to escalate. On 12 October 1990 Palestinian Muslims protested violently the intention of some extremist Jews to lay a cornerstone on the site for a New Temple as a prelude to the destruction of the Muslim mosques. The attempt was blocked by Israeli authorities but demonstrators were widely reported as having stoned Jews at the Western Wall. According to Palestinian historian Rashid Khalidi, investigative journalism has shown this allegation to be false. Rocks were eventually thrown, while security forces fired rounds that ended up killing 21 people and injuring 150 more. An Israeli inquiry found Israeli forces at fault, but it also concluded that charges could not be brought against any particular individuals.
On 8 October 1990, 22 Palestinians were killed and over 100 others injured by Israeli Border Police during protests that were triggered by the announcement of the Temple Mount Faithful, a group of religious Jews, that they were going to lay the cornerstone of the Third Temple. Between 1992 and 1994, the Jordanian government undertook the unprecedented step of gilding the dome of the Dome of the Rock, covering it with 5000 gold plates, and restoring and reinforcing the structure. The Salah Eddin minbar was also restored. The project was paid for by King Hussein personally, at a cost of $8 million. The Temple Mount remains, under the terms of the 1994 Israel–Jordan peace treaty, under Jordanian custodianship. In December 1997, Israeli security services preempted an attempt by Jewish extremists to throw a pig's head wrapped in the pages of the Quran into the area, in order to spark a riot and embarrass the government.
On 28 September 2000, then-opposition leader of Israel Ariel Sharon and members of the Likud Party, along with 1,000 armed guards, visited the al-Aqsa compound. The visit was seen as a provocative gesture by many Palestinians, who gathered around the site. After Sharon and the Likud Party members left, a demonstration erupted and Palestinians on the grounds of the Haram al-Sharif began throwing stones and other projectiles at Israeli riot police. Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the crowd, injuring 24 people. The visit sparked a five-year uprising by the Palestinians, commonly referred to as the al-Aqsa Intifada, though some commentators, citing subsequent speeches by PA officials, particularly Imad Falouji and Arafat himself, claim that the Intifada had been planned months in advance, as early as July upon Yasser Arafat's return from Camp David talks. On 29 September, the Israeli government deployed 2,000 riot police to the mosque. When a group of Palestinians left the mosque after Friday prayers (Jumu'ah,) they hurled stones at the police. The police then stormed the mosque compound, firing both live ammunition and rubber bullets at the group of Palestinians, killing four and wounding about 200.
Jews were not allowed to visit for approximately one thousand years.
In the first ten years of British rule in Palestine, all were allowed entry to the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif complex. Sometimes violence broke out at the entrance between Jews and Muslims. During the 1929 Palestine riots, Jews were accused of violating the status quo Following the riots, the Supreme Muslim Council and the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf prohibited Jews from entering the site’s gates. During the mandate period, Jewish leaders celebrated ancient religious practices at the Western Wall. The ban on visitors continued until 1948
Although the 1949 Armistice Agreement called for "resumption of the normal functioning of the cultural and humanitarian institutions on Mount Scopus and free access thereto; free access to the Holy Places and cultural institutions and use of the cemetery on the Mount of Olives.", in practice, wire and concrete barriers were the reality. Cultural and religious sites in both sides of the city were destroyed and neglected and the Jewish community barred from its sacred places.
A few days after the Six-Day War, on June 17, 1967, a meeting was held at al-Aqsa between Moshe Dayan and Muslim religious authorities of Jerusalem reformulating the status quo. Jews were given the right to visit the Temple Mount unobstructed and free of charge if they respected Muslims' religious feelings and acted decently, but they were not allowed to pray. The Western Wall was to remain the Jewish place of prayer. 'Religious sovereignty' was to remain with the Muslims while 'overall sovereignty' became Israeli. The Muslims objected to Dayan's offer, as they completely rejected the Israeli conquest of Jerusalem and the Mount. Some Jews, led by Shlomo Goren, then the military chief rabbi, had objected as well, claiming the decision handed over the complex to the Muslims, since the Western Wall's holiness is derived from the Mount and symbolizes exile, while praying on the Mount symbolizes freedom and the return of the Jewish people to their homeland. The President of the High Court of Justice, Aharon Barak, in response to an appeal in 1976 against police interference with an individual's putative right to prayer on the site, expressed the view that, while Jews had a right to prayer there, it was not absolute but subject to the public interest and the rights of other groups. Israel's courts have considered the issue as one beyond their remit, and, given the delicacy of the matter, under political jurisdiction. He wrote:
The basic principle is that every Jew has the right to enter the Temple Mount, to pray there, and to have communion with his maker. This is part of the religious freedom of worship, it is part of the freedom of expression. However, as with every human right, it is not absolute, but a relative right... Indeed, in a case where there is near certainty that injury may be caused to the public interest if a person's rights of religious worship and freedom of expression would be realized, it is possible to limit the rights of the person in order to uphold the public interest.
Police continued to forbid Jews to pray on the Temple Mount. Subsequently, several prime ministers also made attempts to change the status quo, but failed to do so. In October 1986, an agreement between the Temple Mount Faithful, the Supreme Muslim Council and police, which would allow short visits in small groups, was exercised once and never repeated, after 2,000 Muslims armed with stones and bottles attacked the group and stoned worshipers at the Western Wall. During the 1990s, additional attempts were made for Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, which were stopped by Israeli police.
Until 2000, non-Muslim visitors could enter the Dome of the Rock, al-Aqsa Mosque and the Islamic Museum by getting a ticket from the Waqf. This procedure ended when the Second Intifada erupted. Fifteen years later, negotiation between Israel and Jordan might result[needs update] in reopening of those sites once again.
In the 2010s, fear arose among Palestinians that Israel planned to change the status quo and permit Jewish prayers or that al-Aqsa mosque might be damaged or destroyed by Israel. Al-Aqsa was used as a base for attacks on visitors and the police from which stones, firebombs and fireworks were thrown. The Israeli police had never entered al-Aqsa Mosque until November 5, 2014, when dialog with the leaders of the Waqf and the rioters failed. This resulted in imposing strict limitations on entry of visitors to the Temple Mount. Israeli leadership repeatedly stated that the status quo would not change. According to then Jerusalem police commissioner Yohanan Danino, the place is at the center of a "holy war" and "anyone who wants to change the status quo on the Temple Mount should not be allowed up there", citing an "extreme right-wing agenda to change the status quo on the Temple Mount"; Hamas and Islamic Jihad continued to erroneously assert that the Israeli government planned to destroy Al-Aksa Mosque, resulting in chronic terrorist attacks and rioting.
There have been several changes to the status quo:
Many Palestinians believe the status quo is threatened since right-wing Israelis have been challenging it with more force and frequency, asserting a religious right to pray there. Until Israel banned them, members of Murabitat, a group of women, cried 'Allah Akbar' at groups of Jewish visitors to remind them the Temple Mount was still in Muslim hands. In October 2021, a Jewish man, Aryeh Lippo, who was banned by Israeli police from the Temple Mount for fifteen days after being caught quietly praying, had his ban overturned by an Israeli court on the grounds that his behavior had not violated police instructions. Hamas called the ruling "a clear declaration of war". A higher Israel court quickly reversed the lower court's ruling.
See also: Temple Mount entry restrictions
An Islamic Waqf has managed the Temple Mount continuously since the Muslim reconquest of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1187. On June 7, 1967, soon after Israel had taken control of the area during the Six-Day War, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol assured that "no harm whatsoever shall come to the places sacred to all religions". Together with the extension of Israeli jurisdiction and administration over east Jerusalem, the Knesset passed the Preservation of the Holy Places Law, ensuring protection of the Holy Places against desecration, as well as freedom of access thereto. The site remains within the area controlled by the State of Israel, with administration of the site remaining in the hands of the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf.
Although freedom of access was enshrined in the law, as a security measure, the Israeli government currently enforces a ban on non-Muslim prayer on the site. Non-Muslims who are observed praying on the site are subject to expulsion by the police. At various times, when there is fear of Arab rioting upon the mount resulting in throwing stones from above towards the Western Wall Plaza, Israel has prevented Muslim men under 45 from praying in the compound, citing these concerns. Sometimes such restrictions have coincided with Friday prayers during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Normally, West Bank Palestinians are allowed access to Jerusalem only during Islamic holidays, with access usually restricted to men over 35 and women of any age eligible for permits to enter the city. Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, which because of Israel's annexation of Jerusalem, hold Israeli permanent residency cards, and Israeli Arabs, are permitted unrestricted access to the Temple Mount. The Mughrabi Gate is the only entrance to the Temple Mount accessible to non-Muslims.
Due to religious restrictions on entering the most sacred areas of the Temple Mount (see following section), the Western Wall, a retaining wall for the Temple Mount and remnant of the Second Temple structure, is considered by some rabbinical authorities to be the holiest accessible site for Jews to pray at. A 2013 Knesset committee hearing considered allowing Jews to pray at the site, amidst heated debate. Arab-Israeli MPs were ejected for disrupting the hearing, after shouting at the chairman, calling her a "pyromaniac". Religious Affairs Minister Eli Ben-Dahan of Jewish Home said his ministry was seeking legal ways to enable Jews to pray at the site.
Main article: Temple Warning inscription
During Temple times, entry to the Mount was limited by a complex set of purity laws. Persons suffering from corpse uncleanness were not allowed to enter the inner court. Non-Jews were also prohibited from entering the inner court of the Temple. A hewn stone measuring 60 cm × 90 cm (24 in × 35 in) and engraved with Greek uncials was discovered in 1871 near a court on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem in which it outlined this prohibition:
Translation: "Let no foreigner enter within the parapet and the partition which surrounds the Temple precincts. Anyone caught [violating] will be held accountable for his ensuing death." Today, the stone is preserved in Istanbul's Museum of Antiquities.
Maimonides wrote that it was only permitted to enter the site to fulfill a religious precept. After the destruction of the Temple there was discussion as to whether the site, bereft of the Temple, still maintained its holiness or not. Jewish codifiers accepted the opinion of Maimonides who ruled that the holiness of the Temple sanctified the site for eternity and consequently the restrictions on entry to the site are still currently in force. While secular Jews ascend freely, the question of whether ascending is permitted is a matter of some debate among religious authorities, with a majority holding that it is permitted to ascend to the Temple Mount, but not to step on the site of the inner courtyards of the ancient Temple. The question then becomes whether the site can be ascertained accurately.[better source needed]
There is debate over whether reports that Maimonides himself ascended the Mount are reliable. One such report claims that he did so on Thursday, October 21, 1165, during the Crusader period. Some early scholars however, claim that entry onto certain areas of the Mount is permitted. It appears that Radbaz also entered the Mount and advised others how to do this. He permits entry from all the gates into the 135 x 135 cubits of the Women's Courtyard in the east, since the biblical prohibition only applies to the 187 x 135 cubits of the Temple in the west. There are also Christian and Islamic sources which indicate that Jews visited the site, but these visits may have been made under duress.
A few hours after the Temple Mount came under Israeli control during the Six-Day War, a message from the Chief Rabbis of Israel, Isser Yehuda Unterman and Yitzhak Nissim was broadcast, warning that Jews were not permitted to enter the site. This warning was reiterated by the Council of the Chief Rabbinate a few days later, which issued an explanation written by Rabbi Bezalel Jolti (Zolti) that "Since the sanctity of the site has never ended, it is forbidden to enter the Temple Mount until the Temple is built." The signatures of more than 300 prominent rabbis were later obtained.
A major critic of the decision of the Chief Rabbinate was Rabbi Shlomo Goren, the chief rabbi of the IDF. According to General Uzi Narkiss, who led the Israeli force that conquered the Temple Mount, Goren proposed to him that the Dome of the Rock be immediately blown up. After Narkiss refused, Goren unsuccessfully petitioned the government to close off the Mount to Jews and non-Jews alike. Later he established his office on the Mount and conducted a series of demonstrations on the Mount in support of the right of Jewish men to enter there. His behavior displeased the government, which restricted his public actions, censored his writings, and in August prevented him from attending the annual Oral Law Conference at which the question of access to the Mount was debated. Although there was considerable opposition, the conference consensus was to confirm the ban on entry to Jews. The ruling said "We have been warned, since time immemorial [lit. 'for generations and generations'], against entering the entire area of the Temple Mount and have indeed avoided doing so." According to Ron Hassner, the ruling "brilliantly" solved the government's problem of avoiding ethnic conflict, since those Jews who most respected rabbinical authority were those most likely to clash with Muslims on the Mount.
Rabbinical consensus in the post-1967 period, held that it is forbidden for Jews to enter any part of the Temple Mount, and in January 2005 a declaration was signed confirming the 1967 decision.
Most Haredi rabbis are of the opinion that the Mount is off limits to Jews and non-Jews alike. Their opinions against entering the Temple Mount are based on the current political climate surrounding the Mount, along with the potential danger of entering the hallowed area of the Temple courtyard and the impossibility of fulfilling the ritual requirement of cleansing oneself with the ashes of a red heifer. The boundaries of the areas which are completely forbidden, while having large portions in common, are delineated differently by various rabbinic authorities.
However, there is a growing body of Modern Orthodox and national religious rabbis who encourage visits to certain parts of the Mount, which they believe are permitted according to most medieval rabbinical authorities.[better source needed] These rabbis include: Shlomo Goren (former Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel); Chaim David Halevi (former Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv and Yafo); Dov Lior (Rabbi of Kiryat Arba); Yosef Elboim; Yisrael Ariel; She'ar Yashuv Cohen (Chief Rabbi of Haifa); Yuval Sherlo (rosh yeshiva of the hesder yeshiva of Petah Tikva); Meir Kahane. One of them, Shlomo Goren, held that it is possible that Jews are even allowed to enter the heart of the Dome of the Rock in time of war, according to Jewish Law of Conquest. These authorities demand an attitude of veneration on the part of Jews ascending the Temple Mount, ablution in a mikveh prior to the ascent, and the wearing of non-leather shoes.[better source needed] Some rabbinic authorities are now of the opinion that it is imperative for Jews to ascend in order to halt the ongoing process of Islamization of the Temple Mount. Maimonides, perhaps the greatest codifier of Jewish Law, wrote in Laws of the Chosen House ch 7 Law 15 "One may bring a dead body in to the (lower sanctified areas of the) Temple Mount and there is no need to say that the ritually impure (from the dead) may enter there, because the dead body itself can enter". One who is ritually impure through direct or in-direct contact of the dead cannot walk in the higher sanctified areas. For those who are visibly Jewish, they have no choice, but to follow a peripheral route as it has become unofficially part of the status quo on the Mount. Many of these recent opinions rely on archaeological evidence.[better source needed]
In December 2013, the two Chief Rabbis of Israel, David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef, reiterated the ban on Jews entering the Temple Mount. They wrote, "In light of [those] neglecting [this ruling], we once again warn that nothing has changed and this strict prohibition remains in effect for the entire area [of the Temple Mount]". In November 2014, the Sephardic chief rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, reiterated the point of view held by many rabbinic authorities that Jews should not visit the Mount.
On the occasion of an upsurge in Palestinian knifing attacks on Israelis, associated with fears that Israel was changing the status quo on the Mount, the Haredi newspaper Mishpacha ran a notification in Arabic asking 'their cousins', Palestinians, to stop trying to murder members of their congregation, since they were vehemently opposed to ascending the Mount and consider such visits proscribed by Jewish law.
The large courtyard (sahn) can host more than 400,000 worshippers, making it one of the largest mosques in the world.
The upper platform was built around the peak of the Temple Mount, carrying the Dome of the Rock; the peak just breaches the floor level of the upper platform within the Dome of the Rock, in the shape of a large limestone outcrop, which is part of the bedrock. Beneath the surface of this rock there is a cave known as the Well of Souls, originally accessible only by a narrow hole in the rock itself; the Crusaders hacked open an entrance to the cave from the south, by which it can now be entered.
There is also a smaller domed building on the upper platform, slightly to the east of the Dome of the Rock, known as the Dome of the Chain — traditionally the location where a chain once rose to heaven.
Several stairways rise to the upper platform from the lower; that at the northwest corner is believed by some archaeologists be part of a much wider monumental staircase, mostly hidden or destroyed, and dating from the Second Temple era.
The lower platform – which constitutes most of the surface of the Temple Mount – has at its southern end al-Aqsa Mosque, which takes up most of the width of the Mount. Gardens take up the eastern and most of the northern side of the platform; the far north of the platform houses an Islamic school.
The lower platform also houses an ablution fountain (known as al-Kas), originally supplied with water via a long narrow aqueduct leading from the so-called Solomon's Pools near Bethlehem, but now supplied from Jerusalem's water mains.
There are several cisterns beneath the lower platform, designed to collect rain water as a water supply. These have various forms and structures, seemingly built in different periods, ranging from vaulted chambers built in the gap between the bedrock and the platform, to chambers cut into the bedrock itself. Of these, the most notable are (numbering traditionally follows Wilson's scheme):
Main article: Gates of the Temple Mount
The retaining walls of the platform contain several gateways, all currently blocked. In the eastern wall is the Golden Gate, through which legend states the Jewish Messiah would enter Jerusalem. On the southern face are the Hulda Gates — the triple gate (which has three arches) and the double gate (which has two arches, and is partly obscured by a Crusader building); these were the entrance and exit (respectively) to the Temple Mount from Ophel (the oldest part of Jerusalem), and the main access to the Mount for ordinary Jews. In the western face, near the southern corner, is the Barclay's Gate – only half visible due to a building (the "house of Abu Sa'ud") on the northern side. Also in the western face, hidden by later construction but visible via the recent Western Wall Tunnels, and only rediscovered by Warren, is Warren's Gate; the function of these western gates is obscure, but many Jews view Warren's Gate as particularly holy, due to its location due west of the Dome of the Rock. The current location of the Dome of the Rock is considered one of the possible locations where the Holy of Holies was placed; numerous alternative opinions exist, based on study and calculations, such as those of Tuvia Sagiv.
Warren was able to investigate the inside of these gates. Warren's Gate and the Golden Gate simply head towards the centre of the Mount, fairly quickly giving access to the surface by steps. Barclay's Gate is similar, but abruptly turns south as it does so; the reason for this is currently unknown. The double and triple gates (the Huldah Gates) are more substantial; heading into the Mount for some distance they each finally have steps rising to the surface just north of al-Aqsa Mosque. The passageway for each is vaulted, and has two aisles (in the case of the triple gate, a third aisle exists for a brief distance beyond the gate); the eastern aisle of the double gates and western of the triple gates reach the surface, the other aisles terminating some way before the steps – Warren believed that one aisle of each original passage was extended when al-Aqsa Mosque blocked the original surface exits.
In the process of investigating Cistern 10, Warren discovered tunnels that lay under the Triple Gate passageway. These passages lead in erratic directions, some leading beyond the southern edge of the Temple Mount (they are at a depth below the base of the walls); their purpose is currently unknown – as is whether they predate the Temple Mount – a situation not helped by the fact that apart from Warren's expedition no one else is known to have visited them.
Altogether, there are six major sealed gates and a postern, listed here counterclockwise, dating from either the Roman/Herodian, Byzantine, or Early Muslim periods:
Main article: Gates of the Temple Mount
There are currently eleven open gates offering access to the Muslim Haram al-Sharif.
Two twin gates follow south of the Ablution Gate, the Tranquility Gate and the Gate of the Chain:
A twelfth gate still open during Ottoman rule is now closed to the public:
East of and joined to the triple gate passageway is a large vaulted area, supporting the southeastern corner of the Temple Mount platform – which is substantially above the bedrock at this point – the vaulted chambers here are popularly referred to as Solomon's Stables. They were used as stables by the Crusaders, but were built by Herod the Great – along with the platform they were built to support.
Main article: Minarets of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound
The existing four minarets include three near the Western Wall and one near the northern wall. The first minaret was constructed on the southwest corner of the Temple Mount in 1278. The second was built in 1297 by order of a Mameluk king, the third by a governor of Jerusalem in 1329, and the last in 1367.
The complex is bordered on the south and east by the outer walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. On the north and west it is bordered by two long porticos (riwaq), built during the Mamluk period.
Main article: Excavations at the Temple Mount
Due to the extreme political sensitivity of the site, no real archaeological excavations have ever been conducted on the Temple Mount itself. Protests commonly occur whenever archaeologists conduct projects near the Mount. This sensitivity has not, however, prevented both Jewish and Muslim works from accusations of destroying archeological evidence on a number of occasions. Aside from visual observation of surface features, most other archaeological knowledge of the site comes from the 19th-century survey carried out by Charles Wilson and Charles Warren and others. Since the Waqf is granted almost full autonomy on the Islamic holy sites, Israeli archaeologists have been prevented from inspecting the area, and are restricted to conducting excavations around the Temple Mount.
After the Six-Day War of 1967, Israeli archeologists began a series of excavations near the site at the southern wall that uncovered finds from the Second Temple period through Roman, Umayyad and Crusader times. Israeli archaeological digs at the southwestern corner of Temple Mount discovered traces of four Muslim palaces built under the Umayyad Caliphate, though the remains have not been well preserved but instead had a museum built upon them. The former UN envoy to Jerusalem, Raymond M. Lemaire, criticised "the construction of a metallic pergola in the middle of the courtyard of one of the Umayyad palaces, which disfigures the site." Upon visiting Jerusalem in September 1999, medieval art historian Léon Pressouyre noted that the palaces had lost their archaeological features due to neglect, "for in the guise of highlighting the remains of previous periods [the Israeli authorities] trivialise the Umayyad palaces, major monuments in the area".
Over the period 1970–88, a number of tunnels were excavated in the vicinity, including one that passed to the west of the Mount and became known as the Western Wall Tunnel, which was opened to the public in 1996. The same year the Waqf began construction of a new mosque in the structures known since Crusader times as Solomon's Stables. Many Israelis regarded this as a radical change of the status quo, which should not have been undertaken without first consulting the Israeli government. The project was done without attention to the possibility of disturbing historically significant archaeological material, with stone and ancient artifacts treated without regard to their preservation.
Israeli organizations such as the Committee to Prevent the Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount argue that Palestinians are deliberately removing significant amounts of archaeological evidence about the Jewish past of the site and claim to have found significant artifacts in the fill removed by bulldozers and trucks from the Temple Mount. Since the late 1990s, the Temple Mount Sifting Project has been reclaiming earth from similar illegal excavations on the mount that had been dumped in the nearby Kidron Valley that had yielded important finds, including Iron Age figurines, a 8th or 7th centuries BCE clay sealing inscribed in Hebrew, Persian period YHD coins, Herodian opus sectile tiles, Byzantine tesserae, and arrowheads, mostly from the Crusader period.
In late 2002, a bulge of about 700 mm (28 in) was reported in the southern retaining wall part of the Temple Mount. A Jordanian team of engineers recommended replacing or resetting most of the stones in the affected area. In February 2004, the eastern wall of the Mount was damaged by an earthquake. The damage threatened to topple sections of the wall into the area known as Solomon's Stables. A few days later, a portion of retaining wall, supporting the earthen ramp that led from the Western Wall plaza to the Gate of the Moors on the Temple Mount, collapsed. In 2007 the Israel Antiquities Authority started work on the construction of a temporary wooden pedestrian pathway to replace the Mugrabi Gate ramp after a landslide in 2005 made it unsafe and in danger of collapse. The works sparked condemnation from Arab leaders.
In July 2007 the Muslim religious trust which administers the Mount began digging a 400-metre-long (1,300 ft), 1.5-metre-deep (4.9 ft) trench from the northern side of the Temple Mount compound to the Dome of the Rock in order to replace 40-year-old electric cables in the area. Israeli archaeologists accused the waqf of a deliberate act of cultural vandalism. Accusations of vandalism at the site resurfaced in 2018 and again in 2022.
Al-Aqsa Mosque The al-Aqsa Mosque (literally, "farthest mosque") is both a building and a complex of religious buildings in Jerusalem. It is known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary) and to Jews and Christians as the Har ha-Bayit or Temple Mount. The whole area of the Noble Sanctuary is considered by Muslims to be the al-Aqsa Mosque, and the entire precinct is inviolable according to Islamic law. It is considered specifically part of the waqf (endowment) land that had included the Western Wall (Wailing Wall), property of an Algerian family, and more generally a waqf of all of Islam. When viewed as a complex of buildings, the al-Aqsa Mosque is dominated and bounded by two major structures: the al-Aqsa Mosque building on the east and the Dome of the Rock (or the Mosque of Omar) on the west. The Dome of the Rock is the oldest holy building in Islam.
Whole site also considered by Muslims as Al Aqsa Mosque
…the historic Gates and windows of the Qibli Mosque inside Al-Aqsa Mosque/ Al-Haram Al-Sharif, which is a Muslim holy site of worship and an integral part of a World Heritage Site
The author intends … to deal with a single space—the space which, if we wish to use a strictly neutral term, may be called ‘Jerusalem’s sacred esplanade’.
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The conflict about sovereignty over Jerusalem encompasses conflict over control of the Holy Esplanade, called al-Haram ash-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary) by Muslims and Har HaBayit (the Temple Mount) by Jews.
The holy house has most commonly assumed to be located on the same spot as the Moslem holy structure known as the Dome of the Rock. This assumption has been held for centuries for the following reasons: The rock out-cropping under the Dome of the Rock is the main natural feature within the Haram enclosure; the Dome of the Rock is centrally located within the esplanade, and, at 2,440 feet above sea level, the Dome of the Rock is one of the highests point within the area.
The Temple Mount has never been the focus of a modern archaeological excavation
The sources for the first temple are solely biblical, and no substantial archaeological remains have been verified.
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Al 'Aqsa is the second oldest mosque in Islam after the Kaaba in Mecca and is third in holiness after the mosques in Mecca and Medina. It holds up to 400,000 worshippers at one time.
... The Temple Mount, al-Haram al-Sharif, is a large esplanade (sahn in Arabic) ...
The holy site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif or al-Aqsa is central to both the Jewish and Palestinian Arab national movements… Al-Aqsa can thus be seen as the central symbol of Palestinian nationalism... One should bear in mind that since the emergence of nationalism in the Arab world, important schools have insisted on separation of religion and state. In addition, a degree of tension exists between al-Aqsa’s two aspects, as a national symbol uniting Palestinian Muslims and Christians, and al-Aqsa as an exclusively Muslim symbol. In other words, the intentions of Palestinians united under the banner of al-Aqsa are not all the same… For the Palestinians, al-Aqsa is a singular focal point of self-respect and religious destiny. This heightens their commitment to the site, without connection to their religious affiliation (Muslim or Christian) or level of religious belief and observance.
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This article deals with the employment of religious symbols for national identities and national narratives by using the sacred compound in Jerusalem (The Temple Mount/al-Aqsa) as a case study. The narrative of The Holy Land involves three concentric circles, each encompassing the other, with each side having its own names for each circle. These are: Palestine/Eretz Israel (i.e., the Land of Israel); Jerusalem/al-Quds and finally The Temple Mount/al-Aqsa compound...Within the struggle over public awareness of Jerusalem's importance, one particular site is at the eye of the storm—the Temple Mount and its Western Wall—the Jewish Kotel—or, in Muslim terminology, the al-Aqsa compound (alternatively: al-Haram al-Sharif) including the al-Buraq Wall... "Al-Aqsa" for the Palestinian-Arab-Muslim side is not merely a mosque mentioned in the Quran within the context of the Prophet Muhammad's miraculous Night Journey to al-Aqsa which, according to tradition, concluded with his ascension to heaven (and prayer with all of the prophets and the Jewish and Christian religious figures who preceded him); rather, it also constitutes a unique symbol of identity, one around which various political objectives may be formulated, plans of action drawn up and masses mobilized for their realization
The HS is also the third holiest site in Islam. Early Islam identified the location of the Holy Rock (known as the Foundation Stone among Jews) with the Temple of Solomon. The Dome of the Rock, built by the Caliph ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan at the end of the seventh century CE, was aimed to glorify the place with the understanding of Islam as a continuation of Judaism (and Christianity). Muslim writers related to the site with respect to its sacred continuity. For example, the fifteenth-century Arab historian of Jerusalem Mujir al-Din quotes an early tradition narrated by al-Wasti stating, "After David built many cities and the situation of the children of Israel was improved, he wanted to construct Bayt al-Maqdis [Jerusalem] and build a dome over the rock in the place that Allah sanctified in Aelia [the Roman Byzantine name of Jerusalem]". In another place, he writes, “Suleiman (Solomon) built Masjid Bayt al-Maqdis by the order of his father Da’ud (David).” However, during the twentieth century, against the backdrop of the struggle between the Zionist and the Palestinian-Arab national movements, a new Arab-Muslim trend of denying Jewish attachment to the Temple Mount arose. On the Jewish side, meanwhile, some nationalists and academics also belittled the importance to Muslims of the sacred site in particular and of Jerusalem in general, highlighting the fact that Jerusalem’s name never appears in the Qur’an and that the city never served as an Arab political center.
As shown before, Israel tried first to play with the definition of al-Aqsa as being only the Qibli Mosque building. This would give Israel an excuse to request a share in administrating the whole compound, claiming that not all of it is al-Aqsa Mosque
In part, the issue is one of the technical interpretations of WAC Statutes which require WAC to adhere to UN and UNESCO principles of Human Rights and official languages: whether the latter extends to adoption of UNESCO names for things and places is less clear. But it goes further than this: the names applied to places are also indications of claims of ownership and stakeholder status. Since WAC is also bound to defy the forcible occupation of territory and the oppression of peoples, to recognise ‘Temple Mount’ as a legitimate title is potentially to recognise Israeli claims and therefore implicitly offer support for Israeli occupation of Jerusalem in defiance of international condemnation.
The Jámi'a el-Aksa is the mosk alone; the Mesjid el-Aksa is the mosk with all the sacred enclosure and precincts, including the Sükhrah. Thus the words Mesjid and Jāmi'a differ in usage somewhat like the Greek ίερόν and ναός.
EXCURSUS ON THE NAME MASJID EL AKSA. In order to understand the native accounts of the sacred area at Jerusalem, it is essentially necessary to keep in mind the proper application of the various names by which it is spoken of. When the Masjid el Aksa is mentioned, that name is usually supposed to refer to the well-known mosque on the south side of the Haram, but such is not really the case. The latter building is called El Jámʻi el Aksa, or simply El Aksa, and the substructures are called El Aksa el Kadímeh (the ancient Aksa), while the title El Masjid el Aksa is applied to the whole sanctuary. The word Jámi is exactly equivalent in sense to the Greek συναγωγή, and is applied to the church or building in which the worshippers congregate. Masjid, on the other hand, is a much more general term; it is derived from the verb sejada “to adore," and is applied to any spot, the sacred character of which would especially incite the visitor to an act of devotion. Our word mosque is a corruption of masjid, but it is usually misapplied, as the building is never so designated, although the whole area on which it stands may be so spoken of. The Cubbet es Sakhrah, El Aksa, Jam'i el Magharibeh, &c., are each called a Jami, but the entire Haram is a masjid. This will explain how it is that 'Omar, after visiting the churches of the Anastasis, Sion, &c., was taken to the "Masjid" of Jerusalem, and will account for the statement of Ibn el 'Asa'kir and others, that the Masjid el Aksa measured over 600 cubits in length-that is, the length of the whole Haram area. The name Masjid el Aksa is borrowed from the passage in the Coran (xvii. 1), when allusion is made to the pretended ascent of Mohammed into heaven from ·the temple of Jerusalem; "Praise be unto Him who transported His servant by night from El Masjid el Haram (i.e., 'the Sacred place of Adoration' at Mecca) to El Masjid el Aksa (i.e., 'the Remote place of Adoration' at Jerusalem), the precincts of which we have blessed," &c. The title El Aksa, "the Remote," according to the Mohammedan doctors, is applied to the temple of Jerusalem "either because of its distance from Mecca, or because it is in the centre of the earth."
Great confusion is introduced into the Arab descriptions of the Noble Sanctuary by the indiscriminate use of the terms Al Masjid or Al Masjid al Akså, Jami' or Jami al Aksâ; and nothing but an intimate acquaintance with the locality described will prevent a translator, ever and again, misunderstanding the text he has before him-since the native authorities use the technical terms in an extraordinarily inexact manner, often confounding the whole, and its part, under the single denomination of "Masjid." Further, the usage of various writers differs considerably on these points : Mukaddasi invariably speaks of the whole Haram Area as Al Masjid, or as Al Masjid al Aksî, “the Akså Mosque,” or “the mosque," while the Main-building of the mosque, at the south end of the Haram Area, which we generally term the Aksa, he refers to as Al Mughattâ, “the Covered-part.” Thus he writes "the mosque is entered by thirteen gates," meaning the gates of the Haram Area. So also "on the right of the court,” means along the west wall of the Haram Area; "on the left side” means the east wall; and “at the back” denotes the northern boundary wall of the Haram Area. Nasir-i-Khusrau, who wrote in Persian, uses for the Main-building of the Aksâ Mosque the Persian word Pushish, that is, “Covered part,” which exactly translates the Arabic Al Mughatta. On some occasions, however, the Akså Mosque (as we call it) is spoken of by Näsir as the Maksurah, a term used especially to denote the railed-off oratory of the Sultan, facing the Mihrâb, and hence in an extended sense applied to the building which includes the same. The great Court of the Haram Area, Nâsir always speaks of as the Masjid, or the Masjid al Akså, or again as the Friday Mosque (Masjid-i-Jum'ah).
Sous la domination musulmane il fut agrandi, et c'est (aujourd'hui) la grande mosquée connue par les Musulmans sous le nom de Mesdjid el-Acsa مسجد الأقصى. Il n'en existe pas au monde qui l'égale en grandeur, si l'on en excepte toutefois la grande mosquée de Cordoue en Andalousie ; car, d'après ce qu'on rapporte, le toit de cette mosquée est plus grand que celui de la Mesdjid el-Acsa. Au surplus, l'aire de cette dernière forme un parallelogramme dont la hauteur est de deux cents brasses (ba'a), et le base de cents quatre-vingts. La moitié de cet espace, celle qui est voisin du Mihrab, est couverte d'un toit (ou plutôt d'un dôme) en pierres soutenu par plusieurs rangs de colonnes ; l'autre est à ciel ouvert. Au centre de l'édifice est un grand dôme connu sous le nom de Dôme de la roche; il fut orné d'arabesques en or et d'autres beaux ouvrages, par les soins de divers califes musulmans. Le dôme est percé de quatre portes; en face de celle qui est à l'occident, on voit l'autel sur lequel les enfants d'Israël offraient leurs sacrifices; auprès de la porte orientale est l'église nommée le saint des saints, d'une construction élégante ; au midi est une chapelle qui était à l'usage des Musulmans; mais les chrétiens s'en sont emparés de vive force et elle est restée en leur pouvoir jusqu'à l'époque de la composition du présent ouvrage. Ils ont converti cette chapelle en un couvent où résident des religieux de l'ordre des templiers, c'est-à-dire des serviteurs de la maison de Dieu.Also at Williams, G.; Willis, R. (1849). "Account of Jerusalem during the Frank Occupation, extracted from the Universal Geography of Edrisi. Climate III. sect. 5. Translated by P. Amédée Jaubert. Tome 1. pp. 341—345.". The Holy City: Historical, Topographical, and Antiquarian Notices of Jerusalem. J.W. Parker.
The following detailed account of the Haram es-Sherif, with some interesting notices of the City, is extracted from an Arabic work entitled “ The Sublime Companion to the History of Jerusalem and Hebron, by Kadi Mejir-ed-din, Ebil-yemen Abd-er-Rahman, El-Alemi,” who died A. H. 927, (A. d. 1521)… “I have at the commencement called attention to the fact that the place now called by the name Aksa (i. e. the most distant), is the Mosk [Jamia] properly so called, at the southern extremity of the area, where is the Minbar and the great Mihrab. But in fact Aksa is the name of the whole area enclosed within the walls, the dimensions of which I have just given, for the Mosk proper [Jamia], the Dome of the Rock, the Cloisters, and other buildings, are all of late construction, and Mesjid el-Aksa is the correct name of the whole area.”and also von Hammer-Purgstall, J.F. (1811). "Chapitre vingtième. Description de la mosquée Mesdjid-ol-aksa, telle qu'elle est de nos jours, (du temps de l'auteur, au dixième siècle de l'Hégire, au seizième après J. C.)". Fundgruben des Orients (in French). Vol. 2. Gedruckt bey A. Schmid. p. 93.
Nous avons dès le commencement appelé l'attention sur que l'endroit, auquel les hommes donnent aujourd'hui le nom d'Aksa, c'est à-dire, la plus éloignée, est la mosquée proprement dite, bâtie à l'extrêmité méridionale de l'enceinte où se trouve la chaire et le grand autel. Mais en effet Aksa est le nom de l'enceinte entière, en tant qu'elle est enfermée de murs, dont nous venons de donner la longueur et la largeur, car la mosquée proprement dite, le dôme de la roche Sakhra, les portiques et les autres bâtimens, sont tous des constructions récentes, et Mesdjidol-aksa est le véritable nom de toute l'enceinte. (Le Mesdjid des arabes répond à l'ίερόν et le Djami au ναός des grecs.)
Quoting Mujir al-Din: "Verily, ‘Al-Aqsa’ is a name for the whole mosque which is surrounded by the wall, the length and width of which are mentioned here, for the building that exists in the southern part of the Mosque, and the other ones such as the Dome of the Rock and the corridors and other [buildings] are novel"
THE AKSÀ MOSQUE. The great mosque of Jerusalem, Al Masjid al Aksà, the "Further Mosque," derives its name from the traditional Night Journey of Muhammad, to which allusion is made in the words of the Kuran (xvii. I)... the term "Mosque" being here taken to denote the whole area of the Noble Sanctuary, and not the Main-building of the Aksà only, which, in the Prophet's days, did not exist.
…the term Masjid (whence, through the Spanish Mezquita, our word Mosque) denotes the whole of the sacred edifice, comprising the main building and the court, with its lateral arcades and minor chapels. The earliest specimen of the Arab mosque consisted of an open courtyard, within which, round its four walls, run colonades or cloisters to give shelter to the worshippers. On the side of the court towards the Kiblah (in the direction of Mekka), and facing which the worshipper must stand, the colonade, instead of being single, is, for the convenience of the increased numbers of the congregation, widened out to form the Jami' or place of assembly… coming now to the Noble Sanctuary at Jerusalem, we must remember that the term 'Masjid’ belongs not only to the Aksa mosque (more properly the Jami’ or place of assembly for prayer), but to the whole enclosure with the Dome of the Rock in the middle, and all the other minor domes and chapels.
Not only do the Israeli occupation authorities prevent freedom of movement and freedom of worship, they interfere in defining Al-Aqsa Mosque by restricting the meaning of Al-Aqsa Mosque to the southernmost building, Qibli Mosque, rather than all 144 dunums or 36 acres.
As shown before, Israel tried first to play with the definition of al-Aqsa as being only the Qibli Mosque building. This would give Israel an excuse to request a share in administrating the whole compound, claiming that not all of it is al-Aqsa Mosque
…the historic Gates and windows of the Qibli Mosque inside Al-Aqsa Mosque/ Al-Haram Al-Sharif, which is a Muslim holy site of worship and an integral part of a World Heritage Site
The compound is an enclosed platform, with its western portion demarcated as the Jewish holy site of the Wailing Wall. Within the com- pound are two hallowed buildings: the Dome of the Rock and al-Qibli mosque.19 Muslims venerate the Dome of the Rock as the site where Muhammad ascended to heaven, and Jews honor the site where Abraham sacrificed Isaac. Al-Qibli mosque is noted by Muslims as the initial direc- tion for prayer before Mecca.
The New Testament writers used two different Greek words to describe the "temple": naos and hieron. Naos refers to the actual "sanctuary" of the temple, the place of God's dwelling. Hieron refers to the "temple precincts" as well as to the "sanctuary." Generally speaking, naos was used to designate the inner section of the temple known as the "holy place" and the "holy of holies," whereas hieron would designate the outer court and the temple proper.
The main characteristics of the primitive Arab mosque are well exemplified in the accompanying plan representing the Jâmi' of Ibn Talûn. This is the oldest mosque in Cairo… As here seen in its simplest form, the mosque primarily consisted of an open courtyard, within which, and round its four walls, ran colonnades or cloisters, to give shelter to the worshippers. On the side of the court towards the Kiblah (in the direction of Makkah), and facing which the worshipper must stand and kneel during prayers, the colonnade, instead of being single, is, for the convenience of the increased numbers of the congregation, widened out to form the Jâmi', or “place of assembly.” In the case of Ibn Talūn's Mosque, five rows of columns, with the boundary-wall, form the five transverse aisles (A to a). In the centre of the boundary-wall on the Makkah side is set the great Mihrab of the mosque (a), indicating the direction of the Kiblah. Now in all descriptions of a mosque it is taken for granted that the visitor is standing in the Court (as Sahn) of the mosque, and facing the Kiblah. Fronting him therefore is the Main-building, called the “covered-part” (al Mughattâ), or the “fore-part" (al Mukaddamah) of the mosque (A to a); while in his rear is the colonnade (B), single or double, against the wall of the courtyard, furthest from the Makkah-side, and this is called the “back" of the mosque (al Muakhkharah). The "right-hand side " of the mosque is in the neighbourhood of the colonnades (C), along the wall on the right of the Court when you face the Mihrab, and the "left-hand side" is on the opposite side (D). In the Court (as Sahn) thus enclosed, are often other buildings, such as tombs or minor chapels. In the Mosque of Ibn Tulan there is a domed building (E), originally intended to serve as the mausoleum of the founder, but which, as he died far away in Syria, was.subsequently fitted up with a water-tank to serve as a place for the ablution before prayer. Turning now to the Arab descriptions of the Haram Area at Jerusalem, the point it is of importance to remember is that the term Masjid (whence through the Egyptian pronunciation of Masgid, and the Spanish Mezquita, our word “mosque") applies to the whole of the Haram Area, not to the Aksâ alone. Masjid in Arabic means " a place of prostration (in prayer);" and therefore to revert once again to Ibn Tûlûn's Mosque, (1) the Mainbuilding, A; (2) the Court, and (3) the Colonnades at the back, B; with those (4) to the right, C; to the left, D; as also (5) the Dome E in the Court-one and all form essential parts of the mosque, and are all comprehended by the term “Al Masjid.' Bearing these points in mind, and coming to the Noble Sanctuary at Jerusalem, we find that the term “Masjid," as already stated, is commonly applied not only to the Aksâ Mosque (more properly the Jâmi', or “place of assembly," for prayer), but to the whole enclosure of the great Court, with the Dome of the Rock in the middle, and all the other minor domes, and chapels, and colonnades. The Dome of the Rock (misnamed by the Franks “the Mosque of 'Omar"), is not itself a mosque or place for public prayer, but merely the largest of the many cupolas in the Court of the Mosque, and in this instance was built to cover and do honour to the Holy Rock which lies beneath it.
During the Middle Ages, when the issue of Jerusalem's status was a point of controversy, the supporters of Jerusalem's importance (apparently after its liberation from Crusader control) succeeded in attributing to al-Quds or to Bayt-al-Maqdis (the Arabic names for Jerusalem) the status of haram that had been accorded to the sacred compound. The site was thus called al-Haram al-Sharif, or al-Haram al-Qudsi al-Sharif. Haram, from an Arabic root meaning "prohibition," is a place characterized by a particularly high level of sanctity - a protected place in which blood may not be shed, trees may not be felled, and animals may not be hunted. The status of haram was given in the past to the Sacred Mosque in Mecca and to the Mosque of the Prophet in al-Madina (and some also accorded this status to the Valley of Wajj in Ta'if on the Arabian Peninsula?). Thus, al-Masjid al-Aqsa became al-Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary) in order to emphasize its exalted status alongside the two other Muslim sanctuaries. Although, as noted before, Ibn-Taymiyya refuted the haram status of the Jerusalem mosque, al-Aqsa's upgrading to haram status was successful and has prevailed. It became a commonly accepted idea and one referred to in international forums and documents. It was, therefore, surprising that during the 1980s the Palestinians gradually abandoned the name that had been given to the Haram/Temple Mount compound in apparent honor of Jerusalem's status as third in sanctity - al-Haram al-Sharif - in favor of its more traditional name-al-Aqsa. An examination of relevant religious texts clarifies the situation: since the name al-Aqsa appears in the Quran, all Muslims around the world should be familiar with it; thus it is easier to market the al-Aqsa brand-name. An additional factor leading to a return to the Qur'anic name is an Israeli demand to establish a Jewish prayer space inside the open court of the compound. The increased use of the name al-Aqsa is particularly striking against the background of what is written on the Web site of the Jerusalem Waqf, under the leadership of (former) Palestinian mufti Sheikh Ikrima Sabri. There it is asserted that "al Masjid al-Aqsa was erroneously called by the name al-Haram al-Qudsi al-Sharif," and that the site's correct name is al-Aqsa. This statement was written in the context of a fatwa in response to a question addressed to the Web site's scholars regarding the correct interpretation of the Isra' verse in the Quran (17:1), which tells of the Prophet Muhammad's miraculous Night Journey from the "Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque"-al-Aqsa. In proof of this, Sabri quotes Ibn-Taymiyya, who denied the existence of haram in Jerusalem, a claim that actually serves those seeking to undermine the city's sacred status. Sabri also states that Arab historians such as Mujir al-Din al-Hanbali, author of the famed fifteenth-century work on Jerusalem, do not make use of the term "haram" in connection with the al-Aqsa site. Both Ibn-Taymiyya and Mujir al-Din were affiliated with the Hanbali School of law-the relatively more puritan stream in Islam that prevailed in Saudi Arabia. The Hanbalies rejected innovations, such as the idea of a third haram. One cannot exclude the possibility that the Saudis, who during the 1980s and 1990s donated significant funds to Islamic institutions in Jerusalem, exerted pressure on Palestinian-Muslim figures to abandon the term "haram" in favor of "al-Aqsa". The "al-Aqsa" brand-name has thus become popular and prevalent. Al-Haram al-Sharif is still used by official bodies (the Organization of the Islamic Conference [OIC], the Arab League), in contrast to religious entities. The public currently uses the two names interchangeably. During the last generation, increasing use has been made of the term "al-Aqsa" as a symbol and as the name of various institutions and organizations. Thus, for example, the Jordanian military periodical that has been published since the early 1970s is called al-Aqsa; the Palestinian police unit established by the PA in Jericho is called the Al-Aqsa Division; the Fatah's armed organization is called the Al-Aqsa Brigades; the Palestinian Police camp in Jericho is called the Al-Aqsa Camp; the Web sites of the southern and northern branches of the Islamic movement in Israel and the associations that they have established are called al-Aqsa; the Intifada that broke out in September 2000 is called the al-Aqsa Intifada and the Arab summit that was held in the wake of the Intifada's outbreak was called the al-Aqsa Summit. These are only a few examples of a growing phenomenon.
"Al-Masjid al-Aqsa" was the standard designation for the whole sanctuary until the Ottoman period, when it was superseded by "al-Haram al-Sharif”; "al-Jami’ al-Aqsa" specifically referred to the Aqsa Mosque, the mughatta or the covered aisles, the site on which ‘Umar founded the first mosque amidst ancient ruins.
It is only at a relatively late date that the Muslim holy space in Jerusalem came to be referred to as al-haram al-sharif (literally, the Noble Sacred Precinct or Restricted Enclosure, often translated as the Noble Sanctuary and usually simply referred to as the Haram). While the exact early history of this term is unclear, we know that it only became common in Ottoman times, when administrative order was established over all matters pertaining to the organization of the Muslim faith and the supervision of the holy places, for which the Ottomans took financial and architectural responsibility. Before the Ottomans, the space was usually called al-masjid al-aqsa (the Farthest Mosque), a term now reserved to the covered congregational space on the Haram, or masjid bayt al-maqdis (Mosque of the Holy City) or, even, like Mecca's sanctuary, al-masjid al-ḥarâm.
Mujir al-Din defined al-Masjid al-Aqsā as the entire compound, acknowledging that in common usage it referred to the roofed building at the south end of the compound. As he put it (1999 v.2, 45; 1973 v.2, 11), the jami' that is in the core of al-Masjid al-Aqsa at the qiblah where the Friday service takes place is known among the people as "al-Masjid al-Aqsa", and (1999 v.2, 63-64; 1973 v.2, 24) what is known among the people as "al-Aqsa" is the jami in the core of the masjid in the direction of the giblah, where the minbar and the large mihrab are. The truth of the matter is that the term "al-Aqsa" is for all of the masjid and what the enclosure walls surround. What is intended by "al-Masjid al-Aqsā" is everything that the enclosure walls surround. Mujir al-Din did not identify al-Masjid al-Aqsā by the alternative term "al-Haram al-Sharif". That term began to be used in the Mamluk period and came into more general use in the Ottoman period. He only used the term when giving the official title of the government-appointed inspector of the two noble harams of Jerusalem and Hebron (Nazir al-Haramavn al-Sharifayn). While Mujir al-Din did not explicitly discuss why the masjid of Bayt al-Magdis "is not called the haram" (1999 v.1, 70; 1973 v.1, 7), he may well have adopted the same position as Ibn Taymiyah, his fellow Hanbali in the early 14th century (Ziyarat Bayt al-Maqdis Matthews 1936, 13; Iqtida' al-Sirat al-Mustaqim Mukhalafat Ashab al-Jahim Memon 1976: 316) in rejecting the idea that al-Masjid al-Aqsa (or the tomb of Abraham in Hebron) can legitimately be called a haram, because there are only three harams (where God prohibited hunting): Makkah, Madinah, and perhaps Täif. However Mujir al-Din was not fully consistent and also used al-Masiid al-Aqsã to refer to the roofed building, as for example when he referred to al-Nasir Muhammad installing marble in al-Masjid al-Aqsà (1999 v.2, 161; 1973 v.2, 92); he used the term al-Jami al-Aqsa in the parallel passage (1999 v.2, 396; 1973 v.2, 271)
Many people think that Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa is only the mosque established south of the Dome of the Rock, where the obligatory five daily prayers are performed now. Actually, Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa is a term that applies to all parts of the Masjid, including the area encompassed within the wall, such as the gates, the spacious yards, the mosque itself, the Dome of the Rock, Al-Musalla Al-Marawani, the corridors, domes, terraces, free drinking water (springs), and other landmarks, like minarets on the walls. Furthermore, the whole mosque is unroofed with the exception of the building of the Dome of the Rock and Al-Musalla Al-Jami`, which is known by the public as Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa. The remaining area, however, is a yard of the mosque. This is agreed upon by scholars and historians, and accordingly, the doubled reward for performing prayer therein is attained if the prayer is performed in any part of the area encompassed by the wall. Indeed, Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa, which is mentioned in Almighty Allah's Glorious Book in the first verse of Sura Al-Isra' is the blessed place that is now called the Noble Sanctuary (Al-Haram Al-Qudsi Ash-Sharif) which is enclosed within the great fence and what is built over it. Moreover, what applies to the mosque applies by corollary to the wall encircling it, since it is part of it. Such is the legal definition of Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa. Regarding the concept (definition) of Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa, Shaykh `Abdul-Hamid Al-Sa'ih, former Minister of (Religious) Endowments and Islamic Sanctuaries in Jordan said: "The term Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa, for the Muslim public, denotes all that is encircled by the wall of Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa, including the gates". Therefore, (the legally defined) Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa and Al-Haram Al-Qudsi Ash-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary) are two names for the same place, knowing that Al-Haram Ash-Sharif is a name that has only been coined recently.
mention is made of “illegal archaeological excavations” and the “continuous, intrusive archaeological demolitions and excavations in and around the Mughrabi Gate Ascent.” The text notes that “damage caused by the Israeli security forces . . . to the historic Gates and windows of the Qibli Mosque inside Al-Aqsa Mosque” occurred in 2014
For this verse, tradition gives three interpretations: The oldest one, which disappears from the more recent commentaries, detects an allusion to Muhammad's Ascension to Heaven. This explanation interprets the expression al-masjid al-aksa, "the further place of worship" in the sense of "Heaven" and, in fact, in the older tradition isra is often used as synonymous with miradj (see Isl., vi, 14). The second explanation , the only one given in all the more modern commentaries, interprets masjid al-aksa as "Jerusalem" and this for no very apparent reason. It seems to have been an Umayyad device intended to further the glorification of Jerusalem as against that of the holy territory (cf. Goldziher, Muh. Stud., ii, 55-6; Isl, vi, 13 ff), then ruled by Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr. Al-Tabarl seems to reject it. He does not mention it in his History and seems rather to adopt the first explanation.
If Muslims interpret the qur'anic phrase "the sacred place of prayer" in diverse ways, one encounters even more debate over the destination of the night journey, the "furthest place of prayer". From the earliest extant Muslim texts, it becomes clear that a group of Muslims from the beginning interpreted "furthest place of prayer" with the city of Jerusalem in general and its Herodian/Solomonic Temple in particular. It is equally clear that other early Muslims disputed this connection, identifying the "furthest place of prayer" instead as a reference to a site in the heavens. Eventually a general consensus formed around the idea that Muhammad's journey did indeed take him to Jerusalem. Even if the night journey verse were thought to refer first and foremost to the terrestrial portion of Muhammad's journey, nevertheless for centuries scholars and storytellers also continued to connect this verse with the idea of an ascent through the levels of the heavens.
Bevan has shown that among early traditionists there are many who do not accept the identification of the masjid al-aqsd, and among them are to be found such great names as al-Bukhari and Tabarl. Both Ibn Ishaq an al-Ya'qubi precede their accounts with expressions which indicate that these are stories which are not necessarily accepted as dogma. It was suggested by J. Horovitz that in the early period of Islam there is little justification for assuming that the Koranic expression in any way referred to Jerusalem. But while Horovitz thought that it referred to a place in heaven, A. Guillaume's careful analysis of the earliest texts (al-Waqidi and al-Azraqi, both in the later second century A.H.) has convincingly shown that the Koranic reference to the masjid al-aqsa applies specifically to al-Ji'ranah, near Mekkah, where there were two sanctuaries (masjid al-adnai and masjid al-aqsa), and where Muhammad so-journed in dha al-qa'dah of the eighth year after the Hijrah.
When he desired to turn back to Medina, he set out from al-Jirrana on Wednesday night, twelve nights remaining in Dhul-Qada. He donned his ihram at the furthest mosque (al-masjid al-Aqsa), which was below the wadi on a remote slope. It was the place of prayer of the Messenger of God when he was in al-Jiranna. As for the closest mosque, a man from the Quraysh built it and he marked that place with it.
To locate the Temple, Ritmeyer used Mazar’s work, and the explorations of Captain Warren, and more evidence he found himself. A key clue: On the northwest corner of the platform where the Dome of the Rock stands, there’s a set of stairs. The stairs are at an odd angle to the platform—because the bottom step, Ritmeyer discovered, is really a building stone marking a pre-Herodian wall. The wall, he found, was precisely parallel to the eastern wall of the Mount, and by one standard measure of a cubit, the two walls are five hundred cubits apart. Ritmeyer was beginning to map out the original Temple Mount, from before the time of Herod. Another clue: In the eastern wall, Warren had found just the slightest bend, marking the point where the wall once ended. That was the southeastern corner of the original Mount
Accordingly, the ashlar in this step/wall gave a strong impression of being pre-Herodian. It looked very much like the lowest masonry in the central section of the eastern wall of the Temple Mount, near the Golden Gate. I therefore proposed that this step was actually a section of a wall—part of the western wall of the pre-Herodian, perhaps First Temple-period, Temple Mount.
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The most important findings of the superposition of the Second Temple on the Temple area are that the Dome of the Rock was not built on the site of the Temple, and that the Temple was taper-shaped on the western side, a form hitherto unknown to the scholars.
Archaeology Professor Joseph Patrich uncovered a large water cistern that points, in his opinion, to the exact location of the altar and sanctuary on the Temple Mount. According to his findings, the rock on which the Dome of the Rock is built is outside the confines of the Temple.
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Israeli excavation works near the al-Aqsa mosque in the holy city of Jerusalem have led to a dangerous rise in Middle East tensions and could derail revival of Arab-Israeli peace talks... what Israel is doing in its practices and attacks against our sacred Muslim sites in Jerusalem and al-Aqsa is a blatant violation that is not acceptable under any pretext
On both days, however, Israeli police stormed Al Aqsa in order to stop stone‑throwing and make arrests, crossing what many Palestinians regard as a red line.
The clashes on Sunday followed a more intense incident on Friday, when Israeli riot police officers, firing rubber-tipped bullets and stun grenades, stormed the main mosque in the compound to detain hundreds of Palestinians, many of whom had been throwing stones at them.