About a month ago another conflict started around The Temple Mount. Why “another”? Because it’s not the first time that a conflict had started around Temple Mount and I suppose it won’t be the last. Now that the issue has calmed down, I think it’s a great time to give you a bit of info about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, why The Temple Mount is the symbol of the conflict and of course, some tips on getting up there.
For more info on the Israel-Palestinian conflict visit my website’s page – Regional Situation.
So, what happened this time?
Three Arab-Israeli terrorists arrived on a Friday morning (14 of July) and shot dead two Israeli border guards, whom guarded one of the entrances to The Temple Mount. The three terrorists were shot dead a while afterwards, while they were trying to kill further policemen. Then the Israeli government decided to shut The Temple Mount and not let anyone up there, so that the border guards will be able to search for potential weapons on The Mount.
Unfortunately, it was Friday and Friday is a very important day for the Muslims. The government decided to shut Temple Mount despite it being Friday and so the Muslims couldn’t enter Temple Mount for the Friday Prayer, the most important prayer to the Muslims. Israel’s decision to close The Mount was a rare one. Last time Israel closed The Mount was in 1969.
The search on The Temple Mount reviled many potential weapons, and Israel decided to put magnometers in all the entrances to The Temple Mount, so that the guards can make sure nobody enters weapons into the holy place. Until then, the only magnometer was at the entrance intended for Jews and tourists, the Mugrabim Gate. The Muslims, who were already unhappy because The Temple Mount was closed for about two and a half days, refused to pass through the magnometers and demanded that the governement remove them. The Muslim leaders said that whoever will pass through the magnometers, their prayers won’t be heard by Allah.
It seems that the issue wasn’t the fact that the Muslims had to pass through the magnometers, but the fact that Israel put sovereignty symbols (the magnometers) on The Mount. There is no law against it, but it is important for the Muslims to show their own authority on Temple Mount. After a few days of clashes between Muslims and Israeli forces around Temple Mount, the Israeli governement decided to remove the magnometers.
Some Interesting Facts about Temple Mount:
- The Israeli border guards standing at the gates to the Temple Mount are there to make sure that violence doesn’t errupt in the area and to make sure the Jews and tourists don’t enter The Mount without passing through security. Muslims can enter Temple Mount through all the gates to Temple Mount and are not asked to pass security. The only gate through which Jews and tourists can enter Temple Mount is The Mugrabim Gate (the wooden bridge next to The Western Wall).
- The Temple Mount is holy to all religions. The Jews believe that the two Holy Jewish Temples were built on The Mount (“Har A-Moriah”) and that the world was based from the Foundation Stone (“Heven A-Shtiah”), which is located today under the Dome of the Rock. The Muslims believe that Muhammad climbed up to the sky from the Foundation Stone and got the five basic Islamic prayers before climbing back down. The Christians believe the Jesus visited the Jewish Temple that was located on Temple Mount during his days. The fact that the Jewish Temple does not exist today shows, as they believe, that his prophecy really happened.
- Jewish people believe that The Temple Mount is a holy place, but not all of them believe they can go up there and visit the place. The Jewish Law (“Halacha”) deals with many questions regarding Temple Mount, amongst them: is the place still holy after the Temple has been demolished? Can people who are impure with the impurity of the dead (all people nowadays, according to the Jewish Halacha) enter The Temple Mount? Jewish people that do visit Temple Mount with Jewish symbols on them are accompanied by Israeli boarder guards during their whole visit, so that they won’t do anything too provocative that might start a conflict.
- The Western Wall was once one of the retaining walls of the huge plaza that was built on Temple Mount during the time of the Second Temple.
- The Dome of the Rock was built on Temple Mount in the late 7th century.
During the Six Day War, on July 7, 1967 Temple Mount was conquered from the Jordan legion by Israeli forces without a fight. The Israeli forces entered The Temple Mount from the Shvatim Gate and made their way down to the Western Wall, where they burst into tears of excitement. It was a very emotional moment. A while afterwards, after the war had finished and after ongoing pressure, the Israeli government passed the control on Temple Mount to the Islamic Waqf, which is in charge of the holy site to this day.
Until the end of the 20th century, there was no Muslim who doubted that the Jewish Temple was built on Temple Mount. Only after the Israeli-Palestinian conflict got stronger did the Muslim leaders claim that there was no Jewish Temple. As the conflict got deeper, the access to the Muslim religious buildings on Temple House was blocked to Jews and tourists that are not Muslims. Until the end of the 20th century, the religious buildings were open to everyone.
In 2000, the Waqf dug in the Southern area of Temple Mount and reviled an ancient building that was maybe built during the time of the Second Temple (Solomon’s Stables). During the dig, thousands of tons of earth were thrown to dumps around Jerusalem. The problem – in the earth were archeological findings from the time of the Second Temple, which were displaced in an irresponsible way by the Waqf. Without those findings, it is very hard to prove that the Jewish Temple existed on Temple Mount. Following this irresponsible dig, a new project started – The Temple Mount Sifting Project. Unfortunately, it seems that the project is having problems with funding lately.
How Can You Visit?
If no security incidents happen during your visit, there’s no reason you won’t be able to visit Temple Mount. The entrance is free, but you should be aware of some important things:
- The only gate you can enter Temple Mount (unless you’re Muslim) is the Mugrabim Gate. You can enter the gate from the Southern edge of the Western Wall area. You can exit Temple Mount from all gates.
- You will need to pass a security check at the Mugrabim Gate. Unlike regular security checks, in this check you will be asked to get rid not only of weapons, but also of religious symbols that are not Muslim symbols (for example: necklaces with Christian crosses, Jewish kipas, clothing with religious symbols). So, make sure you put them in a safe place in your hotel before coming to Temple Mount. You cannot put the religious symbols in your bag or in another hidden space on you. If you will arrive with them at the gate, you will be asked to put them outside the gate, in a storage place that isn’t very secured.
- You need to enter Temple Mount dressed appropriately, because it is a Muslim holy site. Women need to cover their shoulders and cover their legs from the knee down. You can put on a long skirt or long pants.
- If you want to avoid a long wait in the entrance of Temple Mount, try to arrive at the entrance gate as early as possible, even half an hour before the official opening hour (in the Summer – 8:30, in the Winter – 7:30). Because of the strict security checks at the entrance, the wait might get longer than expected.
The entrance to Temple Mount for tourists is open from Sunday to Thursday. In Winter it is open between 7:30 am to 10:30 am and from 12:30 pm to 1:30 pm. In Summer it is open between 8:30 am to 11:30 and from 1:30 pm to 2:30 pm.
Hope you have a great and interesting visit!
Is something missing? Let me know in the comments!
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Hope to give you some more useful info on Israel soon.