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The Temple Mount - the Haram-esh-Sharif

"Then Solomon began to build the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount
Moriah. It was on the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite, the place
provided by David, his father." (2
"Glory be to Him who did take His servant for a Journey
by night from the Sacred Sanctuary to the farthest Sanctuary, whose precincts We
did bless...." (The
, Sura Al-Isra’ 17:1)

The Temple Mount (Heb., Har Habayit; Arabic, Haram esh-Sharif, the Noble Sanctuary),is identified in both Jewish and Islamic tradition as the area of Mount Moriah where Abraham offered up his son in sacrifice (Genesis 22:1-18; the Koran, Sura Al-Saffat 37:102-110).
Here King Solomon built the First Temple almost 3,000 years ago. It was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, but 70 years later Jews returning from exile built the Second Temple on the same site. King Herod refashioned it into an edifice of great splendor.
In Muslim tradition, the place is also identified as the "furthermost sanctuary" (Arabic, masjid al-aksa) from which the Prophet Mohammed, accompanied by the Angel Gabriel, made the Night Journey to the Throne of God (The Koran, Sura Al-Isra’ 17:1).
Following the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in the year 70, the area of the Temple was deliberately left in ruins (first by the Romans, then by the Byzantines). This desecration was not redressed until the Muslim conquest of the city by the Caliph Omar ibn al-Khattab in 638. He ordered the clearing of the site and the building of a "house of prayer".
Some 50 years later, the Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik built the Dome of the Rock to enshrine the outcrop of bedrock believed to be the "place of the sacrifice" on Mount Moriah. He (or his son, the Caliph al-Walid I) also built the large mosque at the southern end of the Haram, which came to be called al-Aksa after the Koranic name attributed to the entire area.
The Dome of the Rock (Arabic, Qubbat al-Sakhra) is one of the architectural glories of the world, and the only early Islamic sanctuary to have survived intact. The design of the building is basically Byzantine - double octagonal ambulatories encircling the Holy Rock. A shrine and not a mosque, it is the third holiest place in Islam after the Ka’aba in Mecca and the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina.
The Dome of the Rock is an architectural expression of the ascendancy of Islam. The interior glass mosaics in the drum and dome contain representations of Byzantine imperial jewelry, and one of the ornate inscriptions affirms that God is One and not three; and that Jesus was an apostle of God and His Word, and not His son.
The shrine stands on or near the approximate site of the Jewish Temple (though scholars disagree whether it was the Holy of Holies or the Altar that stood on the site of the rock). It has even been suggested that the Temple building stood 80 meters further north, on the site of the small 16th-century Qubbat al-Arwah (Arabic, Dome of the Winds or Spirits) on an east-west axis with the present Golden Gate.
The exterior of the Dome of the Rock has undergone several restorations. The exterior tiles were last restored in 1963; the gold-leafed dome in 1994).
The al-Aksa Mosque, at the south end of the Temple Mount platform, was last rebuilt in 1035 and has since undergone several restorations - most recently in 1938-42; and again beginning in 1969 to repair extensive damage from a fire deliberately set by a deranged Christian tourist.
The Al-Aksa mosque (Ministry of Tourism)
The design of the building is that of a basilica with a narrow central nave flanked by six aisles (14 aisles in an earlier 8th-century phase). The decoration of the mihrab (prayer niche) in the south wall was a gift of the Sultan Salah al-Din (Saladin). The beautiful inlaid cedar wood minbar (pulpit), also donated to the mosque by Salah al-Din was destroyed in the 1969 fire.
A stairway in front of the north entrance to the al-Aksa Mosque leads down to a vaulted passageway and the walled-up Hulda Gates, which had been an entrance to the Temple Mount Platform at the time of the Herodian Second Temple.
During the Mamluk and Ottoman periods and until the mid-19th century, non-Muslims were not permitted onto the Haram. The first known exception was made by order of the Ottoman Sultan in 1862, during the visit of the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII.

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