A brief history of the Temple Mount – now the epicenter of the current conflict between radical Islam and Israel – may surprise you.
Ha’aretz has a history of the Temple Mount, which of course is the epicenter of the current conflict between radical Islam and Israel.
Here is brief summary of the few points made:
• Prehistoric peoples may have worshipped pagan gods on in various forms and through various pre-monotheistic local religious cults until the site eventually became holy to the ancient Israelites.
. But it may be the site first became holy only when King Solomon built his temple there.
• There is scant archaeological proof of that Temple and what may have come before it, though, because because excavation at the site is impossible due religious and political tensions.
• Jerusalem in Solomon's time was likely nothing more than a small hilltop village. What we now call the Temple Mount wasn't even inside its borders.
• Jerusalem likely did not expand beyond a tiny settlement built around the Gihon spring until the 8th century BCE – about 150 to 200 years after Kings David and Solomon allegedly lived.
• What Ha’aretz calls “Bible literalists” believe if the Temple Mount could be properly excavated by archaeologists, Solomon’s large and ornate Temple would be found. (Based on the evidence available now, many, if not most, archaeologists think that unlikely.)
• Archaeological evidence that does exist shows that about 2,800 years ago Jerusalem expanded from a tiny village into a city – a city that finally included the Temple Mount. This was likely when the First Temple was actually built – if it was. But “no archaeological evidence for its existence, let alone its location, has been discovered, and no extra-biblical records of it have survived.”
• In 587 BCE the First Temple (if it really existed) was destroyed along with much of the rest of the city by the Babylonians.
• In the year 538 BCE Cyrus the Great of Persia let Israelites exiled to Babylonia (now Persia) return. Some (but not most) did. Those returnees built a new, very modest, plain and small Temple which was dedicated in 515 BCE.
• About 400 years later, King Herod rebuilt it with ornate features and in grand scale.
• Like the First Temple (Solomon's Temple), there is no known archaeological evidence for the existence of the first very modest Second Temple supposedly built by Israelite returnees from Babylon/Persia, but unlike the First Temple, the existence of this modest Second Temple is “corroborated by Jewish, Greek and Roman extra-biblical sources.”
• The giant lower stones of the Kotel (Western Wall) were part of Herod’s Temple complex (the “second Second Temple”) – its retaining wall. The medium-sized stones above them were added by the Muslim Umayyads. The small ones at top are from the Ottomans and the British.
• In 70 CE Herod’s Temple and much of Jerusalem were destroyed by the Romans.
• After the Bar Kohba revolt against Rome ended in 136 CE, “Emperor Hadrian's collective punishments for the Jews included a ban on visiting Jerusalem, let alone Temple Mount; folding the province of ‘Iudaea’ (Judea) into a new political entity, Syria Palaestina; and rebuilding Jerusalem - as pagan city, named Aelia Capitolina.
• Pagan idols were installed on the Temple Mount, and a pagan temple mat have been built there, as well.
• When Rome became Christian in 306 CE it did not rebuild the Temple Mount or the Temple.
• When Rome became pagan again in 361 CE, the Emperor Julian decreed that the Jews could rebuild the Temple. They tried to do so but Julian was killed in battle a year later and construction was halted.
• In 637 CE, five years Muhammad’s death, Caliph Umar, the supreme Muslim leader, visited the city the Temple Mount. “He ordered a wooden mosque to be built over a Byzantine structure at the Temple Mount’s southern end.”
• In 691, Caliph Abd al-Malik had a Muslim shrine built “over a rock in the middle of the Temple Mount” the so-called Foundation Stone, which in Jewish tradition is supposed to be the meeting point of Heaven and Earth and the physical point where Creation began. It is also supposed to be “the rock on which Abraham bound Isaac; the spot where Jacob rested for the night (and dreamed of wrestling with the angel) while escaping Esau; [and] it is believed to be the center stone of the Temple.” And Muslims consider it to be the site where Muhammad led the prayer during his night journey.
• Caliph Abd al-Malik Muslim shrine that shelters the rock, known as the Dome of the Rock, is built over the site of the Second Temple.
• He also apparently had Umar’s wooden structure replaced with the Al Aqsa Mosque. (His son completed the construction.)
• In 1099, the Crusaders conquered the city and established the Kingdom of Jerusalem. “A cross was placed atop the Dome of the Rock and it was converted into an abbey church known as The Lord’s Temple. The Al Aqsa Mosque became the palace of the kingdom’s kings, until 1020, when it began to serve as the headquarters of a newly formed monastic order of knights incorporated to protect Christian pilgrims en route to Jerusalem: the Knights Templar.”
• In 1187 Muslims under Saladin recaptured the city and Temple Mount. He destroyed Christian buildings, took the cross off the top of the Dome of Rock, and stripped the Temple Mount of any signs of Christian rule.
• He also founded the Jerusalem Waqf to be in charge of the upkeep pf Jerusalem’s Muslim holy sites. It remain in charge of the Temple Mount to this day.
• The Ayyubid Muslim rulers who succeeded Saladin built the small Dome of Moses on the Temple Mount in 1249 but did little else there.
• The Muslim Mamluks, who succeeded the Ayyubids, controlled the Temple Mount and Jerusalem for 256 years. During their rule, the Temple Mount and the city fell into disrepair.
• In 1516 the Muslim Ottomans took over and revitalized the Temple Mount and the city, building the city’s wall, public buildings, shoring up the Temple Mount structure (which is largely manmade) funded the Jerusalem Waqf and restored the Muslim shrines on Temple Mount.
• British archaeologists Charles Wilson and Charles Warren both excavated the Temple Mount during the late 1800s during Ottoman rule. They found artifacts from the Muslim, Roman and Herodian periods – but nothing earlier, nothing from the First Temple at all.
• In 1917 the British conquered Jerusalem but left the Waqf in charge of the Temple Mount.
• Jordan controlled the Temple Mount and East Jerusalem until the June 1967 Six Day War.
• In 1951, Jordan’s King Abdullah I was murdered on the Temple Mount by a Palestinian.
• His grandson King Hussein ordered a large-scale renovation of the Muslim shrines on the Temple Mount that began in 1955 and was finished ten years later.
• On June 7, 1967 Israel captured (or liberated) the Temple Mount. An Israeli flag was briefly placed on the top of the Dome of the Rock, but was quickly removed. The Temple Mount was put under the control of the IDF’s Chief Rabbinate, but Israel returned control to the Waqf several months later.
Read the Ha'aretz report here.