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The Sites

Israel and Palestine – In Jerusalem

Israel and Palestine – Outside Jerusalem

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Al-Aqsa Mosque

Jerusalem

Al-Aqsa Mosque

Al-Aqsa Mosque (© Israel Ministry of Tourism)

The Al-Aqsa Mosque, originally constructed about 20 years after the nearby Dome of the Rock, is Jerusalem’s biggest mosque.

Its spacious interior, divided by columns into seven aisles, allows room for more than 4000 Muslims to prostrate themselves on the carpeted floor during worship.

Actually the whole area of the Temple Mount, known to Muslims as Haram esh-Sharif or the Noble Sanctuary, including all its minor domes, chapels and colonnades, is regarded as a mosque. It is Islam’s third holiest site (after Mecca and Medina).

The whole compound contains more than 14 hectares of buildings, fountains, gardens and domes.

It comprises nearly one-sixth of the walled Old City of Jerusalem and can accommodate hundreds of thousands of worshippers.

The name Al-Aqsa Mosque (also spelt El-Aksa) translates to “the farthest mosque”, a description relating to Muhammad’s Night Journey from Mecca to Jerusalem and back.

On site of Solomon’s Temple

Al-Aqsa Mosque

Inside Al-Aqsa Mosque (Eric Stoltz)

The mosque building was begun in the early 8th century and has been reconstructed many times. The lead-covered dome dates from the 11th century.

The Temple Mount is the site of the first Jewish Temple, built by Solomon. It is also the location of a 6th-century Christian church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, which was burned by the Persians in 614. The original mosque possibly converted the remains of this church.

During the 12th century the Crusaders used the mosque first as their royal palace, then as the headquarters of the new Knights Templar. One of the mosque’s many rooms still has the medieval rose window it had when it was a Crusader chapel.

The vast hall, 82 metres by 55 metres, has seven rows of columns (donated by the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini during a 20th-century restoration).

There is no seating; the congregation sits and prostrates on the expensively carpeted floor. (As in all mosques, visitors must remove their footwear — not as a sign of respect, but to protect the carpet.)

Behind the minbar or pulpit is a rock, originally in the Dome of the Ascension, which supposedly bears the left footprint of Jesus.

Mihrab shows the direction of Mecca

Al-Aqsa Mosque

Forecourt of Al-Aqsa Mosque © (Israel Ministry of Tourism)

The southern wall, one of the few remnants of the original mosque, has a mihrab (niche) oriented towards Mecca, Islam’s holy city. Near the mihrab is a small mosque, known as the Mosque of Omar (a name that is also erroneously given to the nearby Dome of the Rock).

Under the mosque is a large subterranean hall. It leads to one of the original entrance passages to the Temple Mount during the period of the Second Temple.

In the courtyard on the extreme south-west is a large building, formerly known as the Mosque of the Moors, which contains the Islamic Museum.

In 1969 an Australian tourist, Michael Dennis Rohan, attempted to burn the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The fire gutted the south-eastern wing, destroying a 1000-year-old pulpit given by the 12th-century sultan Saladin.

Rohan, a member of an evangelical Protestant sect, said he hoped to hasten the coming of the Messiah by having the Jewish Temple rebuilt on the site. He was found to be insane and deported.

 

Administered by: Islamic Waqf Foundation

Tel.: 972-2-6226250

Open: Non-Muslims are permitted to enter the Temple Mount through the Bab Al-Maghariba (Moors’ Gate), reached through a covered walkway from the Western Wall plaza, during restricted hours. These are usually 7.30-11am and 1.30-2.30pm (closed Fridays and on religious holidays), but can change. Modest dress is required. Non-Muslims are not normally allowed into the Al Aqsa Mosque or Dome of the Rock. Non-Muslim prayer on the Temple Mount is not permitted.

Related site:

Dome of the Rock

 

References

 

Brownrigg, Ronald: Come, See the Place: A Pilgrim Guide to the Holy Land (Hodder and Stoughton, 1985)
Inman, Nick, and McDonald, Ferdie (eds): Jerusalem & the Holy Land (Eyewitness Travel Guide, Dorling Kindersley, 2007).
Fortescue, Adrian: “Jerusalem (AD 71-1099)”, The Catholic Encyclopedia (Robert Appleton Company, 1910).
Gonen, Rivka: Biblical Holy Places: An illustrated guide (Collier Macmillan, 1987)
Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome: The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700 (Oxford University Press, 2005)

 

External links

Noble Sanctuary: Al-Aqsa Mosque
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Western Wall

Jerusalem

Western Wall

Jews and visitors at the Western Wall in Jerusalem (Seetheholyland.net)

Judaism’s holiest place is the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem. Part of the retaining wall erected by Herod the Great in 20 BC to support the vast plaza on which he rebuilt the Temple, it is venerated as the sole remnant of the Temple.

The wall and the plaza in front of it form a permanent place of worship, a site of pilgrimage for Jews and a focus of prayer — often petitions written down and placed between the huge stones. The Jewish name for the wall is the Kotel.

Orthodox Jewish men, fully bearded and garbed in black, bowing their heads as they read and pray from the Torah, are a common sight.

It is also the place where Jews down the ages have expressed their grief over the destruction of the Temple, their anguish giving the wall another name — the Wailing Wall.

But the wall is also a place for celebrations, especially of Bar and Bat Mitzvahs (coming-of-age ceremonies for Jewish sons and daughters).

 

Stones weigh up to eight tons

In the exposed part of the Western Wall today, the seven lowest layers of stones are from Herod’s construction. Most of these stones weigh between two and eight tons.

Western Wall

Celebrating bar mitzvah at the Western Wall (Margaret O’Sullivan / Seetheholyland.net)

Above these are stones placed in later centuries, replacing those forced out when the Romans put down a Jewish revolt by sacking Jerusalem and destroying the Temple in AD 70.

The prayer area in front of the wall is divided into separate sections for men and women.

Men and married women who approach the wall are expected to have their heads covered. A kippah (skullcap) is provided free of charge. Cameras and electronic devices are forbidden on Saturdays.

To the right of the plaza, near the southern end of the Temple Mount, large stones jutting out of the wall are the remains of what is called Robinson’s Arch. This arch once supported a grand staircase to the Temple.

 

Valley was filled in

Western Wall

Divided prayer areas at the Western Wall (© Israel Ministry of Tourism)

In the time of Christ a deep valley, spanned by bridges, ran beside the Western Wall and eight more levels of stones were visible. Through the centuries this valley, the Tyropoeon, has been progressively filled in with masonry and rubble.

Mark 13:1 recounts that one of Jesus’ disciples exclaimed to him as they left the Temple: “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” Jesus replied: “Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”

The Western Wall was captured by Jordan during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and recaptured by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War.

Arab housing and mosques near the wall were immediately razed. In their place, today’s plaza was created, stretching from the wall to the Jewish Quarter.

At the left end of the Western Wall is the entrance to a tunnel which allows visitors to walk along 500 metres of the extended wall, under buildings of the Old City. Sights include the biggest stone in the wall, estimated to weigh 570 tons.

In Scripture:

Solomon builds the Temple: 1 Kings 5-6

Jesus foretells the destruction of the Temple: Mark 13:1-8

 

Administered by: Western Wall Heritage Foundation

Tel.: 972-2-6271333

Open: All day, every day

 

References

Charlesworth, James H.: The Millennium Guide for Pilgrims to the Holy Land (BIBAL Press, 2000)
Inman, Nick, and McDonald, Ferdie (eds): Jerusalem & the Holy Land (Eyewitness Travel Guide, Dorling Kindersley, 2007).
Gonen, Rivka: Biblical Holy Places: An illustrated guide (Collier Macmillan, 1987)
Maier, Paul L. (trans.): Josephus: The Essential Writings (Kregel Publications, 1988)
McCormick, James R.: Jerusalem and the Holy Land (Rhodes & Eaton, 1997)
Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome: The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700 (Oxford University Press, 2005)
Wareham, Norman, and Gill, Jill: Every Pilgrim’s Guide to the Holy Land (Canterbury Press, 1996)

External links

Western Wall (Wikipedia)
Western Wall (BiblePlaces)
The Western Wall (Western Wall Heritage Foundation)
The Western Wall and its Tunnels (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Wall Camera (Aish webcam)
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Dome of the Rock

Jerusalem

Dome of the Rock

Temple Mount visitors at Dome of the Rock (Seetheholyland.net)

Jerusalem’s iconic symbol is the gleaming Dome of the Rock, whose golden roof has dominated the Temple Mount for centuries. This Islamic holy place stands on a site that is sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims.

• To Jews, this is where Abraham, in a supreme act of faith, prepared to offer his son Isaac on Mount Moriah. It is also the place where the Temple once stood.

• To Christians it is where the baby Jesus was presented in the Temple; where he was found among the teachers as a 12-year-old; where he later prayed and taught — and drove the money-changers out of the Temple precincts. For most of the 12th century, when the Crusaders controlled Jerusalem, the Dome of the Rock was actually a Christian church.

• To Muslims the Dome covers the sacred rock where Muhammad prayed and went to paradise during his Night Journey from Mecca to Jerusalem and back to Mecca on the winged steed called Al-Burak.

The Dome of the Rock was the first major sanctuary built by Islam. Although it is sometimes erroneously called the Mosque of Omar (a companion of Muhammad) it is actually not a mosque but an adjunct to the nearby Al-Aqsa Mosque.

 

Ornamentation by Christian artists

A building of extraordinarily harmonious proportions, the Dome of the Rock is 20 metres across and more than 35 metres high. It was commissioned by Caliph Abd al-Malik and completed in AD 691. Its rich ornamentation was the work of Syrian Christian artists.

Dome of the Rock

Close-up of Dome of the Rock (Seetheholyland.net)

The roof is covered with gold-plated anodised aluminium. Inside, the sacred rock is protected by a 12th-century cedar wood screen. Crosses on some of the columns show that they were taken from churches. A high reliquary beside the rock is believed to contain a hair of Muhammad’s beard.

On the southern side of the rock, steps lead down to an ancient cave, known as the Well of Souls, to which many Jewish and Islamic legends are attached. The Crusaders used the cave as a confessional.

Current Arab tradition suggests that Caliph Abd al-Malik built the Dome to commemorate Muhammad’s Night Journey and ascension to paradise.

Older sources indicate that the caliph’s purpose was two-fold: 1) to emphasise the superior truth of Islam over both Judaism and Christianity; 2) to outshine the splendour of Christian churches.

A 10th-century account says he was concerned that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre might “dazzle the minds of Muslims”. The dimensions of the iconic golden dome match those of the Holy Sepulchre’s dome.

 

Challenge to Christians

The Dome’s “founding inscription” runs for 240 metres in a single line of Kufic script (the oldest Arabic writing in existence) along the top of both sides of the inner octagonal arcade.

The sacred rock inside the dome (© Marie-Armelle Beaulieu)

The sacred rock inside the dome (© Marie-Armelle Beaulieu)

In a clear challenge to the Christian belief in the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus, it says:

“O you People of the Book, overstep not bounds in your religion, and of God speak only the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, is only an apostle of God . . . . Believe therefore in God and his apostles, and say not ‘Three’. It will be better for you. God is only one God. Far be it from his glory that he should have a son.”

By building the Dome of the Rock, Caliph Abd al-Malik symbolised the transformation of Jerusalem — once a Jewish city, then a Christian city — into a Muslim city. Today, of course, the city is both culturally and religiously diverse.

 

Related site:

Al-Aqsa Mosque

 

Administered by: Islamic Waqf Foundation

Tel.: 972-2-6226250

Open: Non-Muslims are permitted to enter the Temple Mount through the Bab Al-Maghariba (Moors’ Gate), reached through a covered walkway from the Western Wall plaza, during restricted hours. These are usually 7.30-11am and 1.30-2.30pm (closed Fridays and on religious holidays), but can change. Modest dress is required. Non-Muslims are not normally allowed into the Dome of the Rock or the Al Aqsa Mosque. Non-Muslim prayer on the Temple Mount is not permitted.

 

 

References

Hope, Leslie: “The Dome of the Rock”, Holy Land, summer 1999
Brownrigg, Ronald: Come, See the Place: A Pilgrim Guide to the Holy Land (Hodder and Stoughton, 1985)
Doyle, Stephen: The Pilgrim’s New Guide to the Holy Land (Liturgical Press, 1990)
Freeman-Grenville, G. S. P.: The Holy Land: A Pilgrim’s Guide to Israel, Jordan and the Sinai (Continuum Publishing, 1996)
Inman, Nick, and McDonald, Ferdie (eds): Jerusalem & the Holy Land (Eyewitness Travel Guide, Dorling Kindersley, 2007)
McCormick, James R.: Jerusalem and the Holy Land (Rhodes & Eaton, 1997)
Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome: The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700 (Oxford University Press, 2005)
Wareham, Norman, and Gill, Jill: Every Pilgrim’s Guide to the Holy Land (Canterbury Press, 1996)

External link

Noble Sanctuary
Dome of the Rock
« Newer Posts
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