Discovering Israel's Temple Mount in Jerusalem, was open on the same day we visited the Western Wall, we decided we should take the opportunity, as the last two times we were here it was closed to visitors, in spite of regularly scheduled open hours.
After clearing security we walked up the wooden walkway and passed through the Moors Gate, or Mughrabi Gate. As soon we entered, we were greeted by a Muslim man who instructed Julia, my sister-in-law, and I, to cover up and directed us down a long open corridor with arched openings along it's length.
Honestly, I thought he was pointing to what looked like a pile of scarves just a little ways up so I headed over and picked up the only one there. It seemed a bit heavy and small for a scarf and it was somewhat dusty, but I shook it out and flung it over my shoulders.
When Ron asked the man if I looked appropriate he said, "No! No!", and pointed farther down the corridor to the now visible scarf salesman. Apparently I'd picked up someone's prayer rug. Folding it neatly, I placed it back where I found it, and only 25 skekels later (just over 6 dollars), found myself sporting an orange and black lightweight, open-weave Arab prayer covering. The vender even showed me how to properly tie it at my neckline covering my collarbone, shoulders and elbows. Orange isn't really my color but I think I got a good deal. I wasn't going to argue with him.
The Temple Mount in Israel is truly an amazing place. Much larger than I thought. The intriguing stone Al Aqsa Mosque sits to the right, or south, of the entrance but it's the Dome of the Rock which takes center stage with it's elaborate and most beautiful tile work topped by the golden dome. A large stone paved plaza surrounds both buildings and the area is dotted with trees, stone arches, pillars, walkways and shrines.
The Dome of the Rock is a shrine protecting the rock believed by Jews to be the one upon which Abraham was to sacrifice his son Isaac, or Ishmael, according to the Islamic belief. The nearby Shrine of the Chain is used as a prayer house and is a mini Dome of the Rock, with equally beautiful and elaborate tile work.
All of the buildings are for Muslims only and we were sternly shooed away when we wandered too close to the entrance to the Dome of the Rock. A few of these buildings house the Women's Mosque, an Islamic school, a museum and offices.
It was a strange feeling to be walking such ancient paths and steps, ones that thousands have walked before me. The hot and dusty diminished as I attempted to absorb the enormity and the history of this significantly, beautifully foreign place.
Though it felt very special to have been able to tour Israel's Temple Mount, I felt a bit cautious the entire time, not wanting to do anything to offend or anger.
When it was time to go, we tried to exit by the way we came and were gruffly directed back down that infamous arched corridor through the Chain Gate. Waving goodbye to the scarf salesman on our way out, we were deposited into the Muslim Quarter, walked up the narrow street a few hundred yards and took a left back to the Western Wall.
Our 100 degree trek around Israel's Temple Mount plazas and Jerusalem's stone paved streets took us through Hurva Square, with it's shops and restaurants and recently re-built Hurva Square, led us back to the welcome cool and quiet of the Christ Church Guest House. It was time for a nap.
During our second visit to the Temple Mount in 2016, we were part of a small tour group with a knowledgeable guide. This, and with knowing the lay of the land, we felt much more comfortable and relaxed. We knew the routine and, though wanting to be respectful, felt freer to explore areas we hadn't seen. We even relaxed in the shade of the beautiful olive trees giving us time to take in the little everyday activities of the people around us.
We've even learned a bit more about the culture in Israel, realizing the gruff exterior of the locals doesn't necessarily mean they are angry, that's just the way they communicate. Even so, feeling the heaviness of the glares we received, I have to say that it's obvious we are not welcome nor wanted on the Temple Mount, only tolerated. But please don't let that scare you away from visiting.
Israel's Temple Mount is one of the most exciting, historical and beautiful places on the earth.
Access to the Temple Mount in Israel can be found near the Western Wall toward the eastern side of the Western Wall Plaza, just outside the Security Gates. You will see the entrance and the security booths.
The Temple Mount is controlled by the Israelis and protected by the Israel Defense Force. No weapons of any kind are allowed, nor are sacred Jewish objects or attire, such as prayer shawls, prayer books, fringes, etc. Men and women must both wear modest clothing covering most of the body. Ladies, bring a large scarf or shawl to drape over the shoulders and elbows. If you forget, you will most likely be directed to purchase one.
Muslims are the only ones with praying rights. If you are caught doing so, you will probably be asked to leave. If you desire to continue on with your pleasant vacation, this is not the place to challenge the rules.
The Israel Temple Mount is a very popular historical site, admission is free, and though you may get lucky, lines are likely to be long. Get there early for your best opportunities.
Hours are Monday through Thursday:
Winter: 7:30am - 10:30am & 12:30am - 1:30am
Summer: 8:30am - 11:30am & 1:30pm - 2:30pm
Closed on Friday and Saturday.
Please note the Temple Mount may also be closed without notice, regardless of posted open hours.
For current information you can inquire at the Old City Police Station: Omar Caatab Square, Old City, Jerusalem. Phone #02-6226100.
The history of the Temple Mount dates back thousands of years. Since it's occupation by the ancient Israelites, there have been about 13 different nations of peoples, with each successive one overcoming the previous one, in order to claim ownership of this area. First known at Mount Moriah or Mount Zion, both King Solomon and King Herod built Temples to God here. It is now managed by an Islamic religious committee and guarded by Israeli security. It is a very politically sensitive area and much controversy abounds as to who should own it or have access to it.
Between the years of 1996 - 1999, about 400 truckloads of topsoil were removed from the Temple Mount during construction of an underground mosque. Some of this dirt was taken to a garbage dump and is un-retrievable. But, thankfully most, about 350 truckloads, was dumped in the Kidron Valley. It is believed to contain archeological artifacts dating back to the time of Solomon. The Temple Mount Sifting Project was begun in order to recover as many of these artifacts as possible.For more details about Israel's Temple Mount, visit http://www.templemount.org/visittemp.html