The Temple Mount (Mount Moriah) is a holy compound for Jews, Muslims, and Christians in the Old City of Jerusalem. Nowadays, the complex is primarily flat, almost rectangular. The Temple Mount is the holiest place for the Jewish people, where the Temple used to be. The same mountain on which the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock stand today is the third holiest place in Islam.
The History of Temple Mount
According to the Bible, King Solomon built the first Temple on the Temple Mount. The first temple stood until 586 BCE, when Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, conducted a punitive campaign against the rebellious Jerusalem, destroyed the city and the temple, looted the temple vessels, and exiled the rest of the Jewish people.
King Herod significantly expanded the Mount and, according to Josephus, actually doubled its area and built the trapezoidal complex that is still evident today. The Second Temple that Herod built stood until 70 CE. In that same year, Jerusalem was conquered by the Roman general Titus during the Great Revolt, which destroyed and burned the Second Temple.
Emperor Hadrian visited Judea in 130 CE and decided to establish a Roman pagan city in Jerusalem called Aelia Capitolina. It is known that he intended to build a temple to Jupiter on the Temple Mount. But the historical evidence of the actual construction of this temple is sporadic, and the lack of archaeological excavations on the mount does not allow us to decide whether such a temple was built.
Jesus And Temple Mount
The New Testament reveals that Jesus had solid ties to Temple Mt. When baby Jesus was just born, we learn that Mary, the mother of Jesus, had fulfilled the forty-day purification ritual after giving birth. She took baby Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem for the ceremonial redemption of the firstborn.
Then, Twelve years later, Mary and Joseph found Jesus “in the temple, sitting among the doctors, and they were hearing him, and asking him questions.”
As the Gospel of Matthew narrates, when Jesus just began his ministry, he was taken into the holy city. Then, the Spirit placed him on the “pinnacle of the temple.” There, Satan made a vain effort to tempt him. During the three years that followed, Jesus was frequently in the Temple courts and the Temple. He probably did not go into the Actual Temple. But visited various structures or arcades of the inner Temple. We also hear that Jesus heals in the temple:
“The blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them.”Matt. 21:14.
We are also told that Jesus taught on Temple Mount. Jesus also saw the area of Temple Mount as his father’s house, which is why, during his last week as a mortal, he was so furious when he saw how it turned into a place of commerce. He was so enraged that we hear that:
“went into the temple of God, cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the money changers’ tables.”Matt. 21:12
The Muslim Period
With the Muslim conquest in 638 CE, the Muslims began to build mosques and Muslim buildings on the Temple Mount. A mosque was initially built south of the Temple Mount as a building with a wooden roof called “the mosque of Jerusalem.”
The Construction of the Temple Mount intensified significantly during the Umayyad dynasty, led by Abd al-Malak, who built the Dome of the Rock in 691. The original buildings that collapsed due to earthquakes were rebuilt and restored. The Dome of the Rock is the oldest Muslim building in the world.
The Crusader Era
In 1099, the Crusaders conquered Jerusalem in the First Crusade. The Crusaders turned the Dome of the Rock into the “Temple of the Lord” (Templum Domini) and the mosque into the “Templum Solomonis,” by which the order was also named later (1118) The Order of the Knights of Solomon’s Temple. The origin of the name was misidentified the Al-Aqsa Mosque with King Solomon’s temple.
When the Crusaders conquered the mountain, the building was held by the Knights Templar of Solomon’s Temple (that’s what they called the place), where they tied their horses, hence the name “Solomon’s Stables.”
Touring Temple Mount
Currently, getting a tour of Temple Mount is limited to certain days of the week and hours. You don’t need to reserve a time slot or something like that, but there are some basic ground rules you would need to follow to make a smooth and pleasant experience.
Dress code: EVERYONE needs to be covered with long pants, all the way to your ankles (long skirts are acceptable); long sleeve shirts (for men, is not a must, but no tank tops). In any case, it needs to be baggy and not too tight or revealing. Very modest dressing is required. In case you forgot, you will receive something to cover up. But it was used many times, and honestly, I wouldn’t recommend it. Dress modestly and respectfully.
Since lines can be very long, and everyone tries to come early, there are long lines just before they open. So be smart and come about one hour after they open or one hour before they close. It will save you about one hour of standing in line!
Also, save your shopping for later! Because if you have any religious artifacts (Christian or Jewish), security won’t let you bring these items in with you. Now, there are lockers (with no locks). You can keep them there, but it’s a real hassle!
You would need some identification with you. So, passports are required to enter Temple Mount.
When visiting, it is prohibited to practice Christian or Jewish prayer.
Temple Mount Opening Hours:
Please take note that Temple Mt. might be closed unannounced for security reasons! Also, the mountain is closed on Muslim holidays.
*Hours might change due to daylight savings time.
Sunday7–11 am, 1:30–3 pm
Monday7–11 am, 1:30–3 pm
Tuesday7–11 am, 1:30–3 pm
Wednesday7–11 am, 1:30–3 pm
Thursday7–11 am, 1:30–3 pm