…also happens to be Judaism’s holiest site!
This photo was taken from the Temple Mount, currently occupied by the otherwise lovely Dome of the Rock. Erected between 689 – 691 CE by the Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, it was meant to serve as a as a shrine for pilgrims and not as a mosque for public worship. A former Rabbi and convert to Islam, Ka’ab al-Ahbar had told the third Caliph, Caliph Omar ibn al Khattab (590-644) that this was the site of the Isra and Miraj – the rock being the spot from which Muhammad ascended to Heaven accompanied by the angel Gabriel. Muhammad was also taken here by Gabriel to pray with Adam, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. Later, Ka’ab al-Ahbar was implicated in Omar’s assassination and Shiite Muslims do not believe that he was a sincere convert to Islam. Still, the legend persists. In Jewish tradition the rock at the center of the Dome is said to be the one used by Abraham to (almost) sacrifice Isaac and it is also said to be the site of the Jewish Temple’s Holy of Holies. During the Crusader period, the Dome of the Rock served as the headquarters of the Templars and the nearby Al Aqsa Mosque served as stables. The 1967 reunification of Jerusalem was the first conquest that did not result in changing the religious status quo of the area. Moshe Dayan allowed the Islamic Waqf to continue administering the area. Jews are now allowed on the site but are forbidden from praying or bringing in religious articles like prayer shawls or siddurim. The first Intifada is said to have started after Ariel Sharon had the temerity to visit the Temple Mount.
Anyone who looks like a religious Jew entering the site is taken aside, registered and then accompanied on their visit by Israeli police, and Waqf guards with walkie talkies. If such visitors are seen to mumble or move in a prayer-like manner they are yelled at by both the guards and the police and are technically subject to arrest. Groups are sometimes video-taped as well. People that want to express their right to religious freedom on Judaism’s most sacred ground have to go in under the radar. I’m ornery that way and if someone tells me I can’t do something, well, that just makes me want to do it even more. They will confiscate prayer books but they can’t confiscate innocent looking iPhones, right? And if said iPhones have a siddur app that I accidentally clicked on while trying to check in with foursquare, well, oops! What can you do?
Accidental or not, this would still make me subject to arrest and/or detention. Oh the things I do to entertain you guys. And they say Israel is a repressive Apartheid state. Sheesh.
The Temple Mount is open to non-Muslim visitors between the hours of 7:30â€“11:30 am and 1:30â€“2:30 pm during summer and 7:30â€“10:30 am and 1:30â€“2:30 pm during winter. Non-Muslims are prohibited from entering after 2:30 pm and may not enter on Fridays, Saturdays, or Muslim holidays. Get there early if you want to avaid waiting in massive lines with Eastern European tourists. Men should wear long pants and women should avoid short skirts or cleavage baring tops, otherwise you will be forced to buy a 20 shekel keffiyeh to cover yourself up with. Men in keffiyeh skirts look ridiculous. Entry is through a wooden walkway next to the entrance to the Kotel. And remember, NO PRAYING!