Few places in the world beg at the imagination quite like Temple Mount. For starters, if the world were ever to find peace, it would surely begin in Jerusalem; what better place to begin than at the center of the most contested religious site in the world? Or, in history?
Known in the Bible as Mount Moriah, Judaism holds that it was from here that the Divine Presence settled, before fanning outwards across the planet. God supposedly gathered dust for Adam from the slopes of Mount Moriah. The story of Abraham and Isaac? You know, the one where God tested Abraham’s faith by telling him to sacrifice his son, Isaac, only to say, “Whoa boy — OK, stop! I didn’t think you were actually gonna do it! Sheesh, what kind of God do you think I am??” (Yes, that’s how they talk in the Bible. For rizzle.)
Temple Mount is the place where two Jewish Temples were built by mandate from God. The first of these is the one you know about, King Solomon’s Temple, the second built by someone you never heard of. Zerubbabel, a Governor of the Persian Province of Judah, led the first wave of Jews from their Babylonian captivity, and laid the foundation for Temple Numero Two-O.
Perhaps the juiciest detail about Temple Mount is that this is where you can (theoretically) find the actual Holy of Holies, in Hebrew, called Kodesh Hakodashim. This is where the Ark of the Covenant was kept during the time of Solomon’s Temple, and where the High Priests could go receive the Word of God from God Himself. I call it a “juicy” detail, because, though the exact location of Kodesh Hakodashim is unknown, I like to believe that it could be known. If we could shed all of the religious friction at this site, Archeologists could actually get in there and learn its true location. Why is that so cool?
Think about any of the other stories in the Bible which claimed God appeared to man. The first two that come to my mind are the Burning Bush, and when God hands Moses the Ten Commandments. We’ll never find those locations, because they happened randomly in the wilderness. With Temple Mount, an entire Temple was built around a place where God appeared with regularity — making this spot unique. Which is interesting. Why there? What was so special about Mount Moriah?
By the way, it isn’t only a hot spot for Judeo-Christian tradition. Islam thinks it’s a pretty hot spot of spiritual activity as well.
Muslims built their Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the famous landmark, the Dome of the Rock, on the spot that Jews believe God wants them to rebuild the Third Temple. (In Jewish faith, the Third Temple will presage the coming of Christ. Maybe you’re beginning to see the site’s significance?) So, why did the Muslims build it there? Well, they’ve got some claims of their own.
The Isra and Mi’raj are two parts of a physical and spiritual journey that the prophet Mohammed took around 621 AD. This event, called the Night Journey, is central in Islamic faith. Mohammed was said to have been taken to Jerusalem and ascended to Heaven to receive God’s Word. (When Mohammed returned, he had information for the faithful, such as the number of daily prayers, etc.) The Al-Aqsa Mosque was completed by 705 AD, and today, it is considered the third holiest site in Islam.
One other point is worth mentioning in this post.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority claim sovereignty over Temple Mount. To appease some of this tension, Israel has handed control of its management over to an Islamic Waqf, like a charitable trust for Muslims. Further, Israel enforces a “no pray” policy on its grounds by non-Muslim visitors. Of course, the larger issue for the Palestinian Authority is Israel even existing in the first place.
In light of this religious friction, it is unlikely that archeologists will get in there in our life times to determine the exact location of the Holy of Holies, and, by extension, the zone of such spiritual significance as to suggest the promise of science fact for the deeply faithful. Temple Mount begs at the imagination because it isn’t in the wilderness. Two Temples and a Mosque have been built upon the spot that God likes to appear to humans. What mysteries may lie beneath that we cannot know because of our collective religious/spiritual immaturity which keep us too cowardly to admit to one another, “if it is of God, then we are all humble before Him in seeking Truth?”