Mount of Olives panorama

Mount of Olives panorama
A panoramic view of the Mount of Olives

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Haram ash-Sharif (Temple Mount)

While for Christians the center of Jerusalem is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and/or the Garden Tomb, for Jews and Muslims the most sacred spot of this city is Har haBáyit (the Mount of "the House"), which the Muslims call the al-Haram ash-Sharīf (the "Noble Sanctuary).  For Latter-day Saints, who have a particular connection to the idea of temples, the Temple Mount may have an even stronger draw than it might for some other Christians.

Because of a state of technical ritual impurity, and lest non-priestly individuals step into the forbidden area of the Holy of Holies (the exact location of which is uncertain), most observant Jews will not go up onto the Mount.  As a result, their most sacred functioning spot is the Western Wall below the Mount.

I tend to refer to the Mount by its Arabic name, the Haram, because is is currently a Muslim sacred site, indeed the third most sacred in the world after only Mecca and Medina.  With the exception of a brief period under the Crusaders, Christians generally neglected the Temple Mount.  But the Muslims have treated it with great respect, traditionally seeing it as the site of "the farthest sanctuary"mentioned in the Qur'an (the Al-Aqsa Mosque) and venerating the rock under the Dome of the Rock as the place from which the prophet Muhammad began his night journey or mystical ascent into heaven.  I am always stirred by the obvious devotion of the Muslims who frequent this site, not only at prayer time and especially on Fridays when thousands gather here, but also at other times when small groups gather to study Qur'an or pay private devotions.

While I have brought Elaine on to the Haram before (see the pictures and discussion in my Monday of Holy Week post), Rachel had not been here before.  So Thursday morning we hurried down so that we could have a couple of hours before the Haram closed for non-Muslims because of Ramadan.

Rachel about to enter the wooden bridge that leads up to the Mugrabi Gate, the only entrance for non-Muslims

These Herodian, Roman, and Byzantine column capitals are reminders of earlier times

Front of the Al Aqsa Mosque

Al Aqsa from the east.  Tents and awnings have been set up throughout the Haram to accommodate the increased number of worshipers during Ramadan
Rachel at the southeast corner of the Mount, where the drop to the Qidron Valley floor below is greatest. This might have been the "Pinnacle of the Temple" described in the stories of the Temptations of Jesus

Looking down at a bus far below the Pinnacle point
The Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives
Entrance to the new large underground mosque built in the vaulted area known as "Solomon's Stables"
Along the eastern side of the Mount used to be a colonnade called "Solomon's Porch" (see John 10:23)

Looking down and over to Gethsemane
The Muslim cemetery immediately below the Mount

The back of the Golden Gate

Something about this prayer rug that someone stashed in a tree for later use caught my attention


"Our" churches.  From left to right: the bell tower of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, the two gray domes of the Holy Sepulchre, and the tower of the Catholic St. Savior's
Rachel with the Mamluk colonnade on the west side

Ramadan lights as we exited the Gate of the Chain

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