Temple Mount

Biblical scholars have often identified it with two biblical mountains of uncertain location: Mount Moriah where the binding of Isaac took place, and Mount Zion where the original Jebusite fortress stood, however both interpretations are disputed.

Judaism regards the Temple Mount as the place where God chose the Divine Presence to rest (Isa 8:18); it was from here the world expanded into its present form and where God gathered the dust used to create the first man, Adam. (According to the sages of the Talmud.The site is the location of Abraham's binding of Isaac, and of two Jewish Temples. According to the Bible the site should function as the center of all national life - government, judicial and, of course, religious center (Deut 12:5-26; 14:23-25; 15:20; 16:2-16; 17:8-10; 26: 2; 31: 11; Isa 2: 2-5; Oba 1:21; Psa 48). During the Second Temple Period it functioned also as an economical center. From that location the word of God will come out to all nations, and that is the site where all prayers are focused.

According to Jewish tradition and scripture, (2 Chronicles 3:1-2) the first temple was built by Solomon the son of David in 957 BCE and destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. The second was constructed under the auspices of Zerubbabel in 516 BCE and destroyed by the Roman Empire in 70 CE. Jewish tradition maintains it is here the Third and final Temple will also be built. The location is the holiest site in Judaism and is the place Jews turn towards during prayer. Due to its extreme sanctity, many Jews will not walk on the Mount itself, to avoid unintentionally entering the area where the Holy of Holies stood, since according to Rabbinical law, some aspect of the Divine Presence is still present at the site.It was from the Holy of Holies that the High Priest communicated directly with God.

Among Sunni Muslims, the Mount is widely considered to be the third holiest site in Islam. Revered as the Noble Sanctuary (Bait-ul-Muqaddas) and the location of Muhammad's journey to Jerusalem and ascent to heaven, the site is also associated with Jewish biblical prophets who are also venerated in Islam. After the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem in 637 CE, Umayyad Caliphs commissioned the construction of the al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock on the site.The Dome was completed in 692 CE, making it one of the oldest extant Islamic structures in the world, after the Kaabah. The Al Aqsa Mosque rests on the far southern side of the Mount, facing Mecca. The Dome of the Rock currently sits in the middle, occupying or close to the area where the Bible mandates the Holy Temple be rebuilt.

In light of the dual claims of both Judaism and Islam, it is one of the most contested religious sites in the world. Since the Crusades, the Muslim community of Jerusalem has managed the site as a Waqf, without interruption. As part of the Old City, controlled by Israel since 1967, both Israel and the Palestinian Authority claim sovereignty over the site, which remains a major focal point of the Arab-Israeli conflict.In an attempt to keep the status quo, the Israeli government enforces a controversial ban on prayer by non-Muslim visitors.

Location and dimensions:

The Temple Mount forms the northern portion of a very narrow spur of hill that slopes sharply from north to south. Rising above the Kidron Valley to the east and Tyropoeon Valley to the west, its peak reaches a height of 740 m (2,428 ft) above sea level.In around 19 BCE, Herod the Great extended the Mount's natural plateau by enclosing the area with four massive retaining walls and filling the voids. This artificial expansion resulted in a large flat expanse which today forms the eastern section of the Old City of Jerusalem. The trapezium shaped platform measures 488 m along the west, 470 m along the east, 315 m along the north and 280 m along the south, giving a total area of approximately 150,000 m2 (37 acres).The northern wall of the Mount, together with the northern section of the western wall, is hidden behind residential buildings. The southern section of the western flank is revealed and contains what is known as the Western Wall. The retaining walls on these two sides descend many meters below ground level. A northern portion of the western wall may be seen from within the Western Wall Tunnel, which was excavated through buildings adjacent to the platform. On the southern and eastern sides the walls are visible almost to their full height. The platform itself is separated from the rest of the Old City by the Tyropoeon Valley, though this once deep valley is now largely hidden beneath later deposits, and is imperceptible in places. The platform can be reached via Bridge Street — a street in the Muslim Quarter at the level of the platform, actually sitting on a monumental bridge; the bridge is no longer externally visible due to the change in ground level, but it may be seen from beneath via the Western Wall Tunnel.



Israelite Period

The hill is believed to have been inhabited since the 4th millennium BCE.

Assuming colocation with the biblical Mount Zion, its southern section would have been walled at the beginning of the 2nd millennium BCE, in around 1850 BCE, by Canaanites who established a settlement there (or in the vicinity) named Jebus.

Biblical scholars have also identified it with Mount Moriah where the binding of Isaac took place. According to the Hebrew Bible, Mount Moriah was originally a threshing-floor owned by Araunah, a Jebusite. The prophet Gad suggested the area to King David as a fitting place for the erection of an altar to YHWH, since it was there a destroying angel was standing when God stopped a great plague in Jerusalem.David then bought the property from Araunah, for fifty pieces of silver, and erected the altar. YHWH instructed David to build a sanctuary on the site, outside the city walls on the northern edge of the hill. The building was to replace the Tabernacle, and serve as the Temple of the Israelites in Jerusalem.

Achaemenid Persian, Hasmonean periods, and Herod’s expansion:

Much of the Mount's early history is synonymous with events pertaining to the Temple itself. After the destruction of Solomon’s Temple by Nebuchadnezzar II, construction of the Second Temple began under Cyrus in around 538 BCE, and completed in 516 BCE. Evidence of a Hasmonean expansion of the Temple Mount has been recovered by archaeologist Leen Ritmeyer. Around 19 BCE, Herod the Great further expanded the Mount and rebuilt the temple. The ambitious project, which involved the employment of 10,000 workers,more than doubled the size of Temple Mount to approximately 36 acres (150,000 m2). Herod leveled the area by cutting away rock on the northwest side and raising the sloping ground to the south. He achieved this by constructing huge buttress walls and vaults, filling the necessary sections with earth and rubble.A basilica (the Royal Stoa) was constructed on the southern end of the expanded platform, which provided a focus for the city's commercial and legal transactions, and which was provided with separate access to the city below via the Robinson's Arch overpass.In addition to restoration of the Temple, its courtyards, and porticoes, Herod also built Antonia Fortress abutting the northwestern corner of the Temple Mount, and a rainwater reservoir, Birket Israel, in the northeast. As a result of the First Jewish-Roman War, the fortress was destroyed by Roman emperor Vespasian, in 70 CE, under the command of his son and imperial heir, Titus.

Middle Roman period:

The city of Aelia Capitolina was built in 130 CE by the Roman emperor Hadrian, and occupied by a Roman colony on the site of Jerusalem, which was still in ruins from the First Jewish Revolt in 70 CE.
Aelia came from Hadrian's nomen gentile, Aelius, while Capitolina meant that the new city was dedicated to Jupiter Capitolinus, to whom a temple was built on the site of the former second Jewish temple, the Temple Mount.

Hadrian had intended the construction of the new city as a gift to the Jews, but since he had constructed a giant statue of himself in front of the Temple of Jupiter and the Temple of Jupiter had a huge statue of Jupiter inside of it, there were now two enormous graven images on the Temple Mount. It was also the normal practice of the adherents of the Hellenic religion to sacrifice pigs before their deities. In addition to this, Hadrian issued a decree prohibiting the practice of circumcision. These three factors, the graven images, the sacrifice of pigs before the altar, and the prohibition of circumcision, constituted for non-Hellenized radical Zealot Jews a new abomination of desolation, and thus Bar Kochba launched the Third Jewish Revolt. After the Third Jewish Revolt failed, all Jews were forbidden on pain of death from entering the city.

Late Roman period:

About 325 it is believed that Constantine's mother, St. Helena, built a small church on the Mount in the 4th century, calling it the Church of St. Cyrus and St. John, later on enlarged and called the Church of the Holy Wisdom. The church was later destroyed and on its ruins the Dome of the Rock was built.Since it is known that Helena ordered the Temple of Venus to the west of the Temple Mount to be torn down to construct the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, presumably she also ordered the Temple of Jupiter on the Temple Mount to be torn down to construct the Church of St. Cyrus and St. John.

In 363, Emperor Julian II, on his way to engage Persia, stopped at the ruins of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Julian granted the Jews permission to begin rebuilding the Temple.To Christians, the destroyed Temple was a symbol of Christianity's triumph over Judaism, and Julian, was an opponent of Christianity. Rebuilding work began, but was ended by the Galilee earthquake of 363.
There are records of Jews continuing to offer sacrifices on the Foundation Stone after the destruction of the Temple and into the Byzantine period.

Byzantine period:

Archaeological evidence in the form of an elaborate mosaic floor similar to the one in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and multiple fragments of an elaborate marble Templom (chancel screen) prove that an elaborate Byzantine church or monastery or other public building stood on the Temple Mount in Byzantine times, presumably the aforementioned Holy Wisdom Church.Archaeological evidence in the form of an elaborate mosaic floor similar to the one in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and multiple fragments of an elaborate marble Templom (chancel screen) prove that an elaborate Byzantine church or monastery or other public building stood on the Temple Mount in Byzantine times, presumably the aforementioned Holy Wisdom Church.


Sassanid vassal state period:

In 610, the Sassanid Empire drove the Byzantine Empire out of the Middle East, giving the Jews control of Jerusalem for the first time in centuries. The new rulers soon ordered the restart of animal sacrifice for the first time since the time of Second Temple. Shortly before the Byzantines took the area back a few years later, the Persians gave control to the Christian population, who tore down the partially built Jewish temple edifice and turned it into a garbage dump,which is what it was when the Caliph Omar took the city in the 630s.


Arabic period:

Upon the capture of Jerusalem by the victorious Caliph Omar, Omar immediately headed to the Temple Mount with his advisor, Ka'ab al-Ahbar, a formerly Jewish rabbi who had converted to Islam, in order to find the holy site of the "Furthest Mosque" or Al Masjid al Aqsa which was mentioned in the Quran and specified in the Hadiths of being in Jerusalem.Ka'ab al-Ahbar suggested to Caliph Omar to build the Dome of the Rock monument on the site that Ka'ab believed to be the Biblical Holy of the Holies, arguing that this site is where Mohammad ascended to heaven during the Isra and Mi'raj miracle. The actual construction of the Muslim monuments at the southeast corner, facing Mecca, near which the al-Aqsa Mosque were built 78 years later. The original building is now known to have been wooden and to have been constructed on the site of a Byzantine public building with an elaborate mosaic floor. (The Persian conquest that immediately preceded the Arab conquest makes it uncertain who destroyed the building.)

In 691 an octagonal Islamic building topped by a dome was built by the Caliph Abd al-Malik around the rock, for a myriad of political, dynastic and religious reasons, built on local and Koranic traditions articulating the site's holiness, a process in which textual and architectural narratives reinforced one another.The shrine became known as the Dome of the Rock (Qubbat as-Sakhra قبة الصخرة). The dome itself was covered in gold in 1920. In 715 the Umayyads led by the Caliph al-Walid I, rebuilt the Temple's nearby Chanuyos into a mosque (see illustrations and detailed drawing) which they named al-Masjid al-Aqsa المسجد الأقصى, the al-Aqsa Mosque or in translation "the furthest mosque", corresponding to the Islamic belief of Muhammad's miraculous nocturnal journey as recounted in the Qur'an and hadith. The term al-Haram al-Sharif الحرم الشريف (the Noble Sanctuary) refers to the whole area that surrounds that Rock as was called later by the Mamluks and Ottomans.

For Muslims, the importance of the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque makes Jerusalem the third-holiest city, after Mecca and Medina. The mosque and shrine are currently administered by a Waqf (an Islamic trust). The various inscriptions on the Dome walls and the artistic decorations imply on symbolic eschatological significance of the structure.

From the Arabic Conquest to the Crusades there seems to have been good relations between the Arab rulers and the Jewish minority. A Jewish synagogue was built on the Temple Mount. Its location has not been established, but it was destroyed by the Crusaders when they took the city and massacred the Jews and Muslims in 1099.

Ottoman period:

Following the Ottoman conquest of Palestine in 1516, the Ottoman authorities continued the policy of prohibiting non-Muslims from setting foot on the Temple Mount until the early 19th-century, when non-Muslims were again permitted to visit the site.

In 1867, a team from the Royal Engineers, led by Lieutenant Charles Warren and financed by the Palestine Exploration Fund (P.E.F.), discovered a series of underground tunnels near the Temple Mount. Warren secretly excavated some tunnels near the Temple Mount walls, and was the first one to document lower courses of them. Warren also conducted some small scale excavations inside the Temple Mount, by removing rubble the blocked passages leading from the Dou
ble Gate chamber.


British Mandate period:   

Between 1922 and 1924, the Dome of the Rock was restored by the Islamic Higher Council.


Jordanian period:

Jordan undertook two renovations of the Dome of the Rock, replacing the leaking, wooden dome with an aluminum dome in 1952, and, when the dome continued to leak, carrying out a second restoration between 1959 and 1964.Neither Israeli Arabs nor Israeli Jews could visit their holy places in the Jordanian territories during this period.

 Israeli period:

An Islamic Waqf has managed the Temple Mount continuously since the Muslim reconquest of the Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1187. On 7 June 1967, soon after Israel had taken control of the area during the Six-Day War, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol assured that "no harm whatsoever shall come to the places sacred to all religions". Together with the extension of Israeli jurisdiction and administration over east Jerusalem, the Knesset passed the Preservation of the Holy Places Law, ensuring protection of the Holy Places against desecration, as well as freedom of access thereto. Israel agreed to leave administration of the site in the hands of the Waqf.

Although freedom of access was enshrined in the law, as a security measure, the Israeli government currently enforces a ban on non-Muslim prayer on the site. Non-Muslims who are observed praying on the site are subject to expulsion by the police. At various times, when there is fear of Arab rioting upon the mount resulting in throwing stones from above towards the Western Wall Plaza, Israel has prevented Muslim men under 45 from praying in the compound, citing these concerns. Sometimes such restrictions have coincided with Friday prayers during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.


Current features:

Dome Of Rock.

An additional flat platform was built above the portion of the hill rising above the general level of the top of the Temple Mount, and this upper platform is the location of the Dome of the Rock; the rock in question is the bedrock at the peak of the hill, just breaching the floor level of the upper platform. Beneath the rock is a natural cave known as the Well of Souls, originally accessible only by a narrow hole in the rock itself, Crusaders hacked open an entrance to the cave from the south, by which it can now be entered. There is also a smaller domed building on the upper platform, slightly to the east of the Dome of the Rock, known as the Dome of the Chain — traditionally the location where a chain once rose to heaven. Several stairways rise to the upper platform from the lower; that at the northwest corner is believed by some archaeologists be part of a much wider monumental staircase, mostly hidden or destroyed, and dating from the Second Temple era.

The lower platform — which constitutes most of the surface of the Temple Mount — has at its southern end the al-Aqsa Mosque, which takes up most of the width of the Mount. Gardens take up the eastern and most of the northern side of the platform; the far north of the platform houses an Islamic school. The lower platform also houses a fountain (known as al-Kas), originally supplied with water via a long narrow aqueduct leading from pools at Bethlehem (colloquially known as Solomon's Pools), but now supplied from Jerusalem's water mains. There are several cisterns embedded in the lower platform, designed to collect rain water as a water supply. These have various forms and structures, seemingly built in different periods by different architects, ranging from vaulted chambers built in the gap between the bedrock and the platform, to chambers cut into the bedrock itself. Of these, the most notable are (numbering traditionally follows Wilson's scheme:

Cistern 1 (located under the northern side of the upper platform). There is a speculation that it had a function connected with the altar of the Second Temple (and possibly of the earlier Temple), or with the bronze sea.

Cistern 5 (located under the south eastern corner of the upper platform) — a long and narrow chamber, with a strange anti-clockwise curved section at its north western corner, and containing within it a doorway currently blocked by earth. The cistern's position and design is such that there has been speculation it had a function connected with the altar of the Second Temple (and possibly of the earlier Temple), or with the bronze sea. Charles Warren thought that the altar of burnt offerings was located at the north western end.

Cistern 8 (located just north of the al-Aqsa Mosque) — known as the Great Sea, a large rock hewn cavern, the roof supported by pillars carved from the rock; the chamber is particularly cave-like and atmospheric,[35] and its maximum water capacity is several hundred thousand gallons.

Cistern 9 (located just south of cistern 8, and directly under the al-Aqsa Mosque) — known as the Well of the Leaf due to its leaf-shaped plan, also rock hewn.

Cistern 11 (located east of cistern 9) — a set of vaulted rooms forming a plan shaped like the letter E. Probably the largest cistern, it has the potential to house over 700,000 gallons of water.

Cistern 16/17 (located at the centre of the far northern end of the Temple Mount). Despite the currently narrow entrances, this cistern (17 and 16 are the same cistern) is a large vaulted chamber, which Warren described as looking like the inside of the cathedral at Cordoba (which was previously a mosque). Warren believed that it was almost certainly built for some other purpose, and was only adapted into a cistern at a later date; he suggested that it might have been part of a general vault supporting the northern side of the platform, in which case substantially more of the chamber exists than is used for a cistern.

The walls of the platform contain several gateways, all currently blocked. In the east wall is the Golden Gate, through which legend states the Jewish Messiah would enter Jerusalem. On the southern face are the Hulda Gates — the triple gate (which has three arches) and the double gate (which has two arches, and is partly obscured by a Crusader building); these were the entrance and exit (respectively) to the Temple Mount from Ophel (the oldest part of Jerusalem), and the main access to the Mount for ordinary Jews. In the western face, near the southern corner, is the Barclay's Gate — only half visible due to a building on the northern side. Also in the western face, hidden by later construction but visible via the recent Western Wall Tunnels, and only rediscovered by Warren, is Warren's Gate; the function of these western gates is obscure, but many Jews view Warren's Gate as particularly holy, due to its location due west of the Dome of the Rock. Traditional belief considers the Dome of the Rock to have earlier been the location at which the Holy of Holies was placed; numerous alternative opinions exist, based on study and calculations, such as those of Tuvia Sagiv and by observation, the way most Jews face when praying at the Western Wall or Kotel.

Warren was able to investigate the inside of these gates. Warren's Gate and the Golden Gate simply head towards the centre of the Mount, fairly quickly giving access to the surface by steps. Barclay's Gate is similar, but abruptly turns south as it does so; the reason for this is currently unknown. The double and triple gates (the Huldah Gates) are more substantial; heading into the Mount for some distance they each finally have steps rising to the surface just north of the al-Aqsa Mosque. The passageway for each is vaulted, and has two aisles (in the case of the triple gate, a third aisle exists for a brief distance beyond the gate); the eastern aisle of the double gates and western of the triple gates reach the surface, the other aisles terminating some way before the steps — Warren believed that one aisle of each original passage was extended when the al-Aqsa Mosque blocked the original surface exits.

East of and joined to the triple gate passageway is a large vaulted area, supporting the southeastern corner of the Temple Mount platform — which is substantially above the bedrock at this point — the vaulted chambers here are popularly referred to as King Solomon's Stables. They were used as stables by the Crusaders, but were built by Herod the Great — along with the platform they were built to support. In the process of investigating Cistern 10, Warren discovered tunnels that lay under the Triple Gate passageway. These passages lead in erratic directions, some leading beyond the southern edge of the Temple Mount (they are at a depth below the base of the walls); their purpose is currently unknown — as is whether they predate the Temple Mount — a situation not helped by the fact that apart from Warren's expedition no one else is known to have visited them.

The existing four minarets include three near the Western Wall and one near the northern wall. The first minaret was constructed on the southwest corner of the Temple Mount in 1278. The second was built in 1297 by order of a Mameluk king, the third by a governor of Jerusalem in 1329, and the last in 1367.


Alterations to antiquities and damage to existing structures:

Several excavations at the Temple Mount have taken place. The first archaeological excavations at the site was by the British Royal Engineers in the 1870s.

Since Israel took over control of the Old City in 1967, archaeological excavations in the vicinity of the Mount have been undertaken by Israel and the Waqf. Both excavations have been controversial and criticized. Israeli excavations have also sparked demonstrations and objections in the Muslim world. Israeli and Jewish groups have criticized excavations conducted by the Waqf, the Muslim authority in charge of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.


Due to the extreme political sensitivity of the site, few archaeological excavations have been conducted on the Temple Mount itself. Protests commonly occur whenever archaeologists conduct projects on or near the Mount.

Aside from visual observation of surface features, most other archaeological knowledge of the site comes from the 19th century survey carried out by Charles Wilson and Charles Warren. Warren was one of the first to excavate this area, exemplifying a new era of Biblical archaeology in the 1870s.In 1930, R.W. Hamilton, director of the British Mandate Antiquities Department, carried out the only archeological excavation ever undertaken at the Temple Mount's Aqsa Mosque by the British Mandate, the excavations show a Byzantine mosaic floor underneath the mosque that was likely the remains of a church or a monastery.

Post 1967:

In 1967 the Religious Affairs Ministry began an unlicensed excavation. Starting at the western wall plaza, workers dug northward, under the Old City's Muslim Quarter.

Beginning in 1968, Israeli archeologists began excavations at the foot of the Temple Mount, immediately south of the al-Aqsa Mosque, uncovering Second Temple, Roman, Umayyad and Crusader remains.

In 1970, Israeli authorities commenced intensive excavations to the south and west of the mosque. Over the period 1970–1988, the Israeli authorities excavated a tunnel passing immediately to the west of the Temple Mount, northwards from the Western Wall, that became known as the Western Wall Tunnel. They sometimes used mechanical excavators under the supervision of archeologists. Palestinians claim that both of these have caused cracks and structural weakening of the buildings in the Muslim Quarter of the city above. Israelis confirmed this danger:

"The Moslem authorities were concerned about the ministry tunnel along the Temple Mount wall, and not without cause. Two incidents during the Mazar dig along the southern wall had sounded alarm bells. Technion engineers had already measured a slight movement in part of the southern wall during the excavations...There was no penetration of the Mount itself or danger to holy places, but midway in the tunnel's progress large cracks appeared in one of the residential buildings in the Moslem Quarter, 12 meters above the excavation. The dig was halted until steel buttresses secured the building."

In an article published in the Egyptian Al-Ahram Weekly in 2007, Palestinian journalist Khaled Amayreh listed Israeli encroachments on the Al-Aqsa Mosque: In 1977, digging continued and a large ancient tunnel was opened below the women's prayer area. A further tunnel was unearthed under the mosque, going from east to west, in 1979. In addition, in March 1984 the Archaeological Department of the Israeli Ministry of Religious Affairs dug a tunnel near the western portion of the mosque, endangering the Islamic "Majlis" or council building.Israeli archaeologist Israel Finkelstein, however, asserts that "Palestinian accusations ... that tunnels are being dug under the Al-Aqsa Mosque in order to undermine its foundations, are false. The closest excavation to the mosque is some 70 meters to its south". In 1981, Yehuda Meir Getz, rabbi of the Western Wall, had workmen open the ancient Warren's Gate, accessing the innards of the Temple Mount itself from the Western Wall Tunnel. Arabs on the Mount heard banging from one of the more than two dozen cisterns on the Mount. Israeli Government officials, upon being notified of the unauthorized breach, immediately ordered Warren's Gate resealed. The 2000-year-old stone gate was filled with cement, and remains cement-shut today.

Archeologist Leon Pressouyre, a UNESCO envoy who visited the site in 1998 and claims to have been prevented from meeting Israeli officials (in his own words, "Mr Avi Shoket, Israel's permanent delegate to UNESCO, had repeatedly opposed my mission and, when I expressed the wish to meet with his successor, Uri Gabay, I was denied an appointment",accuses the Israeli government of culpably neglecting to protect the Islamic period buildings uncovered in Israeli excavations. Later, Prof. Oleg Grabar of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton replaced Leon Pressouyre as the UNESCO envoy to investigate the Israeli allegations that antiquities are being destroyed by the Waqf on the Temple Mount.Initially, Grabar was denied access to the buildings by Israel for over a year, allegedly due to the threat of violence resulting from the al-Aqsa Intifada. His eventual conclusion was that the monuments are deteriorating largely because of conflicts over who is responsible for them, the Jordanian government, the local Palestinian Authority or the Israeli government.


Western Wall Tunnel (1996):

After the Six Day War, the Ministry of Religious Affairs of Israel began the excavations aimed at exposing the continuation of the Western Wall. The excavations lasted almost twenty years and revealed many previously unknown facts about the history and geography of the Temple Mount.

The tunnel exposes a total length of 500m of the wall, revealing the methods of construction and the various activities in the vicinity of the Temple Mount. The excavations included many archaeological finds along the way, including discoveries from the Herodian period (streets, monumental masonry), sections of a reconstruction of the Western Wall dating to the Umayyad period, and various structures dating to the Ayyubid, Mamluke and Hasmonean periods constructed to support buildings in the vicinity of the Temple Mount. Warren's Gate lies about 150 feet (46 m) into the tunnel. At the northern portion of the Western Wall, remains of a water channel, which originally supplied water to the Temple Mount, were found. The exact source of the channel is unknown, though it passes through an underground pool known as the Strouthion Pool. The water channel was dated to the Hasmonean period and was accordingly dubbed the Hasmonean Channel.[citation needed]

The biggest stone in the Western Wall often called the Western Stone is also revealed within the tunnel and ranks as one of the heaviest objects ever lifted by human beings without powered machinery. The stone has a length of 13.6 meters and an estimated width of between 3.5 and 4.5 meters; estimates place its weight at 570 tons.[citation needed]

In 1996, former Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu opened the Western Wall Tunnel near the site. Fueled by the allegation that the tunnel would undermine the Temple Mount, Palestinians protested. Consequently, gun battles in the West Bank and Gaza Strip killed 54 Palestinians and 14 Israeli soldiers.

Solomon's Stables:

Solomon's Stables (Hebrew: אורוות שלמה‎) or Marwani Mosque is an underground mosque some 600 square yards (500 square meters) beneath al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Solomon's Stables are located under the southeastern corner of the Temple Mount, 12½ metres below the courtyard and feature twelve rows of pillars and arches.


The mosque was initially a water reservoir that had been built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian in the second century, along with the stone wall currently surrounding al-Aqsa Mosque. Its overall structure closely resembles that of the Roman Ramla reservoir with stone pillars and junctions. That the reservoir was built at the same time as the wall is evident since the southern and eastern walls of the reservoir are a continuation of the wall surrounding al-Aqsa Mosque. Instead of an addition built long after the wall, the reservoir was built at the same time, as can be inferred from the joining of the stones.

The reservoir was used to collect water flowing into it from surrounding areas, through horizontal aqueducts made of stone and feeding into vertical canals in the external walls of the reservoir. One of these vertical canals can still be seen today and is located at the level of the main entrance of the Marwani mosque. It is semi-circular and is lined with a Roman fuller of limestone mixed with ground clay and sand. The flooring of the reservoir is made of stone, but is covered with layers of silt that have accumulated over the years.
During the Umayyad reign, this reservoir was converted into a mussalah and was named the Marwani Mussalah, by the Islamic Umayyad Khalifa, Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, along with the Dome of the Rock. It remained so until the Crusaders converted it in 1099 into a stable for the infantry. The rings for tethering horses can still be seen on some of the pillars. The place used to be accessed from the single-panel gate located in the southern wall of al-Aqsa Mosque, which is also the southern wall of the Marwani mussalah.

The structure was called Solomon's Stables during Crusader times as a historical composite. 'Solomon's' refers to the First Temple which the Crusaders believed to be built on the site, while the 'stables' refers to the functional usage of the space by the Crusaders in the time of Baldwin II (King of Jerusalem 1118-1131 CE)

Modern construction:

In 1996, the waqf restored the mosque there, with a capacity for 7,000 worshipers.


The soil removed from the dig was dumped near the Mount of Olives and a salvage operation, the Temple Mount Antiquities Salvage Operation was undertaken in order to sift through the debris for archaeological remains. Many important finds have turned up.

Popular culture:

In popular culture, the area has become associated with the Knights Templar due to a claim in the 2003 novel The Da Vinci Code that the order maintained its headquarters here.

Construction at Solomon's Stables (1996–1999): 

In 1996 the Waqf began construction in the structures known since Crusader times as Solomon's Stables, and in the Eastern Hulda Gate passageway, allowed the area to be (re)opened as a prayer space called the Marwani Musalla capable of accommodating 7,000 individuals. Many Israelis regard this as a radical change of the status quo under which the site had been administered since the Six-Day War which should not have been undertaken without consulting the Israeli government.[citation needed] In 1997, the Western Hulda Gate passageway was converted into another mosque.

According to The New York Times, an emergency exit had been urged upon the Waqf by the Israeli police. In 1999, the Waqf agreed on its necessity, which was also acknowledged by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). But the IAA criticized the Waqf's use of bulldozers, and said that salvation archaeology needed to be performed first. Gabriel Barkay, an Israeli professor, said the construction demolished structures dating to the Twelfth Century Crusades, and went on without archaeological supervision. He said the construction used ancient stones from early Jewish buildings and used them to make modern ones. Israel Finkelstein has described the project as "the greatest devastation to have recently been inflicted on Jerusalem’s archaeological heritage".

In 2000, an Israeli high court rejected a petition to halt construction, saying the matter should be left to the Israeli government. Ehud Olmert, then mayor of Jerusalem, also criticized the construction. He ordered a halt to the construction, on grounds of archaeological damage, defying an Israeli government decision to allow excavations at the site.The Waqf rejected that Israel had any right to halt the construction. Formally, the Waqf doesn't recognize Israeli authority, though it has cooperated with Israel until the 1996 opening of Western Wall tunnel (see above).

The Temple Mount Antiquities Salvage Operation is an archaeological project established in 2005 and dedicated to recovering archaeological artifacts from the 300 truckloads of topsoil removed from the Temple Mount by the Waqf during the construction of the underground el-Marwani Mosque from 1996–1999. By 2006, the Temple Mount Antiquities Salvage Operation had recovered numerous artifacts dating from the 8th to 7th centuries BCE from dirt removed in 1999 by the Islamic Religious Trust (Waqf) from the Solomon's Stables area of the Temple Mount. These include stone weights for weighing silver and a First Temple period bulla, or seal impression, containing ancient Hebrew writing, which may have belonged to a well-known family of priests mentioned in the Book of Jeremiah.


In autumn 2002, a bulge of about 700 mm was reported in the southern retaining wall part of the Temple Mount. It was feared that part of the wall might seriously deteriorate or even collapse. The Waqf would not permit detailed Israeli inspection but came to an agreement with Israel that led to a team of Jordanian engineers inspecting the wall in October. They recommended repair work that involved replacing or resetting most of the stones in the affected area which covers 2,000 square feet (200 m2) and is located 25 feet (8 m) from the top of the wall. Repairs were completed before January 2004. The restoration of 250 square meters of wall cost 100,000 Jordanian dinars ($140,000).

On February 11, 2004, the eastern wall of the Temple Mount was damaged by an earthquake. The damage threatens to topple sections of the wall into the area known as Solomon's Stables.

On February 16, 2004, a few days after the earthquake, a portion of a stone retaining wall, supporting the ramp that leads from the Western Wall plaza to the Gate of the Moors on the Temple Mount, collapsed. Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization condemned the "excavations carried out by the Israeli occupying authorities under the Aqsa Mosque" which they claimed caused the collapse of the path.


Mughrabi Gate ramp reconstruction (February 2007):

In February 2007, Israel began digging outside the Mughrabi Gate (the Moroccan Gate) claiming that it was repairing an old ramp – which had collapsed in 2005 – leading to Al-Aqsa Mosque.[23] Muslim officials contended that the digging was part of Israeli designs against the mosque. The excavations provoked anger throughout the Islamic world, and Israel was accused of trying to destroy the foundation of the mosque. Ismail Haniya — then Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority and Hamas leader—[24] called on Palestinians to unite to protest the excavations, while Fatah said they would end their ceasefire with Israel. Malaysia condemned Israel for the excavation works around and beneath the Al-Aqsa Mosque and for willfully destroying religious, cultural and heritage sites in Al-Quds. Malaysia has condemned this as an act of destruction and aggression. King Abdullah II of Jordan "strongly condemned the Israeli actions against worshippers at Al Aqsa Mosque, stressing that Jordan would continue its contacts with the Arab and Islamic worlds and the international community to halt Israel's excavation work in the area".The secretary-general of the 57-member Organisation of the Islamic Conference, Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, expressed his anguish and dismay at the world’s silence on Israel’s "blatant moves to Judaize Jerusalem and change the holy city’s historic character." He stated: "the excavation work being carried out by Israel constituted the gravest threat ever to one of Islam’s three holiest mosques"

Israel denied all charges against them, calling them "ludicrous".As a result of the furore, Israeli authorities have installed cameras to film excavation work being carried out near the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The footage was to be broadcasted live on the internet, in an attempt to ease widespread anger in the Muslim world. Israel says the work is needed to repair a walkway up to the compound. On March 20, 2007 the Turkish Government sent a technical team to inspect and report on the excavations to the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia issued a statement condemning Israeli excavations around Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque which is considered to be the third holiest place in Islam. Moreover, the kingdom called the international community to stop the dig. "Israel’s actions violate the mosque’s sacred nature and risk destroying its religious and Islamic features" the statement said.[33] Syria condemned Israel's excavations, saying they "pose a threat against the Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem.

Electricity cable replacement (July 2007):

In July 2007 the Waqf began digging a 400-metre-long, 1.5-metre-deep trench from the northern side of the Temple Mount compound to the Dome of the Rock in order to replace 40-year-old electric cables in the area. The dig, carried out by the Jerusalem Electricity Company, was approved by the Israeli police, but the Israel Antiquities Authority declined to comment whether it had approved the excavations. Israeli archaeologists accused the Waqf of a deliberate act of cultural vandalism. The Committee for the Prevention of Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount criticized the use of a tractor for excavation at the Temple Mount "without real, professional and careful archaeological supervision involving meticulous documentation". Archaeologist Eilat Mazar said: “There is disappointment at the turning of a blind eye and the ongoing contempt for the tremendous archaeological importance of the Temple Mount...”, “...Using heavy machinery and with little documentation, can damage ancient relics and erase evidence of the presence of the biblical structures. Any excavation, even if for technical reasons, must be documented, photographed and the dirt sifted for any remains of relics.” Dr. Gavriel Barkai slammed the way the excavations were being carried out stating that “They should be using a toothbrush, not a bulldozer”. He maintains that “some man-worked stones have been found in the trench...as well as remnants of a wall that, according to all our estimations, are from a structure in one of the outer courtyards in the Holy Temple.” Archaeologist Zachi Zweig said a tractor used to dig the trench damaged the foundation of a 7-yard-wide wall "that might have been a remnant of the Second Temple."

The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Muhammad Ahmad Hussein rejected the Israeli charges. "We don't harm the antiquities, we are the ones who are taking care of the antiquities, unlike others who destroy them.” Yusuf Natsheh of the Islamic Waqf dismissed the claims, saying “the area has been dug many times” and argued that “remains unearthed would be from the 16th or 17th century Ottoman period”. He said that the work was urgently needed to maintain the al-Aqsa compound as an important religious institution. “We regret some Israeli groups try to use archaeology to achieve political ends, but their rules of archaeology do not apply to the Haram; it is a living religious site in an occupied land.”

In September 2007, the Orthodox Union condemned Waqf Excavations on the Temple Mount. The Anti-Defamation League Abraham Foxman said work on the Temple Mount must stop immediately. "We are especially concerned because there is a history of Muslim religious leaders treating Israeli religious and cultural artifacts on the Temple Mount, not to mention the Jewish connection to Jerusalem, with contempt”.


Western Wall Tunnel:


(Hebrew: מנהרת הכותל‎, translit.: Minheret Hakotel) is an underground tunnel exposing the full length of the Western Wall. The tunnel is adjacent to the Western Wall and is located under buildings of the Old City of Jerusalem, Israel. While the open-air portion of the Western Wall is approximately 60 metres (200 ft) long, the majority of its original length is hidden underground. The tunnel allows access to an additional 485 metres (1,591 ft) of the wall.



In 19 BCE, King Herod undertook a project to double the area of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem by incorporating part of the hill on the Northwest. In order to do so, four retaining walls were constructed, and the Temple Mount was expanded on top of them. These retaining walls remained standing, along with the platform itself, after the Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE.

However, since then much of the area next to the walls became covered and built upon.[1] Part of the Western Wall remained exposed after the destruction of the Temple. However, since it was the closest area to the Temple’s Holy of Holies that remained accessible, it became a place of Jewish prayer for millennia.


British researchers started excavating the Western Wall in the mid 19th century. Charles Wilson in 1864 followed by Charles Warren in 1867-70. Wilson discovered an arch now named for him, "Wilson's Arch" which was 12.8 metres (42 ft) wide and is above present-day ground level. It is believed that the arch supported a bridge which connected the Temple Mount to the city during the Second Temple Period.Warren dug shafts through Wilson’s Arch which are still visible today.

After the Six Day War, the Ministry of Religious Affairs of Israel began the excavations aimed at exposing the continuation of the Western Wall. The excavations lasted almost twenty years and revealed many previously unknown facts about the history and geography of the Temple Mount. The excavations were difficult to conduct, as the tunnels ran below residential neighborhoods constructed on top of ancient structures from the Second Temple Period. The excavations were conducted with the supervision of scientific and rabbinic experts. This was to ensure both the stability of the structures above and to prevent damaging the historic artifacts. In 1988 the Western Wall Heritage Foundation was formed, it took over the excavation, maintenance and renovations of the Western Wall and Western Wall Plaza.


Women praying in the tunnel at the closest physical point to the Holy of Holies.

The tunnel exposes a total length of 485 m of the wall, revealing the methods of construction and the various activities in the vicinity of the Temple Mount.[1] The excavations included many archaeological finds along the way, including discoveries from the Herodian period (streets, monumental masonry), sections of a reconstruction of the Western Wall dating to the Umayyad period, and various structures dating to the Ayyubid, Mamluke and Hasmonean periods constructed to support buildings in the vicinity of the Temple Mount.

"Warren's Gate" lies about 150 feet (46 m) into the tunnel. This sealed-off entrance has been turned into a small synagogue called "The Cave", by Rabbi Yehuda Getz, since it is the closest point a Jew can get to the Holy of Holies, assuming it was located at the traditional site under the Dome of the Rock.

At the northern portion of the Western Wall, remains of a water channel, which originally supplied water to the Temple Mount, were found. The exact source of the channel is unknown, though it passes through an underground pool known as the "Struthion Pool". The water channel was dated to the Hasmonean period and was accordingly dubbed the "Hasmonean Channel".

The biggest stone in the Western Wall often called the Western Stone is also revealed within the tunnel and ranks as one of the heaviest objects ever lifted by human beings without powered machinery. The stone has a length of 13.6 metres (45 ft) and an estimated width of between 3.5 metres (11 ft) and 4.5 metres (15 ft); estimates place its weight at 570 short tons (510 long tons).

Adjacent to the tunnel lies a museum called "The Chain of Generations Center," designed by Eliav Nahlieli. The Center, which incorporates ancient and modern Jewish history, includes an audiovisual show, and nine glass sculptures created by glass artist Jeremy Langford.

In 2007 the Israel Antiquities Authority uncovered an ancient Roman street, thought to be from the second to fourth centuries. It was a side street which likely connected two major roads, and led up to the Temple Mount. The discovery of the road gave further evidence that Romans continued to use the Temple Mount after the destruction of the temple in 70 CE.


Struthion Pool:
The Struthion Pool is a large cuboid cistern beneath the Convent of the Sisters of Zion in the Old City of Jerusalem, built in 1st century BCE and perhaps even earlier.

The Struthion Pool is a large cuboid cistern, which gathered the rainwater from guttering on the Forum buildings. Prior to Hadrian, this cistern had been an open-air pool, but Hadrian added arch vaulting to enable the pavement to be placed over it. The existence of the pool in the first century is attested by Josephus, who reports that it was called Struthius (literally meaning sparrow).[6] This Struthion Pool was originally built as part of an open-air water conduit by the Hasmoneans, which has since been enclosed; the source of the water for this conduit is currently unidentified.

As a result of 1971 extensions to the original Western Wall Tunnel, the Hasmonean water system became linked to the end of the Western Wall Tunnel; although they run under Arab housing, and later opened as a tourist attraction. The attraction has a linear route, starting at the Western Wall Plaza, passing through the modern tunnels, then the ancient water system, and ending at the Struthion Pool; as the Sisters of Zion were not willing to allow tourists to exit into the Convent of the Sisters of Zion via the Struthion Pool, tourists had to return through the narrow tunnels to their starting point, creating logistical issues.


Lying at the foot of the rock scarp that once bore the Antonia Fortress, the pool is located at the northwestern corner of Jerusalem's Temple Mount. Measuring 52 by 14 metres, the pool is oriented from northwest to southeast, with its depth increasing from 4.5 metres in the north to 6 metres in the south. The pool's long eastern and western walls are not horizontal but also drop steadily to the south. Once open-aired, the pool was accessible along both long walls by a series of rock-cut steps covered by water-proof mortar composed of chalk and ashes.

The pool was apparently built by Herod The Great during his construction of the Antonia and the renovation of the Temple Mount in the late 1st century BCE. The only pool known to stand in close association with the site of the Antonia, there is little doubt that it was constructed no later than the fashioning of the rock scarp above it, as the orientation of the pool conditioned a slight directional change in the rock podium's northeastern corner. It is therefore identified with the Struthius or Struthion (sparrow) pool mentioned by Josephus in his description of Titus' siege of the Antonia during the Great Revolt (70 CE):

For there were now four great banks raised, one of which was at the tower Antonia; this was raised by the fifth legion, over against the middle of that pool which was called Struthius —Josephus, The Jewish War V. 467.

The discovery of Seleucid and Hasmonean coins in the debris of the pool, as well as the similarity between local mortar and mortar used in other Hasmonean cisterns and baths in Jerusalem, may suggest a pre-Herodian origin to the pool. The Struthion is also accessible by a rock-cut passage that leads south for 34 meters before reaching the western wall of the Temple Mount enclosure. Blocked by the Herodian construction, this was an earlier aqueduct that once fed one of the cisterns underneath the Temple Mount enclosure itself. The aqueduct has been attributed to the Hasmoneans, though an earlier Ptolemaic association cannot be ruled out. With a floor 3 meters above the top of the pool, this passage would have remained dry at the time the pool was in use and may have been used as a secret means of access to the pool from the fortress or Temple Mount. Another passage exists north of the pool, though its relation to the pool or the southern passage is unknown.

Once open-aired, the pool was later covered by two longitudinal barrel vaults that spring from the side walls and connect on a wall running along the center of the pool pierced by a series of arches. This division is the source of another name given to the Struthion, the Twin Pools. These were built to support a large flagstone pavement that covered the area above the pool. This pavement features shallow channels that carried runoff water into the pool as well as masonry manholes.
Opinions differ as to the dating and origin of the pavement. Originally thought to be contemporary with the construction of the pool and thus to belong to the Antonia fortress, exploration of the site by father Pierre Benoit has prompted a revision of its dating. The vaults and pavement are rather thought to be contemporary with the nearby Ecce Homo Arch, originally a triumphal arch constructed by Emperor Hadrian, and thus assigned to the 2nd century CE. This reasoning seems to be supported by Josephus' account of the siege of the Antonia, although whether Josephus had meant a ramp had been built 'in', 'over' or 'opposite' the middle of the pool remains unclear.

Discovery and excavations:

The pool had remained in use down to modern times, but was identified as the Struthion by British engineer Sir Charles Warren during his exploration of Jerusalem between 1867 and 1870.[1] His discovery of a tunnel running along the Western Wall to the vicinity of the pool prompted the Convent of the Sisters of Zion to seal off a part of the pool. An east-west wall now divides the Struthion pool into two parts, preventing access between them; one side is visible from the western wall tunnels, the other area is accessible from the Convent.

As a result of 1971 extensions to the original Western Wall Tunnel, the Hasmonean water system became linked to the end of the Western Wall Tunnel. Running under Arab housing, the two were later opened as a tourist attraction. The attraction has a linear route, starting at the Western Wall Plaza, passing through the modern tunnels, then the ancient water system, and ending at the Struthion Pool. As the Sisters of Zion were not willing to allow tourists to exit into the Convent via the pool, tourists had to return through the narrow tunnels to their starting point, creating minor logistical issues. Digging an alternative exit from the tunnel was proposed, but initially rejected on the grounds that any exit would be seen as an attempt by the Jewish authorities to stake a claim to ownership of the nearby land – part of the Muslim Quarter of the city.

In 1996 Benjamin Netanyahu authorized the opening of an exit into the Via Dolorosa, underneath the Ummariya madrasah. Over the subsequent few weeks, 80 people had been killed as a result of riots against the creation of the exit.

Northern exit and riots:

Originally, tourists in the tunnel had to retrace their steps back to the entrance. A connection to the Hasmonean water system was made, but this still required tourists to eventually make a U-turn once they had reached the Struthion Pool.

Digging an alternative exit from the tunnel was proposed, but initially rejected on the grounds that any exit would be seen as an attempt by the Jewish authorities to stake a claim to ownership of the nearby land — part of the Muslim Quarter of the city; in 1996, however, Benjamin Netanyahu authorized the creation of an exit leading to the Via Dolorosa, underneath the Ummariya madrasah. Over the subsequent few weeks, 80 people were killed as a result of riots against the creation of the exit.[7] A modern wall divides the Struthion pool into two parts, preventing access between them; one side is visible from the western wall tunnels, the other is area accessible from the Convent of the Sisters of Zion. Since then, it has been possible for large numbers of tourists to enter the tunnel's southern entrance near the Western Wall, walk the tunnel's length with a tour guide, and exit from the northern end.

Religious attitudes:

In Judaism:

Jewish connection and veneration to the site stems from the fact that it contains the Foundation Stone which, according to the Talmud, was the spot from where the world was created and expanded into its current form.[58][59] It was subsequently the Holy of Holies of the Temple, the Most Holy Place in Judaism. Jewish tradition names it as the location for a number of important events which occurred in the Bible, including the Binding of Isaac, Jacob's dream, and the prayer of Isaac and Rebekah.[60] Similarly, when the Bible recounts that King David purchased a threshing floor owned by Araunah the Jebusite,tradition locates it as being on this mount. An early Jewish text, the Genesis Rabba, states that this site is one of three about which the nations of the world cannot taunt Israel and say "you have stolen them," since it was purchased "for its full price" by David.David wanted to construct a sanctuary there, but this was left to his son Solomon, who completed the task in c. 950 BCE with the construction of the First Temple.

In 1217, Spanish pilgrim Judah al-Harizi found the sight of the Muslim structures on the mount profoundly disturbing. "What torment to see our holy courts converted into an alien temple!" he wrote.

Due to religious restrictions on entering the most sacred areas of the Temple Mount The Western Wall, a retaining wall for the Temple Mount and remnant of the Second Temple structure, is considered by some rabbinical authorities the holiest accessible site for Jews to pray. Jewish texts record that the Mount will be the site of the Third Temple, which will be rebuilt with the coming of the Jewish Messiah

 Jewish religious law concerning entry to the site:

1978 sign warning against entry to the Mount

During Temple times, entry to the Mount was limited by a complex set of purity laws. Maimonides wrote that it was only permitted to enter the site to fulfill a religious precept. After the destruction of the Temple there was discussion as to whether the site, bereft of the Temple, still maintained its holiness or not. Jewish codifiers accepted the opinion of Maimonides who ruled that the holiness of the Temple sanctified the site for eternity and consequently the restrictions on entry to the site are still currently in force.While secular Jews ascend freely, the question of whether ascending is permitted is a matter some debate among religious authorities, with a majority holding that it is permitted to ascend to the Temple Mount, but not to step on the site of the inner courtyards of the ancient Temple. The question then becomes whether the site can be ascertained accurately. A second complex legal debate centers around the precise divine punishment for stepping onto these forbidden spots.

There is debate over whether reports that Maimonides himself ascended the Mount are reliable. One such report claims he did so during the Crusader period. Some early scholars however, claim that entry onto certain areas of the Mount are permitted. It appears that Radbaz also entered the Mount and advised others how to do this. He permits entry from all the gates into the 135×135 cubits of the Women's Courtyard in the east, since the biblical prohibition only applies to the 187×135 cubits of the Temple in the west.There are also Christian and Islamic sources which indicate that Jews accessed the site, but these visits may have been made under duress

Opinions of contemporary rabbis concerning entry to the site:

In August 1967 after Israel's capture of the Mount, the Chief Rabbis of Israel, Isser Yehuda Unterman and Yitzhak Nissim, together with other leading rabbis, asserted that "For generations we have warned against and refrained from entering any part of the Temple Mount."A recent study of this rabbinical ruling suggests that it was both "unprecedented" and possibly prompted by governmental pressure on the rabbis, as well as "brilliant" in preventing Muslim-Jewish friction on the Mount.

Rabbinical consensus in the post-1967 period in the Religious Zionist stream of Orthodox Judaism held that it is forbidden for Jews to enter any part of the Temple Mount, and in January 2005 a declaration was signed confirming the 1967 decision.

All Haredi rabbis are also of the opinion that the Mount is off limits to Jews and non-Jews alike.Their opinions against entering the Temple Mount are based on the danger of entering the hallowed area of the Temple courtyard and the impossibility of fulfilling the ritual requirement of cleansing oneself with the ashes of a red heifer. The boundaries of the areas which are completely forbidden, while having large portions in common, are delineated differently by various rabbinic authorities.

However, there is a growing body of Modern Orthodox and national religious rabbis who encourage visits to certain parts of the Mount, which they believe are permitted according to most medieval rabbinical authorities.These rabbis include: Shlomo Goren (former Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel); Chaim David Halevi (former Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv and Yaffo); Dov Lior (Rabbi of Kiryat Arba); Yosef Elboim; Yisrael Ariel; She'ar Yashuv Cohen (Chief Rabbi of Haifa); Yuval Sherlo (rosh yeshiva of the hesder yeshiva of Petah Tikva); Meir Kahane. One of them, Shlomo Goren, states that it is possible that Jews are even allowed to enter the heart of the Dome of the Rock, according to Jewish Law of Conquest. These authorities demand an attitude of veneration on the part of Jews ascending the Temple Mount, ablution in a mikveh prior to the ascent, and the wearing of non-leather shoes. Some rabbinic authorities are now of the opinion that it is imperative for Jews to ascend in order to halt the ongoing process of Islamization of the Temple Mount. Maimonides, perhaps the greatest codifier of Jewish Law, wrote in Laws of the Chosen House ch 7 Law 15 "One may bring a dead body in to the (lower sanctified areas of the) Temple Mount and there is no need to say I am ritually impure (from the dead), because the dead body itself can enter". One who is ritually impure through direct or in-direct contact of the dead cannot walk in the higher sanctified areas. For those who are visibly Jewish, they have no choice, but to follow this peripheral rout as it has become unofficially part of the status quo on the Mount. Many of these recent opinions rely on archaeological evidence.

The law committee of the Masorti movement in Israel has issued two responsa (a body of written decisions and rulings given by legal scholars) on the subject, both holding that Jews may visit the permitted sections of the Temple Mount. One responsa allows such visits, another encourages them.

In Islam:

Al-Aqsa Mosque.

In Islam, the Mount is called al-haram al-qudsī ash-sharīf, meaning the Noble Sanctuary. Muslims view the site as being one of the earliest and most noteworthy places of worship of God. For a few months in the early stages of Islam, Muhammad instructed his followers to face the Mount during prayer, as the Jews did. The site is also important as being the site of the "Farthest Mosque" (mentioned in the Qur'an as the location of Muhammad's miraculous Night Journey), and with various Hadiths emphasizing the virtue of praying at the site.

Muslim interpretations of the Qur'an agree that the Mount is the site of a Temple built by Sulayman, considered a prophet in Islam, that was later destroyed. After the construction, Muslims believe, the temple was used for the worship of one God by many prophets of Islam, including Jesus.Other Muslim scholars have used the Torah (called Tawrat in Arabic) to expand on the details of the temple.

In Christianity:

Holy Sepulchre.

The Mount has significance in Christianity due to the role the Temple played in the life of Jesus. During the Crusades, the Dome of the Rock was given to the Augustinians, who turned it into a church, and the Al-Aqsa Mosque became the royal palace of Baldwin I of Jerusalem in 1104. The Knights Templar, who believed the Dome of the Rock was the site of the Temple of Solomon, gave it the name "Templum Domini" and set up their headquarters in the Al-Aqsa Mosque adjacent to the Dome for much of the 12th century.

Though some Christians believe that the Temple will be reconstructed before, or concurrent with, the Second Coming of Jesus (also see dispensationalism), the Temple Mount is largely unimportant to the beliefs and worship of most Christians. To wit, the New Testament recounts a story of a Samaritan woman asking Jesus about the appropriate place to worship, Jerusalem or the Samaritan holy place at Mt. Gerazim, to which Jesus replies, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth."(John 4:21-24)

The place is of some importance to Eastern Christians because there was a fully consecrated church on that spot during the Byzantine period. According to Eastern Church cannons, once a church has been fully consecrated, it cannot ever serve as anything other than a church. Of course, this is just one example of the thousands of churches that were either destroyed, or converted to mosques during the long decline of the Eastern Roman Empire. The most notable example is the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.


Dome of the Rock:

The Dome of the Rock (Arabic: مسجد قبة الصخرة‎, translit.: Masjid Qubbat As-Sakhrah, Hebrew: כיפת הסלע‎, translit.: Kipat Hasela) is a shrine located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem. The structure has been refurbished many times since its initial completion in 691 CE at the order of Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik. The site's significance stems from religious traditions regarding the rock, known as the Foundation Stone, at its heart.

Location, construction and dimensions:

The Dome of the Rock is located at the visual center of a platform known as the Temple Mount. It was constructed on the site of the Second Jewish Temple, which was destroyed during the Roman Siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE. In 637 CE, Jerusalem surrendered to the Rashidun Caliphate army during the Muslim conquest of Syria.

The location of the Dome of the Rock was established as the site of the Islamic miracle of the Isra and Miraj by Caliph Omar ibn al Khattab, who was advised by his associate, Ka'ab al-Ahbar, a former Jewish rabbi who had converted to Islam, that Isra and Miraj took place at the site of the former Jewish Temples. The Dome of the Rock was erected between 689 and 691 CE. The names of the two engineers in charge of the project are given as Yazid Ibn Salam from Jerusalem and Raja Ibn Haywah from Baysan. Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan who initiated construction of the Dome, hoped that it would “house the Muslims from cold and heat” and intended the building to serve as a shrine for pilgrims and not as a mosque for public worship.

Shlomo Dov Goitein of the Hebrew University states that the Dome of the Rock was intended to compete with the many fine buildings of worship of other religions. The very form of a rotunda, given to the Qubbat as-Sakhra, although it was foreign to Islam,[citation needed] attempted to rival the many Christian domes of its time.[4] A.C. Cresswell in his book Origin of the plan of the Dome of the Rock notes that those who built the shrine used the measurements of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The diameter of the dome of the shrine is 20.20m and its height 20.48m, while the diameter of the dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is 20.90m and its height 21.05m.

The structure is basically octagonal. It comprises a wooden dome, approximately 20 m in diameter, which is mounted on an elevated drum consisting of a circle of 16 piers and columns.[2] Surrounding this circle is an octagonal arcade of 24 piers and columns. During his travels in Jerusalem, American writer Mark Twain wrote that:

Every where about the Mosque of Omar are portions of pillars, curiously wrought altars, and fragments of elegantly carved marble – precious remains of Solomon's Temple. These have been dug from all depths in the soil and rubbish of Mount Moriah, and the Moslems have always shown a disposition to preserve them with the utmost care.

The outer side walls are made of porcelain and mirror the octagonal design. They each measure approximately 60 feet (18 m) wide and 36 feet (11 m) high. Both the dome and the exterior walls contain many windows.

The Dome:



The Dome is in the shape of a Byzantine martyrium, a structure intended for the housing and veneration of saintly relics, and is an excellent example of middle Byzantine art. During the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent the exterior of the Dome of the Rock was covered with Iznik tiles. The work took seven years. Haj Amin Al-Husseini, appointed Grand Mufti by the British, along with Yacoub Al Ghussein implemented restoration of Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

In 1955, an extensive program of renovation was begun by the government of Jordan, with funds supplied by the Arab governments and Turkey. The work included replacement of large numbers of tiles dating back to the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, which had become dislodged by heavy rain. In 1965, as part of this restoration, the dome was covered with a durable aluminum and bronze alloy made in Italy, that replaced the lead exterior. The restoration was completed in August 1964. In 1993, the golden dome covering was refurbished following a donation of $8.2 million by King Hussein of Jordan who sold one of his houses in London to fund the 80 kilograms of gold required.

The interior of the dome is lavishly decorated with mosaic, faience and marble, much of which was added several centuries after its completion. It also contains Qur'anic inscriptions. Sura Ya-Seen is inscribed across the top of the tile work and was commissioned in the 16th century by Suleiman the Magnificent. Al-Isra is inscribed above this.

According to Goitein, the inscriptions decorating the interior clearly display a spirit of polemic against Christianity, whilst stressing at the same time the Qur'anic doctrine that Jesus was a true prophet. The formula la sharika lahu 'God has no companion' is repeated five times, the verses from Sura Maryam 19:35–37, which strongly reaffirm Jesus' prophethood to God, are quoted together with the prayer: Allahumma salli ala rasulika wa'abdika 'Isa bin Maryam – "In the name of the One God (Allah) Pray for your Prophet and Servant Jesus son of Mary". He believes that this shows that rivalry with Christendom, together with the spirit of Muslim mission to the Christians, was at work at the time of construction.




During the Crusades the Dome of the Rock was given to the Augustinians, who turned it into a church while the Al-Aqsa Mosque became a royal stable. The Knights Templar, who believed the Dome of the Rock was the site of the Temple of Solomon, later set up their headquarters in the Al-Aqsa Mosque adjacent to the Dome for much of the 12th century. The "Templum Domini", as they called it, was featured on the official seals of the Order's Grand Masters (such as Everard des Barres and Renaud de Vichiers), and it became the architectural model for Templar churches across Europe.


Ayyubids and Mamluks:

Jerusalem was recaptured by Saladin on 2 October 1187, and the Haram was reconsecrated as a Muslim sanctuary. The cross on top of the Dome of the Rock was replaced by a golden crescent, and a wooden screen was placed around the rock below. Saladin's nephew al-Malik al-Mu'azzam Isa carried out other restorations within the Haram and added the porch to the Aqsa mosque.

The Haram was the focus of extensive royal patronage by the sultans during the Mamluk period, which lasted from 1250 until 1510.

Ottoman Empire 1517–1917: 

Large-scale renovation was undertaken during the reign of Mahmud II in 1817. Adjacent to the Dome of the Rock, the Ottomans built the free-standing Dome of the Prophet in 1620. 


From British Mandate to present:
The Dome of the Rock was badly shaken during an earthquake in Palestine on 11 July 1927, rendering useless many of the repairs that had taken place over previous years.

Israel took control of the Dome of the Rock during its victory in the Six-Day War in 1967. Shlomo Goren also entered the Dome of the Rock with a Torah book and a shofar.

A few hours after the Israeli flag was hoisted over the Dome of the Rock in 1967 during the Six-Day War, Israelis lowered it on the orders of Moshe Dayan and invested the Muslim waqf (religious trust) with the authority to manage the Temple Mount / Haram al-Sharif, in order to "keep the peace".

Groups such as the Temple Mount and Eretz Yisrael Faithful Movement wish to relocate the Dome to Mecca and replace it with a Third Temple. Since Muslim religious foundations own the Dome and consider it particularly sacred such actions would inevitably lead to violence. Many Israelis are ambivalent about the movement's wishes. Some religious Jews, following a rabbinic dictum, feel that the Temple should only be rebuilt in the messianic era, and that it would be presumptuous of people to force God's hand. However, some Evangelical Christians consider this a prerequisite to Armageddon and the Second Coming. This view is steeped in the belief that there will be a prophetic rebuilding of the Temple in place of the Dome of the Rock.

The Dome of the Rock is depicted on the reverse of the Iranian 1000 rials banknote.


The Dome is maintained by the Ministry of Awqaf in Amman, Jordan.

Until the mid-nineteenth century, non-Muslims were not permitted in the area. Since 1967, non-Muslims have been permitted limited access, however non-Muslims are not permitted to pray on the Temple Mount.

In 2006, the compound was reopened to non-Muslim visitors between the hours of 7:30–11:30 am and 1:30–2:30 pm during summer and 7:30–10:30 am and 1:30–2:30 pm during winter. Non-Muslims are prohibited from entering after 2:30 pm and may not enter on Fridays, Saturdays, or Muslim holidays. Entry is through a wooden walkway next to the entrance to the Hebrew Western Wall. Non-Muslims are prohibited from entering the mosques and accessing the Temple Mount through the Cotton Market. Visitors are subject to strict security screening, and items such as Jewish prayer books and instruments are prohibited.[citation needed] Visits to the Dome of the Rock, however, are currently prohibited to non-Muslims who will be stopped by the guards as they approach the building.[citation needed]

Many Orthodox rabbis regard entry to the compound to be a violation of Jewish law. This is based on the belief that since the time the Temple was destroyed during the siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE, the precise location of the Holy of Holies, the sanctuary entered only by the High Priest, is not known. Hence a restriction applies to the entire compound. However, other rabbis believe that modern archeological and other evidence has enabled them to identify areas that can be safely entered without violating Jewish law. However even those opinions forbid Jews from entering the Dome of the Rock.


Religious significance:

According to Islamic tradition, the rock is the spot  from which Muhammad ascended to Heaven accompanied by the angel Gabriel. Further, Muhammad was taken here by Gabriel to pray with Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. After Muhammad's return, he called all who would believe him to join with him and be Muslim.

The Foundation Stone and its surroundings is the holiest site in Judaism. Just as Muslims pray towards the Kaaba at Mecca, the holiest site in Islam, Jews pray towards the raised platform on which the Dome of the Rock stands. Jews have traditionally regarded the location of the stone as the holiest spot on Earth, the site of the Holy of Holies during the Temple Period. The Jewish tradition does not have information regarding the exact location of the Holy of Holies, but the majority of scholars and rabbis believe it is somewhere in the area of the raised platform.

The most propitious site for Jewish prayer is the spot that is nearest the Foundation Stone. Because Muslim authorities refused to permit Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, the custom developed of praying near the Western Wall, since it was the site nearest to the Foundation Stone, or on the Mount of Olives facing the site of the Temple. Between 1948 and 1967, when Jordanian authorities refused permission to Jews to enter the Old City of Jerusalem, Jews made pilgrimages to rooftops on Mount Zion and prayed towards the site of the ancient Holy of Holies.

According to Jewish tradition, the stone is the site where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac.

In Christianity it is believed that during the time of the Byzantine Empire, near the spot where the Dome was later constructed was where Constantine's mother built a small church, calling it the Church of St. Cyrus and St. John, later on enlarged and called the Church of the Holy Wisdom. On the walls of the Dome of the Rock is an inscription in a mosaic frieze that includes the following words from Quran (19:33–35):

Such was Jesus son of Mary and peace upon him on the day of birth and on the day of death and on the day he is raised up again. It is a word of truth in which they doubt. It is not for God to take a son. Glory be to him when he decrees a thing he only says be, and it is.

The date recorded as 72 after the Hijra (or 691–692 CE), which historians view as the year of the Dome's construction. 


Architectural homages:

A number of buildings have been designed as copies of the Dome of the Rock. These include the octagonal Church of St. Giacomo in Italy, and the octagonal Moorish Revival style Rumbach Street synagogue in Budapest. This was done because the Dome of the Rock was long believed by Christians to echo the architecture of the Temple in Jerusalem, as can be seen in Raphael's The Marriage of the Virgin and in Perugino's Marriage of the Virgin. 


Foundation Stone:

The Foundation Stone (Hebrew: אבן השתייה, translit. Even haShetiya) or Rock (Arabic: translit. Sakhrah, Hebrew: סלע translit.: Sela) is the name of the rock at the heart of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. It is also known as the Pierced Stone because it has a small hole on the southeastern corner that enters a cavern beneath the rock, known as the Well of Souls. It is believed by some to have been the location of the Holy of Holies in the Temple, and is the holiest site in Judaism. (Midrash Tanhuma, chapter 10) Jewish tradition views it as the spiritual junction of heaven and Earth. Jews traditionally face it while praying. 



 The rock is located towards the centre of the Temple Mount, an artificial platform built and expanded over many centuries. The current shape is the result of an expansion by Herod the Great on top of vaults over a hill, generally believed to be Mount Moriah. The rock constitutes the peak of this now hidden hill, which is also the highest in early biblical Jerusalem, looming over the City of David.

There is some controversy among secular scholars about equating Mount Moriah, the Temple Mount and the Foundation Stone as the location where events occurred according to the Biblical narrative.

Early Jewish writings assist in confirming that the Dome of the Rock, completed in 691, is the site of the Holy of Holies and therefore the location of the Foundation Stone. Pirke De-Rabbi Eliezer, a midrashic narrative of the more important events of the Pentateuch believed to have been compiled in Italy shortly after 833 CE, writes: “Rabbi Yishmael said: In the future, the sons of Ishmael (the Arabs) will do fifteen things in the Land of Israel … They will fence in the breaches of the walls of the Temple and construct a building on the site of the sanctuary”.

Religious Jewish scholars have discussed the precise location of the rock. The Radbaz is convinced that “under the dome on the Temple Mount, which the Arabs call El-Sakhrah, without a doubt is the location of the Foundation Stone”. The Travels of Rabbi Petachiah of Ratisbon, c.1180, The Travels of Benjamin of Tudela[4] and The Travels of the Student of the Ramban all equally state that "on the Temple Mount stands a beautiful sanctuary which an Arab king built long ago, over the place of the Temple sanctuary and courtyard”. Rabbi Obadiah ben Abraham who wrote a letter from Jerusalem in 1488 says that “I sought the place of the Foundation Stone where the Ark of the Covenant was placed, and many people told me it is under a tall and beautiful dome which the Arabs built in the Temple precinct".

Others disagree, citing that if the Southern Wall of the Temple Mount is in fact the one which existed when the Temple was standing, the measurements given in the Talmud do not reconcile. The Holy of Holies ends up being too far north and they therefore locate the Foundation Stone as being directly opposite the current exposed section of the Western Wall, where no building currently stands. This is the view of the Arizal and the Maharsha, who state the prophesy that “Zion will become a ploughed field” indicates that no dwelling will be established there until the time of the redemption. It therefore follows that the area of the Temple courtyard and Holy of Holies is situated in the unbuilt area between the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque.

Some believe the position is north of the Dome of the Rock, opposite the Gate of Mercy, which Rabbi Emmanuel Chai Reiki[9] identifies as the Shushan Gate mentioned in the Talmud. This gate was described as being opposite the opening of the sanctuary.

Modern Jewish academics list four possible locations of the Foundation Stone:

 The stone that was located beneath the Ark of the Covenant is the one under the Dome of the Rock.
 The stone that was located beneath the altar is now the one that is under the Dome of the Rock.
 The stone that was located beneath the Ark of the Covenant is now near El Kas fountain to the south of the Dome of the Rock.
 The stone that was located beneath the Ark of the Covenant is now inside the Spirits Dome situated to the north of the Dome of the Rock.


Although the rock is part of the surrounding bedrock, the southern side forms a ledge, with a gap between it and the surrounding ground; a set of steps currently uses this gap to provide access from the Dome of the Rock to the Well of Souls beneath it.

The rock has several human-made cuts in its surface; these are generally attributed to the Crusaders, whose frequent damage to the rock was so severe that the Christian kings of Jerusalem finally put a marble slab over the rock to protect it (the marble slab was later removed by Saladin). More recently, there has been speculation that several man-made features of the rock's surface may substantially predate the Crusaders. Archaeologist Leen Ritmeyer noticed that there are sections of the rock cut completely flat, which north-to-south have a width of 6 cubits, precisely the width that the Mishnah credits to the wall of the Holy of Holies, and hence Ritmeyer proposed that these flat sections constitute foundation trenches on top of which the walls of the original temple were laid. However, according to Josephus there were 31 steps up to the Holy of Holies from the lower level of the Temple Mount, and the Mishnah identifies 29 steps in total, and each step was half a cubit in height (according to the Mishnah); this is a height of at least 22 feet—the height of the Sakhra is 21 feet above the lower level of the Temple Mount, and should therefore have been under the floor.

Nevertheless, taking the flat surface to be the position of the southern wall of a square enclosure, the west and north sides of which are formed by the low clean-cut scarp at these edges of the rock, at the position of the hypothetical centre is a rectangular cut in the rock that is about 2.5 cubits long and 1.5 cubits wide, which are exactly the dimensions of the Ark of the Covenant (according to the Book of Exodus).

The Mishnah[10] gives the height of the rock as three finger breadths above the ground. Radbaz discusses the apparent contradiction of the Mishnah’s measurements and the actual measurement of the rock within the Dome of the Rock which he estimates as the “height of two men” above the ground. He concluded that many changes in the natural configuration of the Temple Mount have taken place which can be attributed to excavations made by the various peoples who have occupied Jerusalem throughout the ages.


Jewish significance:
This is the holiest site in Judaism. Jews all over the world pray towards the Foundation Stone.

The Roman-Era Midrash Tanchuma sums up the centrality of and holiness of this site in Judaism:

    As the navel is set in the centre of the human body,
    so is the land of Israel the navel of the world...
    situated in the centre of the world,
    and Jerusalem in the centre of the land of Israel,
    and the sanctuary in the centre of Jerusalem,
    and the holy place in the centre of the sanctuary,
    and the ark in the centre of the holy place,
    and the Foundation Stone before the holy place,
    because from it the world was founded.

(for comparison see omphalos)

According to the sages of the Talmud it was from this rock that the world was created, itself being the first part of the Earth to come into existence. In the words of the Zohar: “The world was not created until God took a stone called Even haShetiya and threw it into the depths where it was fixed from above till below, and from it the world expanded. It is the centre point of the world and on this spot stood the Holy of Holies”.

According to the Talmud, it was close to here, on the site of the altar, that God gathered the earth that was formed into Adam. It was on this rock that Adam—and later Cain, Abel, and Noah—offered sacrifices to God. Jewish sources identify this rock as the place mentioned in the Bible where Abraham fulfilled God's test to see if he would be willing to sacrifice his son Isaac. The mountain is identified as Moriah in Genesis 22. It is also identified as the rock upon which Jacob dreamt about angels ascending and descending on a ladder and consequently consecrating and offering a sacrifice upon.

When, according to the Bible, King David purchased a threshing floor owned by Araunah the Jebusite, it is believed that it was upon this rock that he offered the sacrifice mentioned in the verse. He wanted to construct a permanent temple there, but as his hands were "bloodied," he was forbidden to do so himself. The task was left to his son Solomon, who completed the Temple in c. 950 BCE.

The Mishnah in tractate Yoma mentions a stone situated in the Holy of Holies that was called Shetiya and had been revealed by the early prophets, (i.e. David and Samuel.)

An early Christian source noting Jewish attachment to the rock may be found in the Bordeaux Pilgrim, written between 333–334 CE when Jerusalem was under Roman rule, which describes a “…perforated stone to which the Jews come every year and anoint it, bewail themselves with groans, rend their garments, and so depart.”


Role in the Temple:

Situated inside the Holy of Holies, this was the rock upon which the Ark of the Covenant was placed in the First Temple. During the Second Temple period when the Ark of the Covenant had been hidden, the stone was used by the High Priest who offered up the incense and sprinkled the blood of the sacrifices on it during the Yom Kippur service.


Commemoration in Jewish law:
The Jerusalem Talmud states:

"נשייא דנהגן דלא למישתייה עמרא מן דאב עליל מנהג – שבו פסקה אבן שתייה"

"Women are accustomed not to prepare or attach warp threads to a weaving loom[20] from Rosh Chodesh Av onwards (till after Tisha B'Av), because during the month of Av the Foundation Stone (and the Temple) was destroyed".

Citing this, the Mishnah Berurah[22] rules that not only are women not to prepare or attach warp threads to a weaving loom, but it is forbidden for anyone to make, buy or wear new clothes or shoes from the beginning of the week in which Tisha B'av falls until after the fast, and that people should ideally not do so from the beginning of Av.

In further commemoration of the Foundation Stone, it is also forbidden to eat meat or drink wine from the beginning of the week in which Tisha B'av falls until after the fast. Some have the custom to refrain from these foodstuffs from Rosh Chodesh Av, while others do so from the Seventeenth of Tammuz.


Liturgical references:
In the days when Selichot are recited, in the days leading up to Rosh Hashana until Yom Kippur, the supplications include the following references:

טענתנו גפי קרת נתונים, ישבתנו שן סלע איתנים

You carried us and placed us on the [Holy] City’s height, You settled us on the Patriarch’s rocky peak.

רבוצה עליו אבן שתית חטובים...שמה בתוך לפני מזיב מאשנבים

Upon it lying the stone from which the foundation was hewn…Who gives ear from which the waters flow (i.e. the foundation stone "from which flow all the waters of the world").

During Sukkot the following references to the Foundation Stone are mentioned in the Hoshanot recital:

הושענא! – אבן שתיה – הושענא

Please save! – Foundation Stone – Please save!

הושענא! – תאדרנו באבן תלולה – הושענא

Please save! – Adorn us with the elevated Stone – Please save!


Islamic significance:

The Noble Sanctuary, where the Foundation Stone is located is thought by commentators of the Qur'an to be the place where the prophet Muhammad traveled to in the Night Journey.[citation needed] This would make the Stone one of the most important locations in the religion, where Muhammad ascended into heaven. For this reason, the Dome of the Rock was built over it, and it is the original place Muslims faced while praying (they now face towards Mecca).


Well of Souls:

The Well of Souls (Arabic: Bir el- Arweh‎) is a natural cave located immediately beneath the Foundation Stone, under the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. In addition to a small well-shaped hole in the stone that looks into the cave, there is an entrance on the southern side by stairs which pass through a gap between the Stone and the surrounding bedrock. The cave takes the form of a moderately sized room (similar in floor space to the stone), the ceiling curving to the ground gently, the floor having been flattened and carpeted. The southern end of the cave, through which the stairs enter, has manmade walls to provide structural support to the roof of the cave above the stairs.

Rabbi David ben Solomon ibn Abi Zimra attested to the existence of a cave found under the Dome of the Rock and known as the "Well of Souls".

Traditions and legends:
Islamic tradition holds that Muhammad ascended heavenward from the Foundation Stone (called the Sakhrah in Arabic, Eben Shetiyyah in Hebrew)[citation needed], and a related tradition[who?] has developed that the Last Judgment will take place at the Stone and that the souls of the dead gather in the Well of Souls to await the Judgment and to pray.[citation needed]

According to pre-Islamic folklore,[who?] the Well of Souls was a place where the voices of the dead could be heard along with the sounds of the Rivers of Paradise;[citation needed] the cave is now known to have no exit apart from those leading to the surface of the Foundation Stone, and the sounds may be considered[who?] to be a resonance effect similar to hearing the sea from seashells. The Well is sometimes conflated[who?] with Guf,[citation needed] a location in Jewish mythology where the souls of the not-yet-born are stored, though Guf is usually considered to be more a heavenly location than an earthly one.

The Well of Souls is sometimes considered[who?] the hiding place of the Ark of the Covenant in legends which recount the hiding of the Ark beneath the Temple Mount[citation needed] and its removal when Solomon's temple was destroyed by the neo-Babylonians.


Popular culture:

In popular fiction, the Well's legends appeared in Raiders of the Lost Ark, though its location was changed from Jerusalem to Tanis, Egypt.[citation needed] The "Mountain of Malefor", the final level in the video game The Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night, is also known as the Well of Souls, despite not having anything to do with the real Well of Souls. In the video game Darksiders, the Destroyer draws his power from the well of souls which Azrael unwittingly helped him do. 

 Western Wall:

The Western Wall (About this sound הכותל המערבי (help·info), translit.: HaKotel HaMa'aravi), Wailing Wall or Kotel (lit. Wall; Ashkenazic pronunciation: Kosel); (Arabic: حائط البراق‎, translit.: "Ḥā'iṭ Al-Burāq", translat.: "The Buraq Wall") is located in the Old City of Jerusalem at the foot of the western side of the Temple Mount. It is a remnant of the ancient wall that surrounded the Jewish Temple's courtyard, and is one of the most sacred sites in Judaism outside of the Temple Mount itself. Just over half the wall, including its 17 courses located below street level, dates from the end of the Second Temple period, having been constructed around 19 BCE by Herod the Great. The remaining layers were added from the 7th century onwards. The Western Wall refers not only to the exposed section facing a large plaza in the Jewish Quarter, but also to the sections concealed behind structures running along the whole length of the Temple Mount, such as the Little Western Wall–a 25 ft (8 m) section in the Muslim Quarter.

It has been a site for Jewish prayer and pilgrimage for centuries, the earliest source mentioning Jewish attachment to the site dating from the 4th century. From the mid-19th century onwards, attempts to purchase rights to the wall and its immediate area were made by various Jews, but none was successful. With the rise of the Zionist movement in the early 20th century, the wall became a source of friction between the Jewish community and the Muslim religious leadership, who were worried that the wall was being used to further Jewish nationalistic claims to the Temple Mount and Jerusalem. Outbreaks of violence at the foot of the wall became commonplace and an international commission was convened in 1930 to determine the rights and claims of Muslims and Jews in connection with the wall. After the 1948 Arab-Israeli War the wall came under Jordanian control and Jews were barred from the site for 19 years until Israel captured the Old City in 1967.


Early Jewish texts referred to a “western wall of the Temple”, but there is doubt whether the texts were referring to today’s Western Wall or to another wall which stood within the Temple complex. The earliest clear Jewish use of the term Western Wall as referring to the wall visible today was by the 11th-century Ahimaaz ben Paltiel. The name “Wailing Wall”, and descriptions such as "wailing place" appeared regularly in English literature during the 19th century. The name Mur des Lamentations was used in French and Klagemauer in German. This term itself was a translation of the Arabic el-Mabka, or "Place of Weeping," the traditional Arabic term for the wall. This description stemmed from the Jewish practice of coming to the site to mourn and bemoan the destruction of the Temple. During the 1920s with the growing Arab-Jewish tensions over rights at the wall, the Arabs began referring to the wall as al-Buraq. This was based on the tradition that the wall was the place where Muhammad tethered his miraculous winged steed, Buraq.

Location and dimensions:

The Western Wall commonly refers to a 187 foot (57 m) exposed section of ancient wall situated on the western flank of the Temple Mount. This section faces a large plaza and is set aside for prayer. In its entirety, however, the above ground portion of the Western Wall stretches for 1,600 feet (488 m), most of which is hidden behind residential structures built along its length. Other revealed sections include the southern part of the Wall which measures approximately 80 metres (262 ft) and another much shorter section known as the Little Western Wall which is located close to the Iron Gate. The wall functions as a retaining wall, built to support the extensive renovations that Herod the Great carried out around 19 BCE. Herod expanded the small quasi-natural plateau on which the First and Second Temples stood into the wide expanse of the Temple Mount visible today.

At the Western Wall Plaza, the total height of the Wall from its foundation is estimated at 105 feet (32 m), with the exposed section standing approximately 62 feet (19 m) high. The Wall consists of 45 stone courses, 28 of them above ground and 17 underground.[7] The first seven visible layers are from the Herodian period. This section of wall is built from enormous meleke limestone stones, possibly quarried at either Zedekiah's Cave[8] situated under the Muslim Quarter of the Old City or at Ramat Shlomo[9] four kilometers northwest of the Old City. Most of them weigh between two and eight tons each, but others weigh even more, with one extraordinary stone located in the northern section of Wilson's Arch measuring 13 metres and weighing approximately 570 tons. Each of these stones is surrounded by fine-chiseled borders. The margins themselves measure between 5 and 20 centimetres (2 and 8 in) wide, with their depth measuring 1.5 centimetres (0.59 in). In the Herodian period, the upper 10 metres (33 ft) of wall were 1 metre (39 in) thick and served as the other wall of the double colonnade of the plateau. This upper section was decorated with pilasters, the remainder of which were destroyed at the beginning of the 7th century when the Byzantines reconquered Jerusalem from the Persians and their Jewish allies in 628.

The next four layers were added by Umayyads in the 7th century. The next fourteen layers are from the Ottoman period and their addition is attributed to Sir Moses Montefiore who in 1866 arranged that further layers be added “for shade and protection from the rain for all who come to pray by the holy remnant of our Temple”. The top three layers were placed by the Mufti of Jerusalem before 1967.




Construction 19 BCE

According to the Tanakh, Solomon's Temple was built atop the Temple Mount in the 10th century BCE and destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. The Second Temple was completed and dedicated in 516 BCE. Around 19 BCE Herod the Great began a massive expansion project on the Temple Mount. In addition to renovating and enlarging the Temple, he artificially expanded the area, which resulted in an enlarged platform. Today's Western Wall formed part of the retaining perimeter wall of this platform. Herod's Temple was destroyed by the Roman Empire, along with the rest of Jerusalem, in 70 CE, during the First Jewish-Roman War.

Roman Empire and rise of Christianity 100–500 CE:

In the early centuries of the Common Era, after the Roman defeat of the Bar Kokhba revolt in 135 CE, Jews were banned from Jerusalem. There is some evidence that Roman emperors in the 2nd and 3rd centuries did permit them to visit the city to worship on the Mount of Olives and sometimes on the Temple Mount itself.[12] When the empire became Christian under Constantine I, they were given permission to enter the city once a year, on the ninth day of the month of Av, to lament the loss of the Temple at the wall.[13] The Bordeaux Pilgrim, written in 333 CE, suggests that it was probably to the perforated stone or the Rock of Moriah, "to which the Jews come every year and anoint it, bewail themselves with groans, rend their garments, and so depart". This was because an Imperial decree from Rome barred Jews from living in Jerusalem. Just once per year they were permitted to return and bitterly grieve about the fate of their people. Comparable accounts survive, including those by the Church Father, Gregory of Nazianzus and by Jerome in his commentary to Zephaniah written in the year 392 CE. In the 4th century, Christian sources reveal that the Jews encountered great difficulty in buying the right to pray near the Western Wall, at least on the 9th of Av.[12] In 425 CE, the Jews of the Galilee wrote to Byzantine empress Aelia Eudocia seeking permission to pray by the ruins of the Temple. Permission was granted and they were officially permitted to resettle in Jerusalem.


Middle Ages 500–1500:

There are several Jewish authors of the 10th and 11th centuries, e.g., Aaron ben Meïr, Samuel ben Paltiel, Solomon ben Judah and others, who write about the Jews resorting to the Western Wall for devotional purposes. The Scroll of Ahimaaz, written in 1050 CE, distinctly describes the Western Wall as a place of prayer for the Jews. Shortly before the Crusader period a synagogue stood at the site. Jewish pilgrim Isaac Chelo (1334), writes of an Arab king who conquered Palestine from the Christians. (He possibly refers to the capture of Jerusalem by Umar in 637.) The king had made an oath that should he succeed in conquering Jerusalem, he would restore the ruins of the Temple. After his victory, he sought out the ruins, but they had been hidden beneath heaps of rubbish. An old man approached the king saying "I will tell you where the Temple lies, but I want you to swear that you will leave us the Western Wall." After promising, the king was shown where the ruins lay buried. The king ordered the place be cleared and "built a magnificent mosque and left the Western Wall for the Jews, who resorted there to pray." Chelo also noted that "It is this Western Wall which stands before the temple of Omar ibn al Khattab, and which is called the Gate of Mercy. The Jews resort thither to say their prayers, as Rabbi Benjamin has already related. Today, this wall is one of the seven wonders of the Holy City." He refers to Benjamin of Tudela who, during the late Crusader Period in around 1167 CE, wrote that "In front of this place is the Western Wall, which is one of the walls of the Holy of Holies. This is called the Gate of Mercy, and hither come all the Jews to pray before the Wall in the open court". Shortly after the Siege of Jerusalem, in 1193, Saladin’s son and successor al-Afdal established the land adjacent to the wall as a charitable trust. It was named after an important mystic Abu Madyan Shu'aib and dedicated to Moroccan settlers who had taken up residence there. Houses were built only four metres away from the wall. The first mention of the Islamic tradition that Buraq was tethered at the site is from the 14th century. A manuscript by Ibn Furkah, (d. 1328), refers to Bab al-Nab, an old name for a gate along the southwestern wall of the Haram al-Sharif. Rabbi Obadiah of Bertinoro writing in 1488, states "the Westen Wall, part of which is still standing, is made of great, thick stones, larger than any I have seen in buildings of antiquity in Rome or in other lands."

Ottoman period 1517–1917:

In 1517, the Turkish Ottoman Empire under Selim I conquered Jerusalem from the Mamluks who had held it since 1250. The Ottomans had a benevolent attitude towards the Jews, having welcomed thousands of Jewish refugees who had recently been expelled from Spain by Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile in 1492. Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent was so taken with Jerusalem and its plight that he ordered a magnificent fortress-wall built around the entire city, today's Old City wall.

There are various accounts of Suleiman's efforts to locate the Temple's ruins. Rabbi Eliezer Nachman Puah, (ca. 1540), relates:

    ”I have been told that in the day of Sultan Suleiman the site of the Temple was not known and the Sultan had every corner of Jerusalem searched for it. One day the man in charge of the work, despairing after much searching and inquiring in vain, saw a woman coming with a basket of rubbish and filth upon her head. He asked her: “What are you carrying on your head?” – And she replied: “Rubbish.”
    “And to where are you carrying it?”
    “To such and such a place.”
    “Where do you live?”
    “In Bethlehem.”
    “Is there no dunghill between Bethlehem and this place?”
    “It is a tradition among us that whoever takes a little rubbish to that place performs a meritorious act.”
    The curiosity of the officer was aroused and he commanded a great number of men to remove the rubbish from that place...and the holy site was revealed. When the Sultan learned of this, he rejoiced greatly and ordered the place to be swept and sprinkled and the Western Wall washed with rosewater...”

In the second half of the 16th century, Suleiman the Magnificent gave the Jews rights to worship at the Western Wall and had his court architect Mimar Sinan build an oratory for them there.

In 1625 arranged prayers at the Wall are mentioned for the first time by a scholar whose name has not been preserved. Rabbi Gedaliah of Semitizi, who went to Jerusalem in the year 1699, writes that scrolls of the Law were brought to the Wall on occasions of public distress and calamity.

Over the centuries, land close to the Wall became built up. Public access to the Wall was through the Moroccan Quarter, a labyrinth of narrow alleyways. In May 1840 a firman issued by Ibrahim Pasha forbade the Jews to pave the passageway in front of the Wall. It also cautioned them against “raising their voices and displaying their books there.” They were, however, allowed “to pay visits to it as of old.”

Rabbi Joseph Schwarz writing in the mid-19th century records:

”This wall is visited by all our brothers on every feast and festival; and the large space at its foot is often so densely filled up, that all cannot perform their devotions here at the same time. It is also visited, though by less numbers, on every Friday afternoon, and by some nearly every day. No one is molested in these visits by the Mahomedans, as we have a very old firman from the Sultan of Constantinople that the approach shall not be denied to us, though the Porte obtains for this privilege a special tax, which is, however, quite insignificant.”


Over time the increased numbers of people gathering at the site resulted in tensions between the Jewish visitors who wanted easier access and more space, and the residents, who complained of the noise. This gave rise to Jewish attempts at gaining ownership of the land adjacent to the Wall.

In the late 1830s a wealthy Jew named Shemarya Luria attempted to purchase houses near the Wall, but was unsuccessful,[29] as was Jewish sage Abdullah of Bombay who tried to purchase the Western Wall in the 1850s.[30] In 1869 Rabbi Hillel Moshe Gelbstein settled in Jerusalem. He arranged that benches and tables be brought to the Wall on a daily basis for the study groups he organised and the minyan which he led there for years. He also formulated a plan whereby some of the courtyards facing the Wall would be acquired, with the intention of establishing three synagogues — one each for the Sephardim, the Hasidim and the Perushim.[31] He also endeavoured to re-establish an ancient practice of “guards of honour”, which according to the mishnah in Middot, were positioned around the Temple Mount. He rented a house near the Wall and paid men to stand guard there and at various other gateways around the mount. However this set-up lasted only for a short time due to lack of funds or because of Arab resentment.

In 1877 the Mufti of Jerusalem accepted a Jewish offer to buy the Moroccan Quarter, but a dispute within the Jewish community prevented the agreement from going ahead.[18] In 1887 a promising attempt was made by Baron Rothschild who conceived a plan to purchase and demolish the Moroccan Quarter as “a merit and honor to the Jewish People.”[32] The proposed purchase was considered and approved by the Ottoman Governor of Jerusalem, Rauf Pasha, and by the Mufti of Jerusalem, Mohammed Tahir Husseini. Even after permission was obtained from the highest secular and Muslim religious authority to proceed, the transaction was shelved after the authorities insisted that after demolishing the quarter no construction of any type could take place there, only trees could be planted to beautify the area. Additionally the Jews would not have full control over the area. This meant that they would have no power to stop people from using the plaza for various activities, including the driving of mules, which would cause a disturbance to worshippers.[32] Other reports place the scheme's failure on Jewish infighting as to whether the plan would foster a detrimental Arab reaction.[33] In 1895 Hebrew linguist and publisher Rabbi Chaim Hirschensohn became entangled in a failed effort to purchase the Western Wall and lost all his assets.[34] Even the attempts of the Palestine Land Development Company to purchase the environs of the Western Wall for the Jews just before the outbreak of World War I never came to fruition.[30] In the first two months following the Ottoman Empire’s entry into the First World War, the Turkish governor of Jerusalem, Zakey Bey, offered to sell the Moroccan Quarter, which consisted of about 25 houses, to the Jews in order to enlarge the area available to them for prayer. He requested a sum of £20,000 which would be used to both rehouse the Muslim families and to create a public garden in front of the Wall. However, the Jews of the city lacked the necessary funds. A few months later, under Muslim Arab pressure on the Turkish authorities in Jerusalem, Jews became forbidden by official decree to place benches and light candles at the Wall. This sour turn in relations was taken up by the Chacham Bashi who managed to get the ban overturned.

British rule 1917–48:

In December 1917, British forces under Edmund Allenby captured Jerusalem from the Turks. Allenby pledged "that every sacred building, monument, holy spot, shrine, traditional site, endowment, pious bequest, or customary place of prayer of whatsoever form of the three religions will be maintained and protected according to the existing customs and beliefs of those to whose faith they are sacred".

In 1919 Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann, anxious to enable Jews to access their sacred site unmolested, approached the British Military Governor of Jerusalem, Colonel Sir Ronald Storrs, and offered between £75,000[38] and £100,000[39] (approx. £5m in modern terms) to purchase the area at the foot of the Wall and rehouse the occupants. Storrs was enthusiastic about the idea because he hoped some of the money would be used to improve Muslim education. Although optimistic at first, negotiations broke down after strong Muslim opposition.[39][40] Storrs wrote two decades later:

"The acceptance of the proposals, had it been practicable, would have obviated years of wretched humiliations, including the befouling of the Wall and pavement and the unmannerly braying of the tragi-comic Arab band during Jewish prayer, and culminating in the horrible outrages of 1929"

In early 1920, the first Jewish-Arab dispute over the Wall occurred when the Muslim authorities were carrying out minor repair works to the Wall’s upper courses. The Jews, while agreeing that the works were necessary, appealed to the British that they be made under supervision of the newly formed Department of Antiquities, because the Wall was an ancient relic.

In 1926 another abortive effort was made by Palestine Zionist Executive, Colonel F. H. Kisch, who envisaged buying the whole area adjacent to the Wall in order to create an open space with seats for aged worshippers to sit on.[39] In 1928 the Zionist Organisation reported that John Chancellor, High Commissioner of Palestine, believed that the Western Wall should come under Jewish control and wondered “why no great Jewish philanthropist had not bought it yet”.


September 1928 disturbances:

In 1922, a status quo agreement issued by the mandatory authority forbade the placing of benches or chairs near the Wall. The last occurrence of such a ban was in 1915, but the Ottoman decree was soon retracted after intervention of the Chacham Bashi. In 1928 the District Commissioner of Jerusalem, Edward Keith-Roach, acceded to an Arab request to implement the ban. This led to a British officer being stationed at the Wall making sure that Jews were prevented from sitting. Nor were Jews permitted to separate the sexes with a screen. In practice, a flexible modus vivendi had emerged and such screens had been put up from time to time when large numbers of people gathered to pray.

On 28 September 1928, the Day of Atonement, British police resorted to forcefully removing a screen used to separate men and women at prayer. Women who tried to prevent the screen being dismantled were beaten by the police, who used pieces of the broken wooden frame as clubs. Chairs were then pulled out from under elderly worshipers. The episode made international news and Jews the world over objected to the British action. The Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem issued a letter on behalf of the Edah HaChareidis and Agudas Yisroel strongly condemning the desecration of the holy site. Various communal leaders called for a general strike. A large rally was held in the Etz Chaim Yeshiva, following which an angry crowd attacked the local police station in which they believed the British officer involved in the fiasco was sheltering.

Commissioner Edward Keith-Roach described the screen as violating the Ottoman status quo that forbade Jews from making any construction in the Western Wall area. He informed the Jewish community that the removal had been carried out under his orders after receiving a complaint from the Supreme Muslim Council. The Arabs were concerned that the Jews were trying to extend their rights at the wall and with this move, ultimately intended to take possession of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The British government issued an announcement explaining the incident and blaming the Jewish beadle at the Wall. It stressed that the removal of the screen was necessary, but expressed regret over the ensuing events.

A widespread Arab campaign to protest against presumed Jewish intentions and designs to take possession of the Al Aqsa Mosque swept the country and a "Society for the Protection of the Muslim Holy Places” was established. The Vaad Leumi responding to these Arab fears declared in a statement that "We herewith declare emphatically and sincerely that no Jew has ever thought of encroaching upon the rights of Moslems over their own Holy places, but our Arab brethren should also recognise the rights of Jews in regard to the places in Palestine which are holy to them." The committee also demanded that the British administration expropriate the wall for the Jews.

From October 1928 onward, Mufti Amin al-Husayni organised a series of measures to demonstrate the Arabs' exclusive claims to the Temple Mount and its environs. He ordered new construction next to and above the Western Wall. The British granted the Arabs permission to convert a building adjoining the Wall into a mosque and to add a minaret. A muezzin was appointed to perform the Islamic call to prayer and Sufi rites directly next to the Wall. These were seen as a provocation by the Jews who prayed at the Wall. The Jews protested and tensions increased.

A British inquiry into the disturbances and investigation regarding the principle issue in the Western Wall dispute, namely the rights of the Jewish worshipers to bring appurtenances to the wall, was convened. The Supreme Muslim Council provided documents dating from the Turkish regime supporting their claims. However, repeated reminders to the Chief Rabbinate to verify which apparatus had been permitted failed to elicit any response. They refused to do so, arguing that Jews had the right to pray at the Wall without restrictions.[49] Subsequently, in November 1928, the Government issued a White Paper entitled "The Western or Wailing Wall in Jerusalem: Memorandum by the Secretary of State for the Colonies", which emphasised the maintenance of the status quo and instructed that Jews could only bring “those accessories which had been permitted in Turkish times.”

A few months later, Haj Amin complained to Chancellor that “Jews were bringing benches and tables in increased numbers to the wall and driving nails into the wall and hanging lamps on them.”


1929 Palestine riots:

In the summer of 1929, the Mufti ordered an opening be made at the southern end of the alleyway which straddled the Wall. The former cul-de-sac became a thoroughfare which led from the Temple Mount into the prayer area at the Wall. Mules were herded through the narrow alley, often dropping excrement. This, together with other construction projects in the vicinity, and restricted access to the Wall, resulted in Jewish protests to the British, who remained indifferent.

On August 14, 1929, after attacks on individual Jews praying at the Wall, 6,000 Jews demonstrated in Tel Aviv, shouting “The Wall is ours.” The next day, the Jewish fast of Tisha B'Av, 300 youths raised the Zionist flag and sang the Zionist anthem at the Wall. The day after, on August 16, an organized mob of 2,000 Muslim Arabs descended on the Western Wall, injuring the beadle and burning prayer books, liturgical fixtures and notes of supplication. The rioting spread to the Jewish commercial area of town, and was followed a few days later by the Hebron massacre.


1930 international commission:

In 1930, in response to the 1929 riots, the British Government appointed a commission "to determine the rights and claims of Muslims and Jews in connection with the Western or Wailing Wall". The League of Nations approved the commission on condition that the members were not British.

The Jews requested that the Commission take the following actions:

To give recognition to the immemorial claim that the Wailing Wall is a Holy Place for the Jews, not only for the Jews in Palestine, but also for the Jews of the whole world.

To decree that the Jews shall have the right of access to the Wall for devotion and for prayers in accordance with their ritual without interference or interruption.

To decree that it shall be permissible to continue the Jewish services under the conditions of decency and decorum characteristic of a sacred custom that has been carried on for many centuries without infringement upon the religious rights of others.

To decree that the drawing up of any regulations that may be necessary as to such devotions and prayers, shall be entrusted to the Rabbinate of Palestine, who shall thus re-assume full responsibility in that matter, in discharge of which responsibility they may consult the Rabbinate of the world.

To suggest, if the Commissioners approve of the plan, to the Mandatory Power that it should make the necessary arrangements by which the properties now occupied by the Moghrabi Waqf might be vacated, the Waqf authorities accepting in lieu of them certain new buildings to be erected upon some eligible site in Jerusalem, so that the charitable purpose, for which this Waqf was given, may still be fulfilled.

David Yellin testifying before the commission stated:

”Being judged before you today stands a nation that has been deprived of everything that is dear and sacred to it from its emergence in its own land – the graves of its patriarchs, the graves of its great kings, the graves of its holy prophets and, above all, the site of its glorious Temple. Everything has been taken from it and of all the witnesses to its sanctity, only one vestige remains – one side of a tiny portion of a wall, which, on one side, borders the place of its former Temple. In front of this bare stone wall, that nation stands under the open sky, in the heat of summer and in the rains of winter, and pours out its heart to its God in heaven.”

The Commission concluded that the wall, and the adjacent pavement and Moroccan Quarter, were solely owned by the Muslim waqf. However, Jews had the right to "free access to the Western Wall for the purpose of devotions at all times", subject to some stipulations that limited which objects could be brought to the Wall and forbade the blowing of the shofar, which was made illegal. Muslims were forbidden to disrupt Jewish devotions by driving animals or other means. Yitzchak Orenstein, who held the position of Rabbi of the Kotel, recorded in April 1930 that “Our master, Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld came to pray this morning by the Kosel and one of those present produced a small chair for the Rav to rest on for a few moments. However, no sooner had the Rav sat down did an Arab officer appear and pull the chair away from under him.” During the 1930s, at the conclusion of Yom Kippur, young Jews persistently flouted the shofar ban each year and blew the shofar resulting in their arrest and prosecution. They were usually fined or sentenced to imprisonment for three to six months.

Jordanian rule 1948–67:

During the 1948 Arab-Israeli War the Old City together with the Wall was captured by Jordan. Article VIII of the 1949 Armistice Agreement provided for Israeli Jewish access to the Western Wall. However for the following nineteen years, despite numerous requests by Israeli officials and Jewish groups to the United Nations and other international bodies to attempt to enforce the armistice agreement, Jordan refused to abide by this clause.[citation needed] Neither Israeli Arabs nor Israeli Jews could visit their holy places in the Jordanian territories. An exception was made for Christians to participate in Christmas ceremonies in Bethlehem. Some sources claim Jews could only visit the wall if they traveled through Jordan (which was not an option for Israelis) and did not have an Israeli visa stamped in their passports. Only Jordanian soldiers and tourists were to be found there. A vantage point on Mount Zion, from which the Wall could be viewed, became the place where Jews gathered to pray. For thousands of pilgrims, the mount, being the closest location to the Wall under Israeli control, became a substitute site for the traditional priestly blessing ceremony which takes place on the Three Pilgrimage Festivals.


"Al Buraq (Wailing Wall) Rd" sign:

During the Jordanian occupation of the Old City, a ceramic street sign in Arabic and English was affixed to the stones of the ancient wall. Attached three metres up, it was made up of eight separate ceramic tiles and said Al Buraq in Arabic at the top with the English "Al-Buraq (Wailing Wall) Rd" below. When Israeli soldiers arrived at the wall in June 1967, one attempted to scrawl Hebrew lettering on it. The Jerusalem Post reported that on June 8, Ben-Gurion went to the wall and "looked with distaste" at the road sign; "this is not right, it should come down” and he proceeded to dismantle it. This act signaled the climax of the capture of the Old City and the ability of Jews to once again access their holiest sites. Emotional recollections of this event are related by David ben Gurion and Shimon Peres.


Israeli rule 1967–present:

Following Israel's victory during the 1967 Six-Day War, the Western Wall came under Israeli control. Yitzchak Rabin, fifth Prime Minister of Israel, described the moment Israeli soldiers reached the Wall:

”There was one moment in the Six-Day War which symbolized the great victory: that was the moment in which the first paratroopers – under Gur's command – reached the stones of the Western Wall, feeling the emotion of the place; there never was, and never will be, another moment like it. Nobody staged that moment. Nobody planned it in advance. Nobody prepared it and nobody was prepared for it; it was as if Providence had directed the whole thing: the paratroopers weeping – loudly and in pain – over their comrades who had fallen along the way, the words of the Kaddish prayer heard by Western Wall's stones after 19 years of silence, tears of mourning, shouts of joy, and the singing of "Hatikvah".

Forty-eight hours after capturing the wall, the military, without explicit government order, hastily proceeded to demolish the entire Moroccan Quarter which stood four metres from the Wall. Chaim Herzog, who later became Israel’s sixth president, took much of the credit for the destruction of the neighbourhood:

 ”When we visited the Wailing Wall we found a toilet attached to it...we decided to remove it and from this we came to the conclusion that we could evacuate the entire area in front of the Wailing Wall...a historical opportunity that will never return...We knew that the following Saturday, June 14, would be the Jewish festival of Shavouot and that many will want to come to pray...it all had to be completed by then.”

The narrow pavement, which could accommodate a maximum of 12,000 per day, was transformed into an enormous plaza which could hold in excess of 400,000. The dusty plaza stretched from the wall to the Jewish Quarter. The section of the Wall dedicated to prayers was extended southwards to double its original length from 30 to 60 metres, while the 4 metre space facing the Wall grew to 40 metres. Thus the small pre-1967 120 square metre area in front of the wall became the vast Western Wall Plaza, covering 20,000 square metres.

The new plaza created in 1967 is used for worship and public gatherings, including Bar mitzvah celebrations and the swearing-in ceremonies of newly full-fledged soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces. Chabad activists stationed at the site regularly promote the Tefillin Campaign. Tens of thousands of Jews flock to the wall on the Jewish holidays, and particularly on the fast of Tisha B'Av, which marks the destruction of the Temple and on Jerusalem Day, which commemorates the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967 and the delivery of the Wall into Jewish hands.

Main article: Robinson's Arch
At the southern end of the Western Wall, Robinson's Arch along with a row of vaults once supported stairs ascending from the street to the Temple Mount. Because it does not come under the direct control of the Rabbi of the Wall or the Ministry of Religious Affairs, the site has been opened to religious groups that hold worship services that would not be approved by the Rabbi or the Ministry in the major men's and women's prayer areas against the Wall.

The need for such an area became apparent when in in 1989, after repeated attacks by haredim, activists belonging to a group called Women Of The Wall petitioned to secure the right of women to pray at the wall without restrictions. Ultimately, in 2003 Israel's Supreme Court disallowed any women from reading publicly from the Torah or wearing traditional prayer shawls at the plaza itself, but instructed the Israeli government to prepare the site of Robinson's Arch to host such events.[65] The site was inaugurated in August 2004 and has since hosted services by Reform and Conservative groups, as well as services by the Women of the Wall.

In November 2010, the government approved a £15m ($23m) scheme to improve access and infrastructure at the site.

Wilson's Arch

In 2005, the Western Wall Heritage Foundation initiated a major renovation effort under Rabbi-of-the-Wall Shmuel Rabinovitch. Its goal was to renovate and restore the area within Wilson's Arch, the covered area to the left of worshipers facing the Wall in the open prayer plaza, in order to increase access for visitors and for prayer.

The restoration to the men's section included a Torah ark that can house over 100 Torah scrolls, in addition to new bookshelves, a library, heating for the winter, and air conditioning for the summer. A new room was also built for the scribes who maintain and preserve the Torah scrolls used at the Wall. New construction also included a women's section,[69] overlooking the men's prayer area, so that women could use this separate area to "take part in the services held inside under the Arch" for the first time.

On July 25, 2010, a Ner Tamid, an oil-burning "eternal light," was installed within the prayer hall within Wilson's Arch, the first eternal light installed in the area of the Western Wall. According to the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, requests had been made for many years that "an olive oil lamp be placed in the prayer hall of the Western Wall Plaza, as is the custom in Jewish synagogues, to represent the menorah of the Temple in Jerusalem as well as the continuously burning fire on the altar of burnt offerings in front of the Temple," especially in the closest place to those ancient flames.


A number of special worship events have been held since the renovation. They have taken advantage of the cover, temperature control, and enhanced security. However, in addition to the more recent programs, one early event occurred in September 1983, even before the modern renovation. At that time U. S. Sixth Fleet Chaplain Rabbi Arnold Resnicoff was allowed to hold an unusual interfaith service—the first interfaith service ever conducted at the Wall during the time it was under Israeli control—that included men and women sitting together. The ten-minute service included the Priestly Blessing, recited by Resnicoff, who is a Kohen. A Ministry of Religions representative was present, responding to press queries that the service was authorized as part of a special welcome for the U.S. Sixth Fleet.


Rabbis of the wall: 

After the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, Rabbi Yehuda Meir Getz was named the overseer of proceedings at the wall. After Rabbi Getz's death in 1995, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz was given the position.

Theology and ritual:


In Judaism, the Western Wall is venerated as the sole remnant of the Holy Temple. It has become a place of pilgrimage for Jews, as it is the closest permitted accessible site to the holiest spot in Judaism, namely the Even ha-shetiya or Foundation Stone, which lies on the Temple Mount. According to one rabbinic opinion, Jews may not set foot upon the Temple Mount and doing so is a sin punishable by Kareth. While almost all historians and archaeologists and some rabbinical authorities believe that the rocky outcrop in the Dome of the Rock is the Foundation Stone, some rabbis say it is located directly opposite the exposed section of the Western Wall, near the El-kas fountain. This spot was the site of the Holy of Holies when the Temple stood.

Jewish tradition teaches that the Western Wall was built by King Solomon and that the wall we see today is built upon his foundations, which date from the time of the First Temple.[80] Jewish midrashic texts compiled in Late Antiquity refer to a western wall of the Temple which “would never be destroyed.” Some scholars were of the opinion that this referred to a wall of the Temple itself which has long since vanished. Others believed that the wall still stood and was actually a surviving wall of the Temple courtyard. However, today there is no doubt that the wall is the western retaining wall of the Temple Mount and the Midrash refers to the Temple in its broader sense, that is, the Temple Mount. Jewish sources teach that when Roman Emperor Vespasian ordered the destruction of the Temple, he ordered Pangar, Duke of Arabia, to destroy the Western Wall. Pangar however could not destroy the wall because of God's promise that the Wall will never be destroyed. When asked by Titus why he did not destroy it, Pangar replied that it would stand as a reminder of what Titus had conquered. He was duly executed. There is a tradition that states that when water starts trickling through the stones of the Wall, it is a signal of the advent of the Messiah.

Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kaindenover discusses the mystical aspect of the Hebrew word kotel when discussing the significance of praying against a wall. He cites the Zohar which writes that the word kotel, meaning wall, is made up of two parts: "Ko", which has the numerical value of God’s name, and "Tel", meaning mount, which refers to the Temple and its Western Wall.

Jewish sources, including the Zohar, write that the Divine Presence rests upon the Western Wall. The Midrash quotes a 4th century scholar: “Rav Acha said that the Divine Presence has never moved away from the Western Wall”.[86] 18th century scholar Jonathan Eybeschutz writes that “after the destruction of the Temple, God removed His Presence from His sanctuary and placed it upon the Western Wall where it remains in its holiness and honour”. It is told that great Jewish sages, including Isaac Luria and the Radvaz, experienced a revelation of the Divine Presence at the wall.

Prayer at the Wall:

The sages state that anyone who prays in the Temple in Jerusalem, “it is as if he has prayed before the throne of glory because the gate of heaven is situated there and it is open to hear prayer”. Jewish Law dictates that when Jews pray the Silent Prayer, they should face mizrach, towards Jerusalem, the Temple and ultimately the Holy of Holies, as all of God’s bounty and blessing emanates from that spot. According to the Mishna, of all the four walls of the Temple Mount, the Western Wall was the closest to the Holy of Holies and therefore that to pray by the Wall is particularly beneficial.[80] Rabbi Jacob Ettlinger writes "since the gate of heaven is near the Western Wall, it is understandable that all Israel's prayers ascend on high there...as one of the great ancient kabbalists Rabbi Joseph Gikatilla said, when the Jews send their prayers from the Diaspora in the direction of Jerusalem, from there they ascend by way of the Western Wall." A well-known auspicious practice among Jews is to pray for 40 consecutive days at the Western Wall. This custom was apparently conceived by Rabbi Yisroel Yaakov Fisher.

According to some, by Late Antiquity the privileged site of Jewish prayer in Jerusalem was located on the Mount of Olives and only towards the end of the Middle Ages did Jews gradually begin to congregate instead at the Western Wall for their prayers, authorized to do so by the waqf authorities. Indeed, most historians believe that the Western Wall became a popular prayer area only after the Ottoman conquest of Jerusalem in 1517. There are, however, recorded instances of the wall being used as a place of prayer before the Ottoman period. The Scroll of Ahimaaz, a historical document written in 1050 CE, distinctly describes the Western Wall as a place of prayer for the Jews. In around 1167 CE during the late Crusader Period, Benjamin of Tudela wrote that "In front of this place is the Western Wall, which is one of the walls of the Holy of Holies. This is called the Gate of Mercy, and hither come all the Jews to pray before the Wall in the open court". In 1334, Jewish traveller Isaac Chelo wrote: "It is this Western Wall which stands before the temple of Omar ibn al Khattab, and which is called the Gate of Mercy. The Jews resort thither to say their prayers, as Rabbi Benjamin has already related. Today, this wall is one of the seven wonders of the Holy City."[20] In 1625 "arranged prayers" at the Wall are mentioned for the first time by a scholar whose name has not been preserved. Scrolls of the Law were brought to the Wall on occasions of public distress and calamity, as testified to in a narrative written by Rabbi Gedaliah of Semitizi who went to Jerusalem in the year 1699.

The writings of various travellers in the Holy Land, especially in the 18th and 19th centuries, tell of how the Wall and its environs continued to be a place of devotion for the Jews. Isaac Yahuda, a prominent member of the Sephardic community in Jerusalem recalled how men and women used to gather in a circle at the Wall to hear sermons delivered in Ladino. His great-grandmother, who arrived in Palestine in 1841, “used to go to the Western Wall every Friday afternoon, winter and summer, and stay there until candle-lighting time, reading the entire Book of Psalms and the Song of Songs...she would sit there by herself for hours." The Kaf hachaim records that Ashkenasim and Sephardim were accustomed to walking through the streets and markets of the Old City wearing their tallit and tefillin on their way to pray by the Western Wall.

Throughout the ages, the Wall is where Jews have gathered to express gratitude to God or to pray for divine mercy. On news of the Normandy landings on June 6, 1944 thousands of Jews went to the Wall to offer prayers for the “success of His Majesty’s and Allied Forces in the liberation of all enemy-occupied territory.”


On October 13, 1994, 50,000 gathered to pray for the safe return of kidnapped soldier Nachshon Wachsman. August 10, 2005 saw a massive prayer rally at the Wall. Estimates of people protesting Israel's unilateral disengagement plan ranged from 50,000 to 250,000 people. Every year on Tisha B'Av large crowds congregate at the Wall to commemorate the destruction of the Temple. In 2007 over 100,000 gathered. During the month of Tishrei 2009, a record 1.5 million people visited the site.


Mourning the Temple's Destruction:

According to Jewish Law, one is obligated to grieve and rend one's garment upon visiting the Western Wall and seeing the desolate site of the Temple. Bach (17th century) explicitly mentions the "Kotel ha-Ma'aravi" when expounding how one could encounter the ruins of the Temple before the ruins of Jerusalem. Today, some scholars are of the view that rending one's garments is not applicable since Jerusalem is under Jewish sovereignty. Others disagree, citing that the Temple Mount itself is controlled by the Muslim waqf and the State of Israel has no power to remove the mosques which sit upon it. Furthermore, the mosques' very existence on the site of the Temple should increase one's feeling of distress. If one hasn’t seen the Wall for over 30 days, in order to avoid tearing one's shirt, the custom is to visit on the Sabbath, including Friday afternoons, or Saturday evenings if dressed in Sabbath finery, or on festivals. A person who has not seen the Wall within the last 30 days should recite:

"Our Holy Temple, which was our glory, in which our forefathers praised You, was burned and all of our delights were destroyed".

The Bach cites Likutim which instructs that "when one sees the Gates of Mercy which are situated in the Western Wall, which is the wall King David built, he should recite:

Her gates are sunk into the ground; he hath destroyed and broken her bars: her king and her princes are among the nations: the law is no more; her prophets also find no vision from the Lord" — Book of Lamentations 2:9


Prayer notes:

There is a much publicised practice of placing slips of paper containing written prayers into the crevices of the Wall. People there to pray will write notes that they hope will come true, then place them in the cracks to come true soon. The earliest account of this practice is recorded in Sefer Tamei Ha-minhagim U’mekorei Ha-dinim and involves Rabbi Chaim ibn Attar, (d. 1743). More than a million notes are placed each year and the opportunity to e-mail notes is offered by a number of organisations. It has become customary for visiting dignitaries to place notes too. 


Sanctity of the Wall:

There is much debate among Jewish codifiers about whether it is permitted to place one's fingers inside the cracks of the Wall. Those who warn against such action hold that the breadth of the Wall constitutes part of the Temple Mount itself and therefore retains holiness. Others hold that the Wall stands outside the given measurements of the Temple area and therefore there is no concern about inserting one's fingers into the crevices. In the past, visitors, based upon various scriptural verses, would drive nails into the cracks and paint their Hebrew names on the Wall. These practices stopped after rabbinic consensus determined that such actions compromised the sanctity of the Wall. Another practice also existed whereby pilgrims or those intending to travel abroad would hack off a chip from the Wall or take some of the sand from between its cracks as a good luck charm or memento. In the late 19th century the question was raised as to whether this was permitted and a long responsa appeared in the Jerusalem newspaper Havatzelet in 1898. It concluded that even if according to Jewish Law it was permitted, the practices should be stopped as it constituted a desecration. More recently the Yalkut Yosef rules that it is forbidden to remove small chips of stone or dust from the Wall, although it is permissible to take twigs from the vegetation which grows in the Wall for an amulet, as they contain no holiness. Cleaning the stones is also problematic from a halachic point of view. Blasphemous graffiti once sprayed by a tourist was left visible for months until it began to peel away.

Many contemporary poskim rule that the area in front of the Wall has the status of a synagogue and must be treated with due respect.[80] As such, men and married women are expected to cover their heads upon approaching the Wall, and to dress appropriately. When departing, the custom is walk backwards away from the Wall.[80] On Saturdays, it is forbidden to enter the area with electronic devices, including cameras, which infringe on the sanctity of the Sabbath.

There was once an old custom of removing one's shoes upon approaching the Wall. A 17th century collection of special prayers to be said at holy places mentions that “upon coming to the Western Wall one should remove his shoes, bow and recite...”. Rabbi Moses Reicher wrote that “it is a good and praiseworthy custom to approach the Western Wall in white garments after ablution, kneel and prostrate oneself in submission and recite “This is nothing other than the House of God and here is the gate of Heaven.” When within four cubits of the Wall, one should remove their footwear.” Over the years the custom of standing barefoot at the Wall has ceased, as there is no need to remove one's shoes when standing by the Wall, because the plaza area is outside the sanctified precinct of the Temple Mount.

In the past women could be found sitting at the entrance to the Wall every Sabbath holding fragrant herbs and spices in order to enable worshipers to make additional blessings. In the hot weather they would provide cool water. The women also used to cast lots for the privilege of sweeping and washing the alleyway at the foot of the Wall.


Until the 1920s, Muslims referred to the Wall as El-Mabka “the place of wailing". They then began calling it the Al-Buraq Wall.

Muslims maintain that the Wall is an Islamic endowment site based on two factors: The first is the association of the Wall in the Isra and Mi'raj; some sources identify the Western Wall as the place where the Islamic prophet Muhammad tethered his winged steed, Buraq. The tradition is first referred to in a manuscript by Ibn Furkah (d. 1328) stating that Buraq was tethered outside Bab al-Nab, an old name for a gate along the southwestern wall of the Haram al-Sharif at the very spot presently known as Al-Buraq. Other sources which referred to this tradition date from the 19th century and include the 1840 deliberation refusing the Jews the right to pave the area in front of the wall and the map of Jerusalem by Wilson (1865) that names the area around the Wailing Wall Hosh al-Buraq. The second factor is the claim that it is waqf property and a part of the Noble Sanctuary.



Some scholars believe that when Jerusalem came under Christian rule in the 4th century, there was a purposeful "transference" of respect for the Temple Mount and the Western Wall in terms of sanctity to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, while the sites around the Temple Mount became a place to dump garbage for Christians. However, the actions of many modern Christian leaders, including Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, who visited the Wall and actually left prayer messages in its crevices, has symbolized for many Christians a restoration of respect and even veneration for this ancient religious site.

Some extreme Christian Zionists go further, claiming that the Third Temple must be rebuilt as part of the groundwork for the Second Coming. A small group of extremists even advocate the destruction of the Muslim Dome of the Rock to hasten the new Temple construction.





Most Jews, religious and secular, consider the wall to be important to Judaism since it was originally built to hold the Second Temple. They consider the capture of the wall by Israel in 1967 as an historic event since it restored Jewish access to the site after a 19 year gap.[118] A poll carried out in 2007 by the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies indicated that 96% of Israeli Jews were against Israel relinquishing sovereignty of the Western Wall.[119] There are, however, some haredi Jews who hold opposing views. Most notable are the adherents of the Satmar hasidic sect who retain the views expoused by rabbi Joel Teitelbaum who would not approach the Wall, as he felt it had been befouled by secular interests and those professing secular Zionism, which he saw as an abomination, Jewish sovereignty not being permitted to be restored to the site until the arrival of the Messiah. Avigdor Miller, a non-hasidic American rabbi, wrote that "the Kosel is better off in the hands of the Muslims due to their modesty more than the Jews who defile the holy place with their Jewish immodesty".



Shmuel Berkowitz, in his book "The Wars over the Holy Places", suggests that Muslim attribution of holiness to the Western Wall began only in the last 100 years. He suggests this from the fact that official guides published by the Waqf in 1914, 1965, and 1990 do not attribute holiness to the wall and the entry "al-Buraq" in the Encyclopedia of Islam does not make the connection either.

In recent decades Muslims have generally been vociferous in denying that the Wall has any significance in Judaism. In December 1973, King Faisal of Saudi Arabia stated that “Only Muslims and Christians have holy places and rights in Jerusalem”. The Jews, he maintained, had no rights there at all. As for the Western Wall, he said, “Another wall can be built for them. They can pray against that". Raed Salah, leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel wrote that:

"The Western Wall – all its various parts, structures and gates – are an inseparable part of the al-Aqsa compound...The Western Wall is part of Al-Aqsa's western tower, which the Israeli establishment fallaciously and sneakily calls the 'Wailing Wall'. The wall is part of the holy al-Aqsa Mosque".

According to the Palestinian National Authority, the Jews did not consider the Wall as a place for worship except after the Balfour Declaration was issued in 1917. PA-appointed Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Ekrima Sa'id Sabri, believes that the Wall belongs to the Muslims alone. In 2000 he related that “No stone of the Al-Buraq wall has any relation to Judaism. The Jews began praying at this wall only in the nineteenth century, when they began to develop [national] aspirations.” A year later he stated:

“There is not a single stone in the Wailing Wall relating to Jewish History. The Jews cannot legitimately claim this wall, neither religiously nor historically. The Committee of the League of Nations recommended in 1930, to allow the Jews to pray there, in order to keep them quiet. But by no means did it acknowledge that the wall belongs to them.”—Interviewed by German magazine Die Welt, January 17, 2001

In 2006, Dr. Hassan Khader, founder of the Al Quds Encyclopedia, told PA television that the first connection of the Jews to the Wall is "a recent one which began in the 16th Century...not ancient...like the roots of the Islamic connection".

In November 2010, an official paper published by the PA Ministry of Information denied Jewish rights to the Wall. It stated that "Al-Buraq Wall is in fact the western wall of Al-Aksa Mosque" and that Jews had only started using the site for worship after the 1917 Balfour Declaration.

Yitzhak Reiter writes that "the Islamization and de-Judaization of the Western Wall are a recurrent motif in publications and public statements by the heads of the Islamic Movement in Israel."



Egyptian Minister of Waqfs, Mahmoud Hamdi Zakzouk, has asserted that the Western Wall is not a Jewish holy site. Another high ranking Egyptian Muslim authority, Mufti Nasr Fradid Wassel, has decreed that the Western Wall remain an Islamic endowment for ever, explaining that it is a part of the western wall of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. He added that the Wall would belong to Muslims all over the world "until the end of earth" and that it is religiously forbidden for Muslims to refer to Buraq Wall as the Wailing Wall.



While recognizing the difficulties inherent in any ultimate peace agreement that involves the status of Jerusalem, the official position of the United States includes a recognition of the importance of the Wall to the Jewish people, and has condemned statements that seek to "delegitimize" the relationship between Jews and the area in general, and the Western Wall in particular. For example, in November 2010, the Obama administration "strongly condemned a Palestinian official's claim that the Western Wall in the Old City has no religious significance for Jews and is actually Muslim property." The U.S. State Department noted that the United States rejects such a claim as "factually incorrect, insensitive and highly provocative."

However, while recognizing the Wall's Jewish importance, Obama may have floated a "trial balloon" suggestion that a compromise political outcome might include flying the flag of the United Nations over the Wall, at least according to Jordan's King Abdullah II, who said the President made the comment during a meeting between the two of them. During a speech at Israel's Mercaz HaRav yeshivah on Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day), Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu responded to the report by saying that it will be the Israeli flag that will always fly over the Kotel.

SOURCE :   Wikipedia