The Temple MountThe holiest site in Judaism, the Temple Mount is the crown jewel of Jerusalem. In ancient times, the Jewish people would journey on foot from all over the country to worship in the Temple, and to celebrate the Temple festivals.
Jewish tradition associates the Temple Mount not merely with the Temple, but also with pivotal events in the Bible and Creation itself. It is said that God drew the dust from which he would create Adam, the first man, from the peaks of Mount Moriah. Jacob’s dream of angels and ladders was dreamt as he lay on Mount Moriah, his head pillowed on its stones. And Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac and his subsequent sacrifice of the ram took place on that same mountain.
So construction of the Temple did not cause the Temple Mount to become holy. Rather, the mountain itself was already sanctified, and with the construction of the Temple, the Divine Presence descended upon that spot for all eternity. Such is believed by Orthodox Jews, and for that reason, they will not set foot on the Temple Mount. Believing that all Jews are ritually impure without the Temple rituals, Maimonides issued an edict that it is forbidden to tread on the site of the ancient Temple, and this edict is strictly observed today by religious Jews.
Today, Muslims hold the Temple Mount sacred as the site where Mohammed ascended to heaven. The Temple Mount therefore includes major sites of worship for Muslims, such as the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque.
After conquering Jerusalem from the Jebusites, King David bought a spot on the Temple Mount from a thresher, and his son King Solomon built the First Temple. In 586 B.C., the Temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. Seventy years later, Jews returned to Jerusalem and built the Second Temple, which lasted until the Romans destroyed it in 70 A.D.
The fateful war against Rome in that year represents a major shift in Judaism, from a religion with a home and physical ties to a nomadic faith doomed to wander the world in search of peace. The Roman conquest therefore signifies a turning point in the history of Jerusalem, when its identity as the center of Judaism became complicated with other roles: the birthplace of Christianity, a holy site for Islam.
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