A Sukkot visit to the Temple Mount, currently a mostly-empty site full of ancient stones, graphically illustrates how far away the Biblical reality is. Though the glory of the Temple is still in ruins, the glow of holiness is still evident.
On a desperately limited basis, Jews are permitted to walk quickly through the site, closely guarded by police and Waqf Muslim Authority guards, who ensure that the only prayers emanating from the site are uttered in Arabic. Despite 2,000 years of exile and the Muslim veneer, the site still glows with the Holy presence that, according to Jewish tradition, has never left the site since Solomon first established his Temple.
Jews who wish to visit their holiest site are only permitted to enter the Temple Mount via one gate and at set hours that are severely limited and prone to cancellation at any signs of Arab violence. Separated out from tourists, Jewish visitors are organized into groups. No religious articles, books, signs of Israeli nationalism or laptop computers are allowed. Visitors must present identification and background checks are conducted. Jews are scrupulously checked and must pass through a metal detector. In comparison, Arabs have access to the site via eleven gates and there are no security measures.
Jews ascending to the Temple Mount (Photo by Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz/Breaking Israel News)
The Temple Mount Compound has a total area of 37 acres. Though the focus is on the two main buildings, the silver-domed Aqsa Mosque and the gold Dome of the Rock, most of the site is empty, filled with olive and pine trees, empty stone-flagged courtyards, or simply rocky areas.
Grove of trees on Temple Mount (Photo by Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz/Breaking Israel News)Grove of olive trees on Temple Mount (Photo by Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz/Breaking Israel News)
Undoubtedly one of the most important archaeological sites in the world, the secrets are hidden behind an Islamic wall of silence. The Waqf (Muslim Authority) frequently carries out unauthorized construction using heavy equipment with disregard for any artifacts. The Temple Mount Sifting Project began in 1999 after illegal construction dumped over 9,000 tons of dirt mixed with Temple artifacts as garbage in the Kidron Valley. While the Islamic Authority claims that no signs of Jewish presence at the site, the Sifting Project has discovered thousands of artifacts from the Temple, and have reconstructed a section of the floor from the Second Temple.
Artifacts on the Temple Mount (Photo by Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz/Breaking Israel News)
The site has several sections covered in rough cut stones, likely remnants of the Jewish Temple.
Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of British Mandatory Palestine, was forced to appear at a Royal Commission which was convened to condemn the Jews’ insistence on praying at the site of the destroyed Temple. “After all,” countered an English officer. “It is just a bunch of rocks one on top of the other.” Rabbi Kook replied, “Just as there are hearts which are made of stone, so too there are stones which are made of heart.”
Stones on the Temple Mount (Photo by Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz/Breaking Israel News)
The Sha’ar HaRachamim (gate of Mercy) is known as the Golden Gate in Christian literature. It is believed to be the location of the Shushan Gate but this is unsubstantiated since no archaeological work is permitted here. According to Jewish tradition, the Shechina (divine presence) used to appear through the Eastern Gate, and will appear again when the Messiah comes. Jews used to pray in medieval times for mercy at the former gate at this location, another possible reason being that in the Crusader period when this habit was first documented, they were not allowed into the city where the Western Wall is located. Hence the name “Gate of Mercy”….