Temple Mount

Also known as Haram, Haram Ash-Sharif, Haram esh-Sharif, Mount Moriah, the Noble Sanctuary, Temple Platform

From Kidron Valley

Often visitors wonder why the Temple Mount is not the highest point in the city when the Bible seems to describe it as such.  The answer is that the city today (including the “Old City”) has grown and shifted from its original location. The earliest city of Jerusalem is the “City of David,” a smaller hill south of, and lower than, the Temple Mount.

Aerial from East

The present Temple Mount was constructed by Herod the Great beginning in 20 BC.  Construction on it continued for 83 years until AD 64 when a halt was called to the project and 18,000 workers were laid off (riots resulted).  The Temple Mount is 1/6 the size of today’s Old City and covers 35 acres.  Construction of this rectangular platform required filling in a large part of the Central Valley.

Crowds at Ramadan

Herod enlarged the existing Temple Mount in order to accommodate the larger crowds of Jewish pilgrims coming for the feasts.  Today Muslims in Israel celebrate Ramadan by coming to what they call Haram esh-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary).  More than 400,000 Muslims often gather here on the final Friday of the feast.  See Dome of the Rock.

Dome of the Tablets

Because of Muslim control of the Temple Mount, archaeologists are prevented from working on the site.  Consequently scholars lack evidence for determining the precise location of the first and second Temples.  Asher Kaufman has theorized that the Holy of Holies originally was located not under the Dome of the Rock but under the Dome of the Tablets (aka Dome of the Spirits).

A Telltale Step

Leen Ritmeyer identified a large step at the bottom of one of the staircases which he believes is the top of the west wall of the pre-Herodian Temple Mount.  This step is exactly 500 cubits from the eastern wall of the Temple Mount, matching the Mishnaic measurement of the (apparently earlier) Temple Mount.  After this interpretation of this step, authorities laid new pavement to cover the wall.

The Seam

On the southeastern side of the Temple Mount is a “seam” of stones where a later addition leans up against the earlier east wall.   There is some debate about the date of this earlier wall (the later is clearly Herodian), but Ritmeyer has convincingly demonstrated that the earlier wall forms the corner of the 500 cubit square Temple Mount.  If this identification of the earlier Temple Mount is correct, the Temple must have been located where the Dome of the Rock now sits.

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Related Websites

The Temple Mount in Jerusalem (Ritmeyer Archaeological Design)  The site of the expert on the subject featuring descriptions of his slides sets, teaching aids, and other materials.

The Temple Mount – the Haram-esh-Sharif (Jewish Virtual Library)  Retells the Jewish and later the Muslim history of the site, including links to descriptions of related terms.

Jerusalem: The Temple Mount (Walking in Their Sandals)  Part of a larger article on Jerusalem, section 9 briefly describes the Temple Mount, focusing on aspects of the second Temple Period.  Includes many excellent pictures.

The Temple Institute  Features links to many research resources.  The long term goal of this organization is “to do as much as possible to bring about the rebuilding of the Holy Temple in our time.”

A Short Chronology of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount (Personal Page, Lambert Dolphin)  Brings together history from all ages, in timeline form, for a complete record of the Temple Mount.  Reflects some political bias.

The Temple Mount in Jerusalem (templemount.org)  Presents three theories on the location of the Jewish temple, highlighting the research of Tuvia Sagiv.

New Evidence for the Site of the Temple in Jerusalem (Associates for Scripture Knowledge)  Presents an alternate location for the Temple Mount, as proposed by Ernest Martin.  See also a response to Ritmeyer’s critique by Martin.

The Temple Mount Archaeological Destruction (www.har-habayt.org)  [Link may no longer work] This site is dedicated to exposing the destruction of antiquities by illegal digging and constructing without archaeological supervision.  Links to information, news reports, and photos.

The Temple Mount in Jerusalem (The Jewish Magazine)  A lengthy article about the illegal construction projects taking place on the temple mount.  Interviews with several key personalities lend a well-rounded perspective to the issue.

Recent Developments in the News (templemount.org)  News gathered from various sources regarding the Temple Mount.

The Jerusalem Archaeological Park (Israel Antiquities Authority) Interactive maps, virtual reconstruction models, an interactive timeline, biographies, and excerpts from historical sources provide a wealth of knowledge on the archaeology of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem’s Temple Mount (UCLA’s Urban Simulation Team)  A UCLA PhD candidate, working alongside the Israel Antiquities Authority, developed the Temple Mount simulation program featured at the Davidson Center.  Several good links as well as pictures from the virtual Temple Mount program.

The Noble Sanctuary A well-done site from a Muslim perspective that doesn’t deny the existence of the earlier Jewish temples.  They are developing an interactive CD-Rom about the site.