SECOND TEMPLE OF JERUSALEM (HEROD'S TEMPLE)
Western Wall, part of Herod's Temple, today The legendary Temple of Jerusalem — the holiest site in Judaism and the religion’s only temple — was a massive structure built for the Jews, ironically, not by a Jewish leader but by Roman leader King Herod, one of the most hated men in Palestine, and the man who reportedly ordered the slaughter of every male child under two in his attempt kill the "King of the Jews” (Jesus).
Herod built a great temple on the site of Solomon's Temple to win over his Jewish subjects. He replaced the modest 6th century B.C. temple with a temple complex that covered a staggering 35 acres. Because tradition forbid the construction of a temple larger than Solomon's temples most of the complex was a platform — described by Josephus as “the greatest ever heard of” — made of debris from a loped off mountain and held up with a retaining wall with stones, some of which were 30 feet long and weighed 50 tons.
It is not known exactly what the Temple looked like. No drawings of it exist, and no thorough archaeological excavations at the site of the temple have been done. It is believed that the Temple was not a single building but a series of precincts and courtyards, one inside the other, with a sanctuary with important religious objects at the center. Some have speculated that this sanctuary was enclosed by a monumental 80-foot-high tower.
Outline on the Temple of Jerusalem: 1) Temple and Sacrificial Worship: Normal in antiquity 2) Differences from standard Greek practice: A) Only one Temple, B) cult and numerous priesthood supported by entire community 3) The Sheqel contribution.: Pharisaic opposition to privately endowed public offerings. 4) Priests were forbidden to work. 5) Religion encompassed all aspects of life. 6) Judaism placed limitations upon full participation in public life. 7) Genealogical purity among priests (restrictions on permissible marriage partners, etc.) 8) Question of sectarian opposition to Temple and sacrificial service: "Extreme allegorists", Sibylline Oracles, Women in the Temple, [Source: people.ucalgary.ca]
Construction and Lay Out of Herod's Temple
Some 18,000 workers were hired to build the Temple. Mammoth stones were used to make the walls and foundations; cedar beams and great marble columns supported the roof. Around the central building were 13 gates through which only Jews could enter. The most famous of these, the bronze Nicanor Gate, was so heavy it required 20 men to open. The opening of this gate signaled the beginning of the day.
The Temple was so sacred that only the high priest could enter the central precincts and he could only do so once a year. Outside the sanctuary was the Court of the Priests, where the priests performed animal sacrifices and other rituals on a massive altar. This in turn was surrounded by the Court of the Israelites, where Jewish men gathered to pray and were able to see the animal sacrifices in the Court of Priests. Outside of the Court of Israelites was the Court of Women, where women could pray, and outside of that was the Court of Gentiles, which was open to everyone. Gentiles were strictly forbidden from entering the sacred Jewish areas. A sign was found in the Temple area that was written in Greek read: any non-Jew who entered “is answerable himself for his ensuing death."
L. Michael White of the University of Texas told PBS: “If we move around the Temple complex, which we can still see standing today, at least on its foundation levels, you see the monumental size of it. You look up forty feet on certain sides. And yet, that wall is really just the foundation course. The Temple itself stood up above with gleaming pillars and lots of marble. And so, it was really quite impressive. It was meant to be a showplace. [Source: L. Michael White, Professor of Classics and Director of the Religious Studies Program University of Texas at Austin, Frontline, PBS, April 1998 <>]
“For Herod, it looks as though this is his pet project, as it were, to give something to his homeland. To turn the Temple, the centerpiece of Jewish life and identity, into a temple that would rival all of those in the ancient world. And so apparently, he poured, enormous amounts of money into it. Now this Temple project was begun in about 20 B.C. It would be under construction for over eighty years before it was completed. Unfortunately, it would only stand for a few years before it would be destroyed again. But while it was under construction for those eight decades, it was a source of economic growth. It kept all kinds of construction guilds in work. And it was really meant to be a place where everyone would be proud that this was the center of Jewish life.” <>
“The Temple in Jerusalem was the symbolic and, in a sense, political heart of the country.... But by building the Temple, Herod established a residence with Jewish history.... By rebuilding the Temple ... refurbishing it ... making it enormous and really one of the architectural marvels of the ancient world, he not only increased enormously the religious prestige of Judaism, but , if political history is in a sense the history of real estate development, he enabled Judea to have a positive balance of trade. Jerusalem, then as now, was one of the major centers of tourism. Not only Jewish tourism, but gentiles as well would come up to Jerusalem.... The way to think of the Temple with Herod's vision, is to think almost of an airport as much as a of a church or something like that. He created architecturally, a space that could accommodate an enormous number of pilgrims and tourists and interested others. And by doing this, he made a statement. Not only about his own country, but about the God of Israel.” <>
Old Coins Say Second Temple Built After Herod’s Death
In November 2011, Israeli archaeologists announced that had found ancient coins that overturned widely-held beliefs about the origins of Jerusalem’s Western Wall, one of Judaism’s holiest sites. Reuters reported: “For centuries, many thought the wall was built by King Herod - also infamous, in the Christian tradition, for his efforts to hunt down the baby Jesus in the original Christmas story. [Source: Reuters, November 23, 2011 \^/]
a vision of Herod's Temple
“But archaeologists said they had found coins buried under the wall’s foundations minted 20 years after King Herod’s death in 4 B.C., showing the structure was completed by his successors. “This bit of archaeological information illustrates the fact that the construction of the Temple Mount walls and (the adjacent) Robinson’s Arch was an enormous project that lasted decades and was not completed during Herod’s lifetime,” the Authority added. \^/
“The authority said academic historians were already aware of an account by the Jewish historian Josephus that the wall was completed by Herod’s great grandson. But that report had done nothing to dispel the popular story that Herod completed the wall and the coins were the first hard evidence to back up Josephus’s version. “ \^/
During the pilgrimage season tens of thousands of thousands of visitors visited the Temple. Around the entrance were baths for ritual purification, small shops and vendors who sold animals for sacrifices. The moneychangers outside the Temple, whose tables were overturned by Jesus, exchanged the foreign currency of pilgrims for local silver shekels. Some historians have speculated that one area was like Speakers Corner in London, a place where crazies and wannabe Messiahs could stand on the equivalent of a soap box and rant and rave. The pilgrims often camped out in the hills around the temple. Festivals were regarded as festive occasions and no doubt people partied and sang and drank heavily. Money spent by pilgrims, believers and visitors supported a large economy. The historian Paul Johnson wrote: “The place was as vast as a small city. There were literally thousands of priests, attendants, temple soldiers and minions. Dignity was quite lost amid the smoke of the pyres, the bellows of terrified beasts, the sluices of blood, the abattoir stench, the unconcealed and unconcealable machinery of tribal religion."
Shaye I.D. Cohen of Brown University told PBS: “The crucial thing to remember is that nowadays, there are temples and synagogues everywhere you go. There is not a Jewish community in the world that doesn't have a synagogue, and many of them are called temples. In this period, however, we should always remember that there is only one Temple and that's the one Temple in Jerusalem. The building itself was very small. The actual building of the Temple could fit inside the infield of any baseball stadium. However, the large structure all around it, the large plaza, the porticos, the columns, the staircases, all of that, were built up by Herod the Great on a monumental scale, filling up, I think something like ten football fields.... So we have then a very large, very conspicuous, grandiose, grand... structure in the center of Jerusalem which attracted pilgrims from near and far, both Jews and gentile. [Source:Shaye I.D. Cohen, Samuel Ungerleider Professor of Judaic Studies and Professor of Religious Studies Brown University, Frontline, PBS, April 1998 <>]
a vision of the floor plan of Herod's Temple
“In the Temple itself, we have priests, all descending from Aaron, the High Priest, back in time, brother of Moses - the tribe of priests who officiated at the altar. They slaughtered animals, they took the animal carcasses on the altar, roasted the animals, spattered the blood on the corners of the altar, dispensed the meat, and the bones and the blood and so on, and performed other similar tasks inside the Temple. Only the priests were actually able to penetrate the innermost areas of the Temple. Even full blooded religious pious Jews could only go near, just get to the outskirts of the Temple. Further back, even gentiles could attend. <>
“Even though the actual religious rituals of the Temple were solely in the hands of the priests, that is, if you brought your sacrifice to the Temple because say, your wife had a baby, say a child recovered from illness, or say you're at a pilgrimage festival and you're celebrating at the pilgrimage. So, you bring your animal offering to the Temple, the priest takes it away from you and brings it back, brings you back roast beef or roast lamb in a little while where you and your family sit and eat. So, even though the actual doing, the actual performing [of rituals] were in the hands of the priests, nonetheless, the Temple played a large role in a collective religious mentality and a collective religion of the people, as a whole. Everybody realized that this was the one most sacred place on earth, the one place on earth where somehow heaven and earth meet, where somehow there is a telephone connection, perhaps we would say, between heaven and earth, where the earth rises up and heavens somehow descend just enough, that they just touch.... So, even though it was a small institution, entirely run by a small caste of people and even though most people can never ever get in, get inside the innermost precincts, nonetheless, the Temple as a whole, the institution, the values and the structure played a very important role in the society at large.” <>
What Happened at the Temple in Jerusalem
Paula Fredriksen of Boston University told PBS: The way the Temple operated was described in principle by God to Moses in the first five books of the Jewish Bible, the Torah. From halfway through Exodus on until the end of Deuteronomy, God is detailing to Moses certain types of legislation, a great number of which turn upon issues of offerings to be given to God under different circumstances....The Temple was a place of animal offerings, which makes it completely typical of any temple in Mediterranean antiquity. That's what happened in temples. Animals were offered, cereals were offered, there were liquid offerings. There were pigeons that were offered. It's also a place of prayer. It's also a place where the Psalms are chanted by the Levites. And where the Priests do their work. [Source: Paula Fredriksen:, William Goodwin Aurelio Professor of the Appreciation of Scripture, Boston University, Frontline, PBS, April 1998 <>]
“But the Temple is something that is publicly available in two ways to all of the Jewish people. [First], Jews would go up and worship at the Temple. But also, thanks to the text of the Bible, Jews hear about how the Temple works by hearing the Torah read usually on a weekly basis on the Sabbath. And in that sense, the Temple is an interior and religious reality to any Jew anywhere in the Empire. They know what goes on in the Temple because they have the description, in principle, that's granted in the Torah. <>
From Reconstruction model of Ancient Jerusalem in Museum of David Castle
Who Was Allowed to Visit the Temple in Jerusalem
Jewish men, Jewish women and Gentiles were all allow to enter the Temple but each group was segregated to a specific area. Roman soldiers had a post set up to maintain order.
Paula Fredriksen of Boston University told PBS: Most temples in antiquity encouraged the respect and patronage of as many people as possible. It's simply good business. And again, in this respect, the Temple in Jerusalem was no different. Gentiles had an area within which they could penetrate the sacred precincts of the Temple. They were certainly permitted to give offerings.... The Temple was organized in terms of degrees of sacred space, and the most sacred space was occupied only by the Priest. But the gentiles, who could bring offerings, would pass it over so that eventually the offering would be offered by the Priest on behalf of the gentile who was making the offering. [Source: Paula Fredriksen:, William Goodwin Aurelio Professor of the Appreciation of Scripture, Boston University, Frontline, PBS, April 1998]
Priests and Levites at the Temple in Jerusalem
Rituals and animal sacrifices at the Temple were performed by priestly class that purified themselves with ashes of a red heifer. The high priest was a descendant of Moses’ brother Aaron. L. Michael White of the University of Texas told PBS: “The Temple, basically, would have been under control of the old priestly aristocracy. There were the High Priests, who were in charge. And those came from particular families. Around them, and serving as their helpers and their agents, were number of orders of regular priests in various grades. We hear of them even in the New Testament. Priests and Levites, they're called. These other priests had a variety of duties of taking care of the Temple itself. Everything from cleaning house, to performing animal sacrifices and overseeing the activities that would have taken place on the Great Holy Day festivals. The priests, then, really are in charge of the Temple itself the Temple Proper. [Source: L. Michael White, Professor of Classics and Director of the Religious Studies Program University of Texas at Austin, Frontline, PBS, April 1998 <>]
Outline of Priests and Levites in the society: 1) Supported by people: Rabbinic tradition: 2) Tithes were not being given to Levites, but (at least primarily) to Priests. Corroboration in Judith, Jubilees. 3) Estimates of numbers: 20,000 Priests and Levites. 4) Division into Priestly courses in weekly rotation. [Source: people.ucalgary.ca]
According to Mishnah Sheqalim Ch. 5: Who were the functionaries in the Temple? Yohanan son of Phineas in charge of the seals. Ahiah in charge of libations. Matathiah son of Samuel in charge of lotteries. Petahiah in charge of bird offerings... Ben Ahiah in charge of those with bowel ailments. Nehuniah the trench-digger. Gevini the herald. Ben Gever in charge of closing the gates. Ben Bebai in charge of the wicks. Ben Arza in charge of the cymbals. Hugras son of Levi in charge of the music. The House of Garmu in charge of preparing the showbread. The house of Avtinos in charge of the preparation of the incense. Eleazar in charge of the curtains and Phineas in charge of the wardrobe. There should never be fewer than three treasurers and seven chief administrators. [Source: sefaria.org,Mishnah Sheqalim was composed in Talmudic Israel ( A.D. c.190 - c.230 ). Sheqalim (Shekels) belongs to the second order, Moed (Festivals) and discusses the collection of the half-Shekel as well as the expenses and expenditure of the Temple. It has eight chapters.]
Reconstruction of Jerusalem and the Temple of Herod
Duties and Functions of Priests at the Temple
Paula Fredriksen of Boston University told PBS: “Passover would be one of the very busiest times in Jerusalem. Because of the swollen population of Jews coming, not only from territorial Israel, but also from the Diaspora, also interested gentiles, as well. Big holidays always draw crowds. Roman troops who were usually stationed on the coast in Caesarea, would come up to Jerusalem and also be in the city specifically as a kind of crowd control while all these pilgrims were present. Meanwhile, the Temple itself was a focus of ferocious activity. The requirement of Passover was that the Passover lamb be sacrificed. There was a census reported in Jospehus in which tens of thousands of lambs were slaughtered. And it all has to be done in at a particular period just on the cusp of the very beginning of the holiday. It's not like these lambs can be slaughtered over the course of the week, frozen and then given to different customers.... Josephus estimated that one lamb would be good for...ten men. And so it's hundreds of thousands of people are in Jerusalem on Passover. [Source: Paula Fredriksen:, William Goodwin Aurelio Professor of the Appreciation of Scripture, Boston University, Frontline, PBS, April 1998 <>]
“The ultimate responsibility for making sure that things were done correctly ... that the sheep themselves were perfect, ...that the Temple itself was ready and correct, to be a medium for this act of piety and religious enthusiasm, and to make sure that the slaughter of the animals was done correctly [fell to] the Priests.... There would be extra teams of Priests, rotations of Priests who would come up to Jerusalem. They would be working in the Temple and it was on their shoulders that the ultimate responsibility for the correctness of this unbelievably frenzied scene would rest... It would be physically exhausting work. Made exhausting not for the least reason that most Jews had very strong opinions on whether the Priest was doing his business properly or not.... Sometimes reading ancient sources is like overhearing family quarrels in a distant room... I mean, people who weren't priests at all would have absolutely firm opinions on how the Priests should be doing their business. A Priest who would be a member of a particular group, say a Priest who had a Pharisaic orientation, might think something should be done one way, and a Priest who didn't have that orientation would think it would be done another way. Everybody is looking at the Bible and then on the basis of tradition and improvisation, doing what he thought was the correct way to do it. <>
Outline on Functions of Priests and Levites: 1) Priests: A) Preparation of sacrifices: Slaughter, flaying, carrying meat and blood to altar, pouring and sprinkling. B) Incense, prayers, scriptural readings. C) Menial jobs firewood. 2) Levites: A) Mainly: providing music (recitation of Psalms, instrumental accompaniment).. B) Levites as gatekeepers and guards: Questionable. 3) Priests as administrators: A) Extent and sources of the Temple s wealth. B) The Temple as a purchasing institution: does not imply irreligion or corruption. C) Did the Temple conduct a commerce in sacrificial animals? Sanders: with birds, but not cattle. [Source: people.ucalgary.ca]
Purity and Rituals at the Temple in Jerusalem
Paula Fredriksen of Boston University told PBS: “ Impurity is assumed by Jewish Law. It's a natural phenomenon. People move in and out of states of purity and impurity because much impurity is tied to biological rhythms. You incur impurity by doing things that God actually enjoins Jews to do, like having babies, or having sexual relations with a marriage partner. Bearing the dead, which is one of the most important religious commandments within the religion, then as now, is something that, because of contact with the corpse or even being in the same room as the corpse, one would be in a state of impurity. The remedy for impurity is rituals of purification. And in Judaism, as...in most religions that are concerned with this kind of way of making sense of the world, water is one of the great media for purifying. Throughout the land of Israel [at] different archaeological sites that you can see to this day. You see it on top of Masada, you see it in the excavations in Jerusalem, you can see it in digs in the Galilee, there are immersion pools. Herod, even though he had a very complicated family life and very unfortunate political habits with how he dealt with sons or other perceived rivals, nonetheless, in the palaces he built for himself, built pools to purify himself .... Being concerned with purity is one of the normal things that a Jew who chose to be religious would involve himself with. And water purification ritual is part of the way of taking care of impurity. [Source: Paula Fredriksen:, William Goodwin Aurelio Professor of the Appreciation of Scripture, Boston University, Frontline, PBS, April 1998 <>]
According to Mishnah Sheqalim 5:3: “There were four seals in the Temple, on which was written: Calf, Ram, Kid or Sinner ...Anyone who needed libations would go to Yohanan who was in charge of the seals. He would pay him money and receive from him a seal. Then he would go to Ahiah who was in charge of the libations and give him the seal, and receive from him the libations. Then in the evening the two [priests] would meet, and Ah iah would take out his seals and exchange them for cash. If there was too much, then the Temple would enjoy the profit. If there was too little, then Yohanan would pay out of his private funds, because the Temple is always given the advantage. If someone misplaces their seal, then they wait until evening. If they find a surplus over the amount of the seals, they give it to him. Otherwise, he loses out. They used to date the seals on account of deceivers. [Source: The Mishnah Sheqalim was composed in Talmudic Israel ( A.D. c.190 - c.230 ), sefaria.org]
Full purification was required of priests officiating in the preparation of the waters of the red heifer. M. Parah 3:7-8 reads: “The sages of Israel used to go first on foot to the Mount of Olives, where there was a bath for immersions. And they would defile the priest who officiated over the burning of the heifer, on account of the Sadducees, so that they could not argue that it must be done by only by those who have waited until sunset. They placed their hands upon him and said to him: High Priest, sir! Immerse yourself one time! He went down and immersed himself, then came up and dried himself...
On treating all bleeding as menstrual blood, M. Niddah 4:1-2 says: “The daughters of Samaritans are treated as menstruants from the cradle, and Samaritans defile the bottom-most layer of a mattress just like the top-most, because they have intercourse with menstruants and they separate themselves for each and every type of blood ...because their impurity is doubtful. The daughters of the Sadducees, when they follow in the ways of their parents, are considered like the Samaritans. If they went off to follow the ways of Israel, then they are considered like Jews. Rabbi Yosé says: They are always treated as Jews, unless they went off to follow the ways of their parents.
According to B. Menahot 65a: Daily offerings may be donated by individuals. The Megillat Ta'anit: says: "From the beginning of the month of Nisan until the eighth, eulogies are forbidden." For the Sadducees used to say: An individual may volunteer to bring the daily offering. On the Temple candelabrum remaining pure, T. Hagigah 3:34says: “It happened once that they immersed the candelabrum on a festival day, and the Sadducees were saying: Come and see how the Pharisees are immersing the light of the moon. “
Circumcision was recognized as a sign of Jewish distinctiveness. There were questions about its religious purpose. It created conflict with Greco-Roman ideals of bodily perfection (mutilation).
Outline on Purity: 1) Dietary Laws: Main principles: Definitions of permitted and forbidden species: A) Quadrupeds: Split hoof and chewing cud, B) Fish: Fins and scales. C) Birds: Not birds of prey, D) Insects: Locusts & grasshoppers, E) Slaughter (profane slaughter not ordered in Bible)”, F) Removal of blood, G) Separation of milk and meat (expansion of Biblical rules) and G) Avoidance of idolatrous offerings and libations and socializing with pagans (especially wine and oil). 2) Other impurities: A) Corpses (Special rules: impurity through being in the same room; purificaitons through waters of Red Heifer ). B) Childbirth (+ sacrifices), C) Menstruation, D) Irregular genital discharges, E) Some carcasses and F) Leprosy. 3) Effects on daily life: A) Introduction of immersion for women. B) Preparation of food for Temple and Priests. C) Susceptibility to impurity through contact with liquids. D) Widespread observance of purity rules. E) Ubiquity of Mikvahs as index of common or sectarian Judaism. F) Practical implementation or ideals of love and charity. G) Summary on level of Jewish commitment to the law and relationship between legalism and devotion. [Source: people.ucalgary.ca]
Sacrifices at the Temple
According to Mishnah Yoma Ch. 2: Originally anyone who wanted to remove the ashes from the altar would do so. When there were too many, they would race up the ramp, and the first one to arrive within four cubits would win the privilege. If there was a tie, the official in charge would say : Put out your fingers... It once happened that two of them were tied as they raced up the ramp, and one of them pushed his fellow, who fell and broke his leg. When the court observed that it was becoming dangerous, they decreed that the removal of the ashes should only be assigned according to a lottery. There were four lotteries, of which this was the first. [Source: From the Mishnah was composed in Talmudic Israel ( A.D. c.190 - c.230 ), sefaria.org]
“The second lottery was for who would slaughter, who would pour the blood, who would remove the ashes from the inner altar, who would remove the ashes from the candelabrum , who would carry the limbs up the ramp: The head and the [right hind] leg, the two forelegs, the hindquarters and the hind leg, the breast and the ribs, the two sides, the innards, the flour, the meal-cakes and the wine. Thirteen Priests participated...The third lottery: All those who have never offered incense, come draw lots! The fourth: Both veterans and novices, to determine who will carry the limbs from the ramp to the altar.” [Ibid]
I) Outline on Classification of Sacrifices: 1) Communal or Individual; 2) Obligatory; 3) Daily offerings: Tamid; 4) Additional offerings for Sabbaths and festivals; 5) "Sin" and Guilt offerings [Pilgrimage offerings]; 6) Voluntary ["Busy offerings"], Todah , Shelamim [Welfare]; 7) Thanksgiving: Todah (+bread); 8) Burnt-offerings [Vows]; 7) Communal offerings: Tamid. II) Obligatory Sin and Guilt offerings: 1) Procedures: Sliding-scale: usually birds. 2) Purposes: Not only for sins. 3) Generally: A) Sin offering for negligence. B) Guilt offering where specified. III) Issues related to use of primary sources: A) Josephus' personal experience as priest: When is he describing personal observation, and when is he interpreting the Bible? B) Rabbinic sources , Mishnah: Mixture of early traditions and later embellishments. [Source: people.ucalgary.ca]
Animal Sacrifices at the Temple
Animal sacrifices were common occurrences among the ancient Israelites. The book of Leviticus describes how they were to be done and the book of Numbers lists off the animals slaughtered at the dedication of a temple (36 oxen, 144 sheep and lambs, and 72 goats and kids over a 12 day period). Some 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep were sacrificed at the dedication of Solomon's temple. A lamb was sacrificed for Passover. A bull was sacrificed for Yom Kippur. Two doves were sacrificed to celebrate a birth and circumcision.
Traditionally, the animal's neck was cut at a special altar and the gushing blood was collected in a basin and then sprinkled or poured out on or near the altar. Part's of the animals were immolated for God. The rest was eaten and shared by the pilgrims. For some people meat from the sacrificed animals was the only meat they ate the entire year.
Animal sacrifices were a way that Jews purified themselves, cleansed themselves of their sins and sealed their covenant with God. Eating the animal was regarded as symbol of the union of the people making a covenant. The historian W. Robert Smith observed in Biblical times, "people could never eat beef or mutton except as a religious act."
Copper Dead Sea scroll
Jewish sacrifices involved offering an unblemished life and were intended to remove defilement and enable man to get closer to God. Among the problems with this set of beliefs is the fact that animals are unblemished because they incapable of sin, they did not submit willingly and were not on a human level. Christians would later argue that Christ's death was a true sacrifice. Rabbis reportedly gave up the practice of sacrificing animals after the destruction of Jewish temple in A.D. 70.
Western Wall: The Remains of The Temple
The Western Wall (or Wailing Wall) is Judaism's most sacred site. Essentially an open air synagogue, it is all that is left of the legendary Temple. The Western Wall is a retaining wall of a huge platform on which Herod's temple was built in 20 B.C. It is about 60 feet high, 16 foot thick and composed of large blocks of stone (the largest of which are 30 feet long and weigh 50 tons) and is believed to have supported an esplanade. A 20 foot upper extension of the wall, made of smaller stones, is part of the ramparts of the Temple Mount, which belongs to the Muslims. The Little Wall is an extension of the Western Wall in the Muslim Quarter that draws some boisterously chanting Orthodox Jews much to the displeasure of Muslims who live and work there.
Some Jews argue the Western Wall is not the holiest site in Judaism—the Temple Mount is. Muslims prohibit Jews from worshiping there. Some Jews would like to tear down the Muslim shrines on the Temple Mount and excavate the remains of Herod’s temple underneath. Jews believe that when the true Messiah arrives this temple will be rebuilt.
The name "Wailing Wall" describes the outpouring of emotion manifested by Jews at the wall over the loss the Temple and the 3000 year struggle of their people. A good time to visit the Wall is at night when it is illuminated with floodlights. In the summer of 2002, water oozing from a stone in the wall generated considerable excitement among ultra-Orthodox Jews who viewed the water as tears and regarded it as a possible sign that the true Messiah was coming.
Temple Mount: Where the Temple Once Stood
The Temple Mount (in the Old City of Jerusalem) is perhaps the most sacred piece of real estate in the world. Known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, and known to Jews as the Temple Mount, it is a huge stone platform built by Herod the Great (73-4 B.C.) on top of Mt. Moriah, the highest point in the Old City. Sitting on top of it are the Dome of the Rock, Islam's third holiest shrine, and the al-Aqsa Mosque. The retaining wall that supports one the Temple Mount’s sides is the Western Wall, Jews holiest place.
"On the top of the Temple Mount is a large courtyard and a spacious park with Arab style gardens. Covering 35 acres, it occupies about 20 percent of the Old City and is one of the largest open spaces in Jerusalem. Within the large stone courtyard, are steps and arches and baths where Muslim faithful wash their feet and hands before they enter the dome. In this area, Arab families gather for picnics, children play soccer and groups of young people gather to chat. Around the courtyard are with tree-lined walkways and Mamluk-era buildings and shrines dedicated to David, Solomon and Jesus.
"Both Jews and Muslim claim The Temple Mount. To the Jews it is where the First and Second temples built by Solomon and Herod stood and the Third Temple of the true Messiah will rise. Beneath it are tunnels, cisterns, remains of the Second Temple destroyed by the Romans in the 1st century and likely some remnants of the First Temple and perhaps a secret chamber that houses the Ark of the Covenant. Some Jews regarded the Temple Mount as so holy they refuse to walk on it out of fear that they may accidently set foot on sacred or forbidden ground. Archeological excavations have not taken places out of worries by various groups that what might be found might undermine their claim on sacred ground.
Dominance over the sacred sights is regarded as expression of power. The Jews feel they have the right to it because they were here before the the Muslims. The Muslims claim dates back to 7th century when Jerusalem was captured not long after Mohammed’s death and the original versions of the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque were built. To appease Muslims, the Israeli government passed laws that forbid Jews from praying anywhere on the Temple Mount aside from the Western Wall. Periodically Jewish extremist groups challenge these laws and attempt to pray near the Muslim sites and are dragged away by police. Orthodox rabbis have also forbidden Jews from praying on the Temple Mount because it is not known exactly where the Holiest parts of the temple was and there are concerns that Jews, who have not been properly purified, would accidently tread over it and desecrate it, an incursion punishable by death.
Joshua Hammer wrote in Smithsonian Magazine: The Temple Mount is a “magnificent edifice that has served the faithful as a symbol of God’s glory for 3,000 years and remains the crossroads of the three great monotheistic religions. Jewish tradition holds that it is the site where God gathered the dust to create Adam and where Abraham nearly sacrificed his son Isaac to prove his faith. King Solomon, according to the Bible, built the First Temple of the Jews on this mountaintop circa 1000 B.C., only to have it torn down 400 years later by troops commanded by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar, who sent many Jews into exile. In the first century B.C., Herod expanded and refurbished a Second Temple built by Jews who had returned after their banishment. It is here that, according to the Gospel of John, Jesus Christ lashed out against the money changers (and was later crucified a few hundred yards away). The Roman general Titus exacted revenge against Jewish rebels, sacking and burning the Temple in A.D. 70. [Source: Joshua Hammer, Smithsonian Magazine, April 2011 /*\]
“Among Muslims, the Temple Mount is called Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary). They believe it was here that the Prophet Muhammad ascended to the “Divine Presence” on the back of a winged horse—the Miraculous Night Journey, commemorated by one of Islam’s architectural triumphs, the Dome of the Rock shrine. A territorial prize occupied or conquered by a long succession of peoples—including Jebusites, Israelites, Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, Romans, Byzantines, early Muslims, Crusaders, Mamluks, Ottomans and the British—the Temple Mount has seen more momentous historical events than perhaps any other 35 acres in the world. Nonetheless, archaeologists have had little opportunity to search for physical evidence to sort legend from reality. For one thing, the site remains a place of active worship. The authority that controls the compound, an Islamic council called the Waqf, has long forbidden archaeological excavations, which it views as desecration. Except for some clandestine surveys of caves, cisterns and tunnels undertaken by European adventurers in the late 19th century—and some minor archaeological work conducted by the British from 1938 to 1942, when the Al-Aqsa Mosque was undergoing renovation—the layers of history beneath the Temple Mount have remained tantalizingly out of reach. /*\
“Today the Temple Mount, a walled compound within the Old City of Jerusalem, is the site of two magnificent structures: the Dome of the Rock to the north and the Al-Aqsa Mosque to the south. In the southwest stands the Western Wall—a remnant of the Second Temple and the holiest site in Judaism. Some 300 feet from the Al-Aqsa Mosque, in the southeast corner of the compound, a wide plaza leads to underground vaulted archways that have been known for centuries as Solomon’s Stables—probably because the Templars, an order of knights, are said to have kept their horses there when the Crusaders occupied Jerusalem. In 1996, the Waqf converted the area into a prayer hall, adding floor tiles and electric lighting. The Muslim authorities claimed the new site—named the El-Marwani Mosque—was needed to accommodate additional worshipers during Ramadan and on rain days that prevented the faithful from gathering in the open courtyard of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.” /*\
Image Sources: Wikimedia, Commons, Schnorr von Carolsfeld Bible in Bildern, 1860
Text Sources: Internet Jewish History Sourcebook sourcebooks.fordham.edu “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “ Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); “Old Testament Life and Literature” by Gerald A. Larue, King James Version of the Bible, gutenberg.org, New International Version (NIV) of The Bible, biblegateway.com Complete Works of Josephus at Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL), translated by William Whiston, ccel.org , Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org “Encyclopedia of the World Cultures” edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994); National Geographic, BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Last updated September 2018