TEMPLE MOUNT, the trapezoid-shaped (approximately rectangular) walled-in area (approx. 140 dunams) in the southeastern corner of the Old City of Jerusalem. The four walls surrounding it (see *Western Wall) date – at least in their lower parts – from the time of Herod's Temple (end of first century B.C.E.; see *Temple: Second). These huge supporting walls, partly buried underground (except for the northern one), were built around the summit of the eastern hill (see *Jerusalem) identified as Mount *Moriah, the traditional site of the *Akedah and the known location of the two Temples. The gaps between the walls and the mount were filled in to create a large surface area around the Temple. Its eastern wall and the eastern half of its southern wall form part of the city wall on those sides. Deep valleys (now partly filled by debris) run outside the walls (northeast, east, south, west), thus separating the Temple Mount from and elevating it above its surroundings, both inside and outside the city.
The dimensions of the Temple Mount (north, 313 m. (1,020 ft.); east, 470 m. (1,530 ft.); south, 280 m. (910 ft.); west, 485 m. (1,578 ft.)) extend considerably beyond those given in the Mishnah (Mid. 2:1), which describes a square of approximately 250 × 250 m. (815 × 815 ft.), referring only to the sanctified area within the Temple Mount as known today (also known by its Arabic designation Ḥaram al-Sharīf, i.e., the noble sanctuary). The entire enclosure consists of an esplanade or courtyard (the most important structure on its southern side being the Mosque of al-Aqṣā), surrounding an elevated platform (4 m. (13 ft.) higher) occupying approximately 23 dunams and decorated by arched structures around the central structure (the Dome of the Rock). In each of the walls there are a number of gates. Some are ancient gates (see *Temple: Second; *Jerusalem), which are blocked, and some are newer gates, from the Arab conquest (638) onward which are still in service (the latter are only in the northern and western walls).
Within the area of the Temple Mount there are about 100 different structures from various periods, among them great works of art and craftsmanship, including open Muslim prayer spots (some of them with small domes), arches, arched porticos, Muslim religious schools, minarets, and fountains (some for drinking and others for worshipers to wash their hands and feet before prayer). Underneath the present-day surface, in the "artificial" parts of the mount, there are 34 cisterns (the largest of these holds as much as 12,000 cu. m. (168,000 cu. ft.)). There are also other substructures, the largest of which is known as "Solomon's stables."
Caliph Omar prayed on the Temple Mount after he conquered Jerusalem in 638, accompanied by the Yemenite Jewish apostate Ka'ab al-Akhbar. In 684 (or 687) the Ummayyad caliph Abd-al-Malik began to build the Dome of the Rock (wrongly called the Mosque of Omar), a shrine over the rock believed to be the *even shetiyyah of Herod's Temple, located approximately in the center of the Temple Mount. This monumental piece of architecture of octagonal shape was completed in 690–91. Abd-al-Malik built the Mosque of al-Aqṣā in about 700 on the spot where Omar is supposed to have offered his prayers. (According to some historians, al-Aqṣā was only completed in 795 by his son Al-Walid.) The present building was constructed in 1033. After the conquest of Jerusalem by the crusaders, the Dome of the Rock was converted into a church and called Templum Domini (the Temple of the Lord) and al-Aqṣā became a church called Templum Solomonis (Solomon's Temple). They were reconverted into Muslim houses of worship after Saladin's conquest of Jerusalem in 1187 and have remained so ever since.
In Jewish Law
The special status of the Temple Mount in halakhah derives from its being the site of the Temple, which stood approximately in its center. The special status applies not only to the actual site of the Temple and its courts, but to the whole of the mount. Jerusalem, the whole of which is holy, is regarded as equivalent to the "camp of Israel" that surrounded the sanctuary in the wilderness; the Temple Mount as a whole is equivalent to "the camp of the levites," which in the wilderness immediately surrounded the sanctuary; and the Temple with its courts, from the entrance of the court of the Israelites and beyond (see *Temple), is regarded as representing the "camp of the Divine Presence" there, in respect of the halakhot applying to each of these "camps" (Sif. Naso 1; Zev. 116b).
During the Period of the Temple
There were differences in degree of sanctity between the different sections of the Temple Mount. Into the most holy section, the Holy of Holies, only the high priest was permitted to enter, and then only once a year, on the Day of Atonement, for the service, and even this was dependent upon definite conditions. Besides this, those who were ritually unclean were forbidden to enter the Temple, as well as the courts of the priests and of the Israelites, by a positive precept (Num. 5:2) and a negative one (Num. 5:3). Those ritually unclean as the result of an unclean issue from their bodies were forbidden by a positive and negative precept from entering any part of the Temple Mount. By rabbinic enactment anyone ritually unclean was equally forbidden to enter the rampart (ḥel) and the court of the women. According to one opinion, anyone unclean, whether by biblical law or rabbinic enactment, was forbidden to enter any part of the mount. It was however permitted to enter the Temple, even the Holy of Holies, in order to execute necessary repairs, but under defined conditions. In addition, there are precepts which derive from the respect in which the area is to be held. It was forbidden to enter the area of the Temple Mount in a disrespectful manner or for mundane purposes: "A man should not enter the Temple Mount with his staff or wearing his shoes or with his feet dust-stained; nor should he make of it a short cut, and spitting [is forbidden] a fortiori" (Ber. 9:5). It was permitted to enter the Temple Mount from the right side only and to depart from it on the left side only, except in special circumstances (Mid. 2:2; Maim. Yad, Beit ha-Beḥirah 7:3).
The Status of the Temple Mount After the Destruction of the Temple
This raised a special halakhic problem, as can be gathered from most of the talmudic sources dealing with the subject (Eduy. 8:6; Meg. 10a–b). It appears that the most accepted view – and this too is the view of most commentators and halakhic authorities – is that the sanctity of the Temple site, and of the other parts of the Temple Mount according to their grades, and of Jerusalem as a whole – including any prohibitions against entry arising from these – remained even after the destruction. This is especially stressed by Maimonides (Yad, Beit ha-Beḥirah 6:14–16), but *Abraham b. David of Posquières (the Rabad, ibid.) criticizes this view and rules that "one entering there nowadays is not liable for the penalty of *karet." Some have understood the latter to mean that no part of the Temple Mount is nowadays sacred, and unrestricted entry is permitted; and some acted accordingly, as reported by Menahem b. Solomon ha-*Meiri (Beit ha-Beḥirah to Shevu. 16a) that the "the custom is widespread to enter there, as I have heard." However, generally speaking, his statement was understood to refer only to the liability for karet but not to the permission to enter. In any case his opinion was not accepted as the halakhah (Magen Avraham to OḤ 561:2).
A secondary problem, not discussed, is to what extent the permission to enter which applied in Temple times obtains after the destruction. However, it is held that in general there is no one who has not been rendered ritually unclean by direct or indirect contact with the dead and there is no possibility of becoming cleansed, since there are no ashes of the *red heifer, which are indispensable for such purification. According to the view that all ritually unclean persons are forbidden to enter the entire Temple Mount, the prohibition against entrance is clear-cut. Yet according to the view that the prohibition against entry in the case of one rendered unclean by contact with the dead is restricted to the area within the rampart, while the area outside is forbidden only if the uncleanness could have been avoided or if it is a form of uncleanness from which cleansing is possible even today, there are apparently grounds for permitting entry to that area. The problem remains, however, of identifying that permitted area, since no unequivocal conclusions on this can be derived from the sources. It is discussed by *David b. Solomon ibn Abi Zimra (Responsa, pt. 2, no. 691) on the assumption that the Dome of the Rock is on the exact site of the Temple. With this as a starting point and with the aid of the measurements found in talmudic sources, he established into which area of the Temple Mount entry is forbidden nowadays and into which it is permitted. However, his premise about the exact site of the Temple is not universally accepted and many doubts remain. Most authorities take the view that entry is forbidden today to the entire area of the Temple Mount. In
A vehement controversy on the question of entry into the Temple area took place after the liberation of Jerusalem in 1967. It did not apply to the armed forces who captured and held the site, since their presence there was regarded as a security necessity involving *pikku'aḥ nefesh in relation to others. The chief rabbi of the Israel army, S. Goren, maintained that on the basis of his study of the sources he had succeeded in identifying an area south of the Temple Mount that was definitely outside the area forbidden to one unclean through contact with the dead. As a result, he stated that in his opinion it was permitted to enter that area after cleansing oneself from other forms of uncleanness, as is possible nowadays, and observing those injunctions applying to reverence for the Temple. Most rabbis disagreed with him, however, and took the accepted view that entry into the whole Temple area is forbidden (except for security reasons). Similarly, a special halakhic problem arose as to whether entry is permitted for the purpose of offering congregational *sacrifices, on the halakhic basis that "they may offer sacrifices although there is no Temple" (Eduy. 8:6), and in accordance with the rule that "uncleanness is superseded [or overridden] by the congregation"; i.e., if the whole congregation have become unclean by contact with the dead and there is no possibility of their being cleansed. Communal sacrifices which are offered at specific times, particularly the paschal lamb (Tem. 2:1; Pes. 79a–80b; Maim. Yad, Bi'at ha-Mikdash 4:10–12; Korban Pesaḥ 7:1), would be permitted. The problem had already been discussed by *Estori ha-Parḥi in his Kaftor va-Feraḥ (ch. 6). In the modern period it was examined by S. *Kalischer in his Derishat Ẓiyyon (Ma'amar ha-Avodah; par. 3 (1964), 124), and he expressed the view that "if permitted by the ruling powers," it would be permissible and even obligatory to offer communal sacrifices nowadays, including the paschal lamb, on the Temple Mount, upon an altar built on the site of the altar at the time of the Temple. Ẓevi Hirsch *Chajes concurred to some extent, but the majority of the authorities, including Akiva *Eger and David Friedmann of Karlin (She'ilat David, 1 (1913), 27ff.; Kunteres Derishat Ẓiyyon vi-Yrushalayim), rejected the suggestion – either because the exact site of the altar cannot be established, or because precise knowledge of the priestly garments being lacking they cannot be prepared, or because of doubts of the priestly lineage of present-day kohanim (see *Yiḥus; *Priests and Priesthood). This problem too was revived after the Six-Day War. There were some who favored the offering of at least the paschal lamb on the Temple Mount. Those who rejected the possibility on halakhic grounds were again a majority (quite apart from external considerations) and the suggestion was not implemented.
The rending of garments, obligatory upon one "who sees the ruins of the Temple" for the first time or after a lapse of 30 days without seeing it (see MK 26a; TJ, Ber. 9:2), is discussed in detail by the halakhic authorities. They also discuss to which part of the Temple Mount it applies: whether to a view of the Temple site from a distance without seeing the area of the Temple or of the court, or to the Western Wall, which is a remnant of the wall of the Temple Mount; or if it applies to one who lives in Jerusalem. The accepted custom is that a man living permanently in Jerusalem does not rend his garments even if he has not seen the ruins for 30 days (see Sh. Ar., OḤ 561; Pe'at ha-Shulḥan 3:1–7; J.M. Tykocinski, Ir ha-Kodesh veha-Mikdash, pt. 2, ch. 17; idem, Sefer Ereẓ Yisrael (1955), no. 22). The problem of whether the sanctity of the Temple Mount applies to the Western Wall is also discussed (see A. Bornstein, Avnei Nezer, YD pt. 2, no. 450).
Various attempts have been made from time to time to determine the exact location of the Temple. The preservation of a large part of the original external walls of the Temple compound (including the Western Wall) enables the overall area to be determined, for the most part, with precision, but controversy surrounds all suggestions concerning the exact siting of the Temple building within the compound. By popular tradition the *even shetiyyah over which the Temple stood is now covered by the Dome of the Rock (the Mosque of Omar). However various archaeologists over the past century have questioned this location. In 1975, a Jerusalem physicist, Prof. A.S. Kaufman of the Hebrew University, put forward a new theory, based on technological investigation as well as examination of the sources. His views have evoked widespread interest: some scholars of the period have declared themselves convinced; others have found the theory "not proven." The following summary has been written by Prof. Kaufman:
The principal features of the Second Temple as reconstructed by Herod can be determined by combining a knowledge of Jewish texts, notably Tractate *Middot of the Mishnah, with information derived from finds in the Temple area and simple calculations. The finds, located in the northwestern part of the area and exposed above ground, consist of a mass of rock hewn and dressed in Herodian style, a hewn rock-ledge, remains of a small stone structure, and rows of dressed stones. The mass of rock, the remains of a small stone structure, and certain rows of dressed stone possess two common features; they are aligned at an angle of 9° south of west and dimensions are an integral multiple of a certain unit of length (see below, Standard Cubit).
The Temple was of rectangular shape at its eastern side, while by the heikhal (sanctuary) it narrowed toward the west. The northwestern corner of the inner court (azarah), including the gate there (Middot 2:3, 2:6), was built on the rock mass which was hewn in the shape of a right angle. The form of the heikhal was similar to that of the inner court in that it was "narrow behind and broad in front" (Middot 4:7), while the porch protruded at both ends. The thickness of the northern wall of the inner court and Court of the Women was five cubits whereas that of the Western Wall (kotel ma'aravi) of the inner court was eight cubits.
The Temple was located on a secondary peak of the Temple Mount toward the northwestern corner of the Temple area. The existing platform on which the Dome of the Rock is situated (subsequently referred to as the platform) conceals from view most of the area of the two courts. The Dome of the Rock itself, according to this, is not built on the site of the Temple. The small Dome of the Spirits or of the Tablets which stands on bare rock to the northwest is the existing indication of the position of the Holy of Holies: the rock there would then be identified as the even shetiyyah or Foundation Stone (Yoma 5:2). The position of the apex of the inner face of the Western Wall of the inner court is almost coincident with the eastern face of the northwestern archway at the top of the staircase leading to the platform. The axis of the Temple which divided it into two equal parts (the altar excluded) was aligned exactly in the geographic east-west direction. The center of the Dome of the Spirits is situated 1.7 m to the south of the axis, with an estimated uncertainty in position of about 10 cm.
The length of the cubit (ammah) used in the construction of the Second Temple was 43.7 cm. This was determined from dimensions of the finds on the site, with a correction factor introduced to account for the dimensions of an ancient vault discovered by Warren in 1868.
Confirmation of the Results
Great significance is attached to the existence of a cemented cistern beneath the platform. The position of the Temple axis as determined from the location and shape of this cistern is identical with that determined from the finds above ground (see Method, above). The cistern apparently served several functions. One part suits the description of the water reservoir in the Chamber of the Exile (Middot 5:4). The northern portion conforms to the ritual bath for the immersion of the veil (Shek. 8:4), while the western wing was probably the place for overnight immersion of the laver (Yoma 3:10).
Location of the Altar
The location of the altar was determined by accepting the tradition of Eliezer ben Jacob (Zev. 59a; Yoma 37a) and from a fundamental understanding of the Temple dimensions as recorded in Tractate Middot. There was a space of 5½ cubits between the edge of the ramp leading to the Altar and the inner face of the southern wall of the inner court. Another cemented cistern below the platform conforms to the description of the pit for libation offerings and was situated 1.2 m from the southwestern corner of the Altar (Middot 3:3). The platform completely obscures from view the place of the Altar and the ramp, as well as the two cisterns.
By superimposing an exact plan of the Temple on a map of scale 1:500, the position of the Temple in relation to existing topography can be determined. For example, just beyond the northeastern edge of the platform, the wild plant growth is stunted across a strip of ground of width five cubits. The position of this strip would coincide with that of the northern wall of the Court of the Women. Moreover, it appears that the same clear strip extending over most of the distance between the northeastern corner of the platform and the rock mass is visible in a German aerial photograph taken in 1918.
The continuation eastward of the Temple axis in a straight line passes over the Mount of Olives at a spot which is compatible with the position of the priest during the ceremony of the burning of the red heifer (Middot 2:4). The approximate position of the buried Ark of the Covenant is indicated on the map close to the clear strip of ground referred to above (see Shek. 6:1). Below the inner court there are indications of the existence of a vault which apparently continues under the heikhal (Parah 3:3; Tosefta Kelim BK 1:1).
The essential features of the plan and location of the Temple can be reconstructed from the following parameters in conjunction with Tractate Middot:
(a) standard cubit, 43.7 cm;
(b) direction of the axis, geographic east-west;
(c) coordinates of the apex of the inner face to the western wall of the inner court on the national grid, 131 788.8, 172 318.9;
(d) angle of inclination of the inner court by the heikhal, 9.0;
(e) thickness of the partition wall between the two courts, 11 cubits (provisional).
The overall inaccuracy is estimated as that of the map, 1:500, or about 20 cm.
There are indications that the First Temple was in the same locality as the Second Temple. Apparently, its axis was inclined at an angle 6° south of west, and the continuation of the axis in a straight line eastward passed through the center of the Golden Gate. The standard cubit used in the construction of the First Temple ("cubits after the first measure" (II Chron. 3:3), and that in use at the time of Moses (Kelim 17:9) was 42.8 cm.
[Asher S. Kaufman]
A.I. Kook, Mishpat Kohen (19662), no. 96; ET, 3 (1951), 224–41; 10 (1961), 578–87.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.