is a theological pivot for three world
Judaism established its ancient political hub
and enduring spiritual core; there Christianity
centered various metaphysical and chronological
schemata; there Islam located crucial events in
its own religious narrative, culminating in
Mohammed’s ascent to heaven.
Perhaps inevitably, the Temple Mount has
frequently erupted in religious bloodshed
throughout the course of its history.
With the reestablishment of Israel in
and certainly with its capture of all Jerusalem
in 1967 –
Judaism reemerged as a viable contender for
sovereignty over the site, which had been under
Muslim rule for most of that millennium.
The main fault line in the dispute over
the possession of the Temple Mount therefore
emerged between those two faiths, with Arab
Christians generally supporting Islam’s stance,
and Evangelical Christians favoring Judaic
The ensuing debate has been based largely upon
religious claims and assertions of historical
the latter are more empirically verifiable,
their significance is ultimately subjective.
It is the aim of this paper, however, to
present a wholly objective
division of the Temple Mount between the two
parties which today compete for control over
For the historical period from 1000 BCE to
– the entire period of time in which humans
artificially modified the Temple Mount –
the physical and temporal locations of
all major structures on the site
are noted. First,
each is attributed to one of six main areas on
the site and, if necessary, to a sub-area within
it (a map may be found in Appendix A).
Second, the religion or group whose
member or members constructed each edifice is
awarded an ownership percentage over that area
or sub-area, based on the percentage of the time
that edifice survived out of the total time
period under consideration.
Finally, these percentage figures are
totaled for each religion.
Within this analytical framework, three
caveats must be issued:
distinguishing the creation of buildings from
their decimation involves a subjective value
judgment, the activity of “construction” here
applies to any artificial
improvement of a site.
Second, it is here possible to divide the
Temple Mount into relatively large areas,
because most conquerors imposed comprehensive
new architectural plans on established sites,
rather than erecting isolated buildings in
previously vacant locations.
Still, it is difficult to distinguish
among different temporal stages of such
construction projects –
although when such differentiations are
possible, the main areas are divided into
fewer and more nebulous archaeological traces
and literary sources exist for the more ancient
historical periods; therefore the pace of this
investigation increases nearly exponentially as
its sources grow ever more lucid –
in other words, as it nears its end.
The Jebusite Threshingfloor and Davidic Altar
The reign of King David
over a united Israelite and Judean state oversaw
both the conquest of, and the relocation of the
Ark of the Covenant to, Jerusalem –
“thus establishing [the city] as the religious
center for all the Israelites.”
The archaeological evidence cited below,
relating to the Temple Mount in this period,
derives mainly from literary (particularly
biblical, and thus non-contemporaneous) sources,
which recount the following narrative: although
the prophet Nathan originally supported his
king’s proposal to construct a temple to house
the ark, he later “reversed himself,” claiming
that David’s political and military careers “had
been marked by much bloodshed, making [him] an
unsuitable candidate for building the Lord’s
house,” because the Temple was to be “a symbol
of peace” (Ben-Dov 31-33).
Yet, besides “amassing supplies” so as to
expedite his son Solomon’s construction of the
Temple (Kotker 35), the king still played a
significant part in selecting the Temple’s site:
Toward the end of David’s
reign, his kingdom suffered “a lethal plague.”
Seeking to alleviate his citizenry’s
plight through supernatural means, the monarch
“consulted with the prophet Gad, who told him to
build an altar to the Lord in the threshingfloor
of Araunah the Jebusite.”
David purchased this site, which was
located at the peak of Mount Moriah, “for 50
shekels of silver.”
After erecting his altar, “the plague duly
subsided and passed” (Ben-Dov 33) –
and, of greater historical significance, this
Davidic edifice “[marked out] the site of the
future temple,” most likely upon the natural
stone formation which was later enclosed within
the Dome of the Rock (Parrot 17): Jewish
folklore identifies “the place where Abraham
nearly sacrificed Isaac” as both
es-Sakhra (Ritmeyer 93) and Araunah’s
threshingfloor (Ben-Dov 33) –
suggesting that the latter was built upon the
The biblical word
translated as “threshingfloor” can also indicate
“a circular place of pagan worship,” and
therefore it may refer to “a Jebusite shrine” (Shalem
2). In any event,
the replacement of this edifice by King David’s
altar marks a transition from Jebusite to
Israelite building stages –
at least on the site of the future Temple itself
(area A). The latest
possible date for this construction was that
immediately preceding the monarch’s death, which
both Albright (122) and Kotker (36) place around
960 BCE. Thus the 40
years that the Jebusite structure existed on
this site after 1000 BCE, when taken as a
percentage of the era from that date until 1187
CE, translates into a 40/2187, or 1.83 percent,
Jebusite ownership of area A.
Solomonic Temple Mount and Palace Complex
King Solomon initiated construction on the
Temple during the fourth year of his monarchy,
or about 956 BCE.
Because he chose to build it on the site of his
father’s altar on Mount Moriah, he had to bridge
the “gap of about 100 x 250 meters” which
separated that mountain from the southern City
“Consequently, this open space was incorporated
into the bounds of the city and effectively
became one huge building plot,” and “most of the
royal buildings were constructed there,” upon an
artificial platform surrounded by “retaining
walls” and “[filled] in with earth and
detritus.” For over
three and a half centuries, this Solomonic “city
plan remained in force,” and “the seat of
government continued to be located on the
southern slope of the Temple Mount” (Ben-Dov
33). Three elements
of this plan warrant examination in the present
First, a square esplanade was erected on Mount
Moriah, creating a platform for the Temple at
its peak. Measuring
500 cubits (according to Middot
2:1), or 861 feet, on each side, its vulnerable
northern face was marked by several protruding
towers, including Hananeel and Mea (“[as]
recorded in Jeremiah 31:38 and Zechariah
14:10”). Further, a
wall adjoined the Temple Mount just north of its
“West Gate” (Ritmeyer 61-64), although others
merely date this wall to the First Temple period
in general (Ben-Dov 60).
today’s Temple Mount, was the Solomonic
Ritmeyer locates its northwest corner along the
bottom step of the stairway which ascends the
northwest corner of the Muslim Platform.
First, this bottom step “consists of pre-Herodian
building blocks,” and unlike that platform’s
other seven stairways, this step “is parallel
not to the Muslim platform but to the eastern
wall of the Temple Mount.”
Second, the distance between these
parallels is 500 cubits –
along which nineteenth century explorer Charles
Warren discovered a subterranean “sheared-off
rock ledge,” likely “cut to hold the foundation
for the [Temple Mount’s] northern wall” –
and along which Ritmeyer therefore hypothesizes
the Solomonic platform’s northern
enclosure wall. Third,
slightly north of his proposed northeast corner,
Ritmeyer observed a change in masonry, marked by
an actual offset, in the eastern wall –
and “[hypothesizes] that a defensive tower stood
in the area between the northeast corner…and the
“[a] slight bend in the eastern wall,” along a
stretch composed of pre-Herodian ashlars, lies
500 cubits south of this hypothesized corner –
providing the location of the original Temple
Mount’s southeast corner.
Fifth, the resulting square provides an
orientation for the Solomonic constructions
mentioned in the above paragraph –
because the “largely impoverished” Babylonian
Jews who built this platform for the Second
Temple “did little more than repair the existing
[First Temple period] structure” (Ritmeyer
61-73). Area B
consists of the geographic combination of these
structures, excluding the site of the Temple
Next, in area A, the
Davidic altar was replaced by the Solomonic
Temple, which “remained almost intact until 586
B.C.” (Parrot 55).
Ritmeyer locates this First Temple upon es-Sakhra,
rather than in the center of the original Temple
Mount, citing two literary sources: Josephus
describes the Temple as crowning the “top of the
mountain,” which corresponds to the “rock
formation” of es-Sakhra at the central peak of
Mount Moriah. This
is also the only site on the Temple Mount whose
four bordering courts would, as described by
Middot, “[diminish in dimension]
as one proceeds in a counterclockwise direction”
around the Temple, beginning in the south.
Middot also specifies the
Temple’s foundations as “6 cubits [or 10 feet]
and es-Sakhra’s summit protrudes “about 10 feet
above the bedrock immediately surrounding it” (Ritmeyer
also bases his reconstruction of the Temple upon
a thorough examination of es-Sakhra itself:
The Holy of Holies, the
Temple’s westernmost chamber (“34 feet, 6
inches…square”) was smaller than es-Sakhra’s
“visible surface” (“approximately 43 feet by 56
and thus “at least one of its walls must have
been built” upon the rock mass.
On the southern side of the rock are
“[two] flat, slightly depressed, rectangular
areas,” both “about 3 feet wide;” combined with
other nearby planed areas, “they appear to form
a foundation trench for a broad wall [over 10
Because Middot 4.7 describes the
Second Temple walls as “10 feet, 4 inches
[thick],” Ritmeyer hypothesizes this feature of
es-Sakhra to be “the imprint of the southern
wall of the Holy of Holies.”
Es-Sakhra’s western scarp largely runs in
a “north-south line” skewed “approximately 3.5
degrees east” –
parallel to both the “telltale
step” and the Temple Mount’s eastern wall.
Ritmeyer therefore draws the western wall
of the Holy of Holies along this scarp,
beginning at the point of its intersection with
the southern wall.
Finally, between this wall and es-Sakhra’s
northern scarp, Ritmeyer discovers a distance of
“34 feet, 5 inches,” which translates into
“exactly 20 cubits, the Biblically prescribed
measurement of each side of the Holy of Holies,”
whose northern wall he thus locates along this
Perfectly centered in the
resulting square chamber (whose eastern side was
marked by a movable divider within both Temples)
is “a rectangular depression,” approximately “4
feet, 4 inches, by 2 feet, 7 inches.”
It is thus too small and elongated to
have been “a column base for a statue,” which in
any event, according to pilgrims’ descriptions
of Roman statues on the site, would have stood
to the side of es-Sakhra.
The indentation does, however, possess
the precise “dimensions of the Ark of the
Covenant” detailed in Exodus 25:10 – leading
Ritmeyer to the “inescapable” deduction that
this “unique depression marked the emplacement
of the Ark of the Covenant inside the Holy of
Holies” (Ritmeyer 103-109).
Finally, the Solomonic palatial complex was
constructed south of the Temple Mount.
This “great complex of buildings”
included “the palace (I Kings 7.8), the ‘house
of the forest of Lebanon’ (I Kings 7.2-5), the
‘hall of pillars’ (I Kings 7.6), the
‘throne-room’ (I Kings 7.7), where the king
would give audiences and administer justice,
and, finally, the ‘house of Pharaoh’s daughter’
(I Kings 7.8)….It is very probable that all
these buildings were erected concurrently,”
because the Bible does not state otherwise
Based on the biblical description of the “hall
of pillars,” Parrot reconstructs the edifice
“after the pattern of the bit hilani,
common in Hittite culture and North Syria,” and
adjoins the complex to the Temple Mount itself,
permitting the king to “go directly from his
private apartments to [the Temple].”
Such architectural considerations,
combined with the presence of the Tyropoeon
Valley to the west, result in Parrot’s blueprint
of a royal complex whose western extremity does
not protrude beyond the Temple
Accordingly, such Solomonic palatial and
governmental structures as were built in what
later became today’s Temple
Mount, were located in areas C, D, and E.
The complex developed around the Temple
Mount apparently altered the features of
sub-area F2, which was enclosed by the wall of
Although the tribes of
Israel seceded from Solomon’s kingdom after his
death, Jerusalem remained the capital of an
By 602 BCE, however, that nation “had become a
vassal state within the Babylonian empire” (Kollek
68), against which the Jews made two futile
revolts. The first
ended in March 597 BCE, when Babylon merely
exiled Jerusalem’s political leadership and
plundered its “temple treasures.”
Yet the true alteration in Temple Mount
architecture occurred in 586 BCE, when Jerusalem
fell to the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar after
a second rebellion –
and besides razing the rest of the city, the
invading army burned the Temple down to its
“foundation stone” (Kotker 62-64).
“The Temple of Solomon was no more”
Thus ended the First
Temple period. The
956-586 BCE Solomonic Temple, when temporally
merged with the 960-956 BCE Davidic altar,
translates into Jewish possession of area A for
374 out of 2187 years, amounting to a 17.10
percent ownership share.
Like the First Temple, Solomon’s Temple
Mount and royal complex lasted for 370 years –
but because no buildings are known to have
existed on areas B, C, D, E, and F2
prior to Solomon, this length of time must
be divided by 2143, rather than 2187, years (the
difference is that between 1000 and 956 BCE) –
amounting to a 17.27 percent Jewish ownership of
In 539 BCE, Cyrus the
Great of Persia took Babylon, and “the whole of
the Near East experienced a real deliverance.”
Among other measures indicative of his
tolerant administration, Cyrus permitted Jews to
return to their homeland in the following year.
The exodus –
which many prospering Babylonian Jews forewent –
began in 537 BCE (Parrot 68-69), and the first
sizeable group of exiles returned in 536 BCE
Although it is unclear
“what the exiles did…after their return to
Palestine,” it appears that they immediately
rebuilt the Temple altar “so that they could
offer sacrifices to Yahweh,” and concomitantly
removed, or at least neatened, the rubble
obscuring the Temple Mount, as recounted by the
biblical Books of Ezra and Haggai (Parrot 70).
The architecture upon the Temple Mount
thus underwent significant restoration, in the
process reinstating Jewish ownership over areas
A and B1, and likely also sites C, D, and E, and
probably F2 –
which lay between the City of David and Mount
Moriah, and thus had to be made passable for
Jerusalemites to reach the site of the former
therefore occurred before the
austere Second Temple, which in all likelihood
“followed the plan of Solomon’s sanctuary,” was
built from 520 to 515 BCE (Parrot 70-71).
Jerusalem’s city walls –
and thus sub-area B2 –
were rebuilt under Nehemiah, in about 440 BCE (Kollek
On the basis of
Nebuchadnezzar’s responsibility for the
50-year-old ruins which previously marked the
Babylonian conquest of the Temple Mount, his
descendants can lay a claim to a 2.24 percent
share of area A, a 2.29 percent stake in areas
B1, C, D, E, and F2, and a 6.81 percent
ownership of sub-area B2.
Alexander took Judea from Persia in 332 BCE;
after the political chaos following his death,
it had been incorporated into Ptolemaic Egypt by
301 BCE. Although
the Ptolemies fought five wars with the
Seleucids to the north over the region, “[most]
of the hostilities occurred along the coast,”
and it is unknown whether “Jerusalem suffered
any ravages during this period,” which therefore
may be safely considered “a relatively quiet one
for the city” (Levine 46-51).
In 198 BCE, the city
finally fell to Antiochus III, who inaugurated
Seleucid rule over Jerusalem with “a
proclamation guaranteeing the city and its
leadership certain rights and privileges.”
These included a subsidy for repairs to
the Temple, which was apparently damaged “in the
last war” –
although “responsibility for the restoration and
enhancement of the Temple building and its
surrounding area appears to have fallen on the
Jews” (Levine 65-68).
Therefore Temple Mount architecture in
the Hellenistic period represented a
continuation of the post-536 BCE Jewish
constructions on the platform.
Indeed, “the first large-scale
architectural additions attested in Jerusalem
since the time of Nehemiah,” including a similar
refortification of the Temple Mount, occurred
only several decades earlier, “overseen by the
high priest Simon” (Berlin 16).
Hellenism did, however, witness a rupture in
this pattern of solely Jewish
construction atop Temple Mount edifices that
were already attributable to
Judaism. In 169 BCE,
Antiochus IV Epiphanes took advantage of
internal Jewish clashes over the role of
Hellenistic culture, “restoring order” by his
move to “enter the Temple, plunder it, and carry
off its holy and precious vessels and treasures”
The following year, when
Antiochus IV became “enraged by [a] humiliating
retreat from Egypt” (Levine 75), “the Temple was
desecrated, a statue of Antiochus was placed in
its court, and the Jewish rites [were] brought
to a halt” (Ben-Dov 61).
This state of partial destruction and
partial profanation –
which therefore significantly altered the main
edifices of areas A and B –
lasted until 164 BCE, when the Maccabean revolt
captured the Temple Mount, made the necessary
architectural restorations, and rededicated the
Temple (Kollek 87).
Indicating the extent of these alterations,
Parrot states that “[the] pagan altar was
destroyed, and the former altar of burnt
offerings, which had been defiled, was also
Returning to 168 BCE, Antiochus tried to ensure
control over Jerusalem by erecting in it a
citadel with the dual function of defending the
city and lodging “both soldiers and Hellenizers
who supported continued Seleucid rule” (Levine
75). There has been
considerable debate over the location of this
citadel, which is “known by its Greek name, the
Akra” (Berlin 18).
Ritmeyer combines Josephus’ description of the
fortress with Charles Warren’s nineteenth
century description of the subterranean
structures underlying the Temple Mount (59), and
places the Akra “at the center of the southern
wall of the pre-Herodian Temple Mount,” or area
First, Josephus locates
the Akra “in the Lower City,” referring to the
City of David south of the Temple Mount, where
it “adjoined to and overlooked the Temple” (Ritmeyer
74). Although Mount
Moriah slopes so steeply downward in the
direction of the Lower City that “[the] Akra
would have had to be a skyscraper by modern
standards for it to overlook the Temple area if
it were located in the much lower City of David”
(Levine 76), Ritmeyer observes that Josephus
also claims that the Akra “adjoined to” and had
“a direct entrance…to the Temple Mount,” placing
it in the vicinity of areas C, D, and E, whose
bedrock lies “only 20 feet [lower]” than “the
Temple Mount courts.”
Next, area C is the site of an “E”-shaped
“cistern without a name,” which Ritmeyer
associates with “the cistern of Akra” mentioned
in the Mishnah, whose location is unknown –
“a name without a cistern.”
Additionally, this cistern “is adjacent
to [Ritmeyer’s] proposed southern line of the
square Temple Mount” (74-76).
Finally, area C is “relatively flat,”
perhaps evidencing “the result of Simon
Maccabee’s work,” when he captured, demolished,
and flattened the Akra’s base in 141 BCE, so as
to preclude any other fortress from keeping the
Temple under foreign surveillance.
This last conquest likely
reinstated Jewish ownership not merely in area
C, but in D and E as well –
Ritmeyer hypothesizes that the Maccabees
“extended the platform along the southern end of
the Temple Mount,” both “building atop the
dismantled Akra,” and encompassing all of area
D. Under its
northern extremity lies a cistern built
after the Akra (Ritmeyer 66,
84); where its southern side intersects the
current eastern wall of the Temple Mount, a
“seam” is visible, “a straight vertical line
thirty-two meters north of the southeastern
corner [of the Temple Mount].
From the seam south, the masonry is of
Herodian date,” but to the north is “a
different, and earlier, technique…thought by
many to be Hellenistic in date” (Berlin 16).
The Hasmonean period thus
marked the end of the Seleucid control over the
Temple Mount, which in turn had interrupted the
368-year-old Jewish presence there, dating back
to 536 BCE. Thus by
168 BCE, the Jews had earned another 16.83
percent ownership of area A and 17.17 percent
share of areas C, D, E, and sub-areas B1 and F2,
and a 12.69 percent stake in sub-area B2.
The Seleucids had acquired a 0.18 percent
stake in area A, a 0.19 percent share in area B,
and 1.26 percent ownership in areas C, D, E, and
sub-area F2 (the Akra and its environs).
Although Hasmonean independence ended
after Pompey took Jerusalem in 63 BCE, Jewish
ownership of the Temple Mount was not disrupted
although that Roman general “entered the Temple”
and “[slaughtered the] priests who were offering
sacrifices,” he refrained from plundering the
site, “out of respect for the religion of the
defeated people” (Parrot 75).
Rome, and Byzantium
In 20 BCE, Herod the Great
began “his reconstruction of the Temple.”
Although it was completely finished “only
a few years before [70 CE],” the Temple itself
took only a year and a half to rebuild, while
“[the] cloisters and outer enclosures took
another eight years” (Kollek 99).
This expanded platform enjoyed
“unparalleled majesty” and was “the largest site
of its kind in the ancient world,” but this very
vastness greatly simplifies the task at hand.
It is unnecessary to inquire what parts
of the Temple Mount were encompassed by the
Herodian esplanade, for the latter
the former, in its present-day incarnation.
The Temple Mount, which until then
combined the Solomonic and Hasmonean sites, was
expanded to the north, west, and south, forming
a trapezoid with walls measuring 485 meters in
the west, 315 meters in the north, 460 meters in
the east, and 280 meters in the south.
Because Herod, at the very least,
“adopted the Jewish faith” (Duncan 16), Judaism
is awarded the ownership percentages accrued by
his constructions in all areas of the Temple
Mount up to 70 CE.
In that year, the Roman general Titus razed the
Temple Mount, stomping out the last throes of
the First Jewish Rebellion and ending the first
period of Jewish ownership of all
parts of the Herodian esplanade (Kollek 135).
Judaism had acquired another 10.70
percent share in area A, 10.92 percent of area
B, 9.85 percent of areas C, D, E, and sub-area
F2, and the first 7.46 percent ownership of
sub-area F1. Further
percentages of ownership of Temple Mount areas
and sub-areas may be found in Appendix A; the
site switched hands rather frequently over the
In 130 CE, Jews
“improvised an altar at the site of the
[Temple],” and the Bar Kokhba revolt began in
132, although the Roman emperor Hadrian
conquered, decimated, and rebuilt the city as a
pagan colony named Aelia Capitolina in 135.
The “Capitoline Jupiter, the city’s new
divine patron,” “was honored at a shrine built
on the site of the temple of Solomon.
Also honored there was Hadrian, whose
statue [was] placed” in the area of the Holy of
Holies (Kotker 122-123), although this temple
was eventually “overturned by Christians” (Kotker
146). When did this
occur? Bahat, in
dating the destruction of a similar Roman temple
upon the site of today’s Holy Sepulchre Church,
states that it was “razed to the ground by
Constantine,” although it may have been “already
in ruins –
destroyed by zealous Christians” before he rose
to power (Bahat 32).
Here, then, the Christian destruction of the
Hadrianic temple is hypothesized to have
occurred around 324 CE, the year that
Constantine, the Roman emperor who legalized
Christianity, took control of the empire’s
eastern half, including Palestine (Ben-Dov 207).
333 CE, an anonymous “pilgrim from Bordeaux”
visited Jerusalem, and although he describes
“both the ruins of the Temple Mount and the two
statues of Hadrian that were still standing
[upon it],” he “makes no mention whatever of
building activity in the vicinity of the Temple
“[claims] that churches had been built there
[are groundless],” because “keeping the Temple
Mount in its destroyed state was a salient tenet
of the Christian world view” (Ben-Dov 210).
The Roman emperor Julian “regarded the Jews as
allies in his policy of stripping Christianity
of its official and preferred status,” and “even
urged them to [return to Jerusalem and rebuild
their Temple] quickly” although at the end of
his two-year reign in 363 CE (Ben-Dov 218), “the
project, which had not advanced very far, was
abandoned” (Parrot 102). Ben-Dov finds
archaeological confirmation of this renewed
Jewish presence on the Temple Mount in a
fourth-century “decorated oil lamp” portraying
“a seven-branched candelabrum—the characteristic
symbol of the Jews of Palestine during that
era,” at the southwest of that esplanade.
He also located a Hebrew inscription
which likely dates to that period, along the
western wall of the Temple Mount.
Jewish construction efforts therefore
returned the entire platform to their ownership
during these two years (Ben-Dov 218-219).
Even in Byzantine times, the Temple Mount was
“emphatically not touched by the [Justinian]
building boom,” and “still lay desolate.
Even the remains of Hadrian’s time…were
slowly vanishing” (Ben-Dov 225).
Kotker states that “Christians had never
contemplated building [upon the Temple Mount],”
which “was covered with filth…as a special token
of contempt for the Jewish religion” (146-147).
Persia, “aided by the Jews of Galilee,”
captured Jerusalem in 614 CE.
Yet despite “the Jewish hope that
Jerusalem would now be turned over to them,”
Persia entrusted “local authority…to the priest
Modestus,” and the Byzantines retook the city
fourteen years later (Kollek 152).
The Islamic caliph Omar entered Jerusalem in
638, and “built a relatively small mosque at the
southern part of the [Temple Mount],” which was
“probably constructed of wood and bricks,” and
possibly was “large enough to accommodate about
three thousand people.”
Because the Bishop Arculfus in 670
reported that this mosque “of boards and large
beams” was situated “on the remains of some
ruins” (Duncan 24), and Ben-Dov describes this
mosque as “the earliest incarnation of [al-Aksa],”
it appears that the Muslim conquers initially
built only in the southern areas C, D, and E,
while not disturbing the ruins covering the
remainder of the Temple Mount.
The Dome of the Rock was erected only in 691,
under the Umayyad caliph Abd el-Malik.
It is located in area A, upon a
trapezoidal platform that extends into sub-area
B1, which was likely cleared to make way for
this commemoration of Muhammad’s ascent to
The al-Aksa mosque “was built as a stone
structure by his son and heir, al-Walid
(705-715)” (Ben-Dov 280).
Mukaddasi, a tenth century Muslim
historian, describes these two buildings as
centerpieces of an esplanade completely covered
with Islamic architecture (Kollek 173).
Accordingly, the Muslims are awarded
ownership of areas C, D, and E (the vicinity of
al-Aksa’s predecessor) beginning in 638, area A
and sub-area B1 in 691, and the remaining areas
in 710 (the middle of al-Walid’s reign, and
therefore likely a time at which the Muslim
renovations throughout the
platform were underway, if not already
After “the Crusader host” took Jerusalem in
1099, the Christian order of the Templars “took
over the Temple Mount and for the first time in
Jerusalem’s history turned it into a center of
This new layout imposed upon the Temple Mount
lasted until 1187, when the Muslims conquered
the city (Ben-Dov 343-344).
The Dome of the Rock became “a Christian
church, known as Templum Domini,” which was
redecorated with Christian themes,” and topped
with “a gold cross.”
The al-Aksa mosque became the headquarters of
the Templars, “who built additional wings” (Kollek
156-161). The “array
of buildings” surrounding these sites “housed
the members of the order” (Ben-Dov 344).
For nearly a century, then, the Crusaders
ruled and significantly altered architectural
features throughout Temple
Mount, warranting an 88-year-share in all areas
of the platform.
The model of awarding ownership shares of Temple
Mount sites as a percentage of the time that a
religion or other group’s architectural
innovation persisted in an area, out of the 2187
years investigated here, yields fairly
According to this model, the party with the
plurality ownership percentage in area A, the
heart of the esplanade, is Judaism, whose share
in the site is some 44.87 percent.
Christianity is next, with a 24.83
percent stake, and Islam follows with an 18.66
percent share. All
other areas and sub-areas show a similar
division among these three religions, except for
sub-area F1, in which Christianity holds a
plurality of ownership with some 46.56 percent;
Islam has a 32.23 percent share, and Judaism
holds an 8.04 percent stake.
These differing ownership
percentages easily can be translated into a
political settlement by establishing joint
sovereignty over the Temple Mount.
Each contested site –
or the Temple Mount as a whole –
could be placed under the control of a council
with Jewish, Christian, and Muslim delegates
drawn in the same proportions as are reflected
in that site’s archaeological background.
Alternatively, authority over each site
could be rotated among representatives of these
religions, in accordance with those same
Finally, the archaeological –
ownership percentages established above need not
dictate the terms of a political settlement –
but they can be utilized to make a compelling
case for sharing the Temple
A potential focus for
future research is the interplay between
religion and ethnicity. The religions
mentioned above exclude the pagan Jebusites,
Babylonians, Seleucids, and pre-Constantinian
Romans, encompassing nations and ethnicities
that may have embraced one or more of the
monotheistic faiths. The descendants of
the Babylonians, for example, may today practice
Islam, while the same relation may exist between
the Jebusites and Judaism –
or even, further complicating matters, between
ancient Jews and Christianity, or early
Christians and Islam.
Diagram of the Modern
Temple Mount, Divided into Areas A, B, C, D, E,
Appendix B (link)
Percentages of Temple Mount Areas and Sub-areas
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