Haram Al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary)
HARAM AL-SHARIF (Noble Sanctuary)
Walled precinct atop a hill in East Jerusalem (called Mount Moriah
in the Bible, known to Jews today as the Temple Mount [Har ha-Bayit]). Mount Moriah is, by tradition, the place where Abraham prepared Isaac for sacrifice upon a rock. The two main structures in the precinct are the al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, enclosing the Rock of Abraham, which Muslims believe is the place to which the Night Journey of the Prophet Muhammad brought him and from which he was taken to receive a message from God and pray with the earlier prophets. The Dome of the Rock replaced an earlier structure, the Mosque of Omar, and is sometimes referred to by that name. It is the third holiest site in Islam, built upon what is thought to be the site of the Temple of Solomon and the Second Temple, or Temple of Herod, of which the Western Wall, or Kotel, is believed by devout Jews to be the remnant. The proximity of these Islamic and Jewish holy sites has led to much conflict between the two communities. After the June 1967 War, when East Jerusalem came under Israeli control, an agreement was reached between Israelis and Palestinians limiting access to the Sanctuary to Muslims. Control of the Sanctuary in matters of worship is in the hands of the Waqf, an organization responsible for the administration of Muslim religious property, while access to it is controlled by Israeli police. Jewish extremist groups frequently demand the right to enter the site; some of them advocate razing the mosques and other buildings to make way for a reconstruction of the Temple of Solomon, destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 b.c.e.. On 28 September 2000 a visit to the site by Ariel Sharon, head of Likud, accompanied by a company of Israeli soldiers, provoked the anger of Muslims and set off the al-Aqsa Intifada in the Palestinian territories. On 29 July 2001 the symbolic laying of the first stone of the proposed new temple further provoked Muslim anger.