comprehend the Jewish association to Jerusalem we must
start with the (Old Testament) Jewish Bible. In the Bible
the area of extraordinary holiness is Mount Moriah, today
known as the Temple Mount. This area is to be found below
the platform on which the Moslem Shrine, and sits the
"Dome of the Rock. " Jerusalem has many names
in the Bible. Salem, Moriah, Jebuse, Jerusalem and Zion.
The most common term for the city, is Jerusalem, it's
mentioned 349 times in the Bible, while Zion is mentioned
an additional 108 times.
In Kabala, the Jewish metaphysical
tradition, the rock of Mount Moriah is known as the
"Even Shtiyah" = the Drinking Stone. This
is the spiritual center of the universe, the place from
where the world is spiritually "watered."
Later patriarchal stories in Genesis are also connected
with the site.
Many extraordinary moments of
History take place on this Dome of the Rock.
- Genesis 4:18, marks the first
statement about Jerusalem. When Abraham interacts with
Malchizedek, King of Salem.
- When God created the world,
He created the world by Mount Moriah
The Binding of Isaac took place in the "land
of Moriah" on the site of the present-day
Temple Mount. Abraham chooses the site specifically
because he sensed how God's presence is strongly
connected to this site(Genesis 22:1-19).
When Isaac goes out into the fields to pray prior
to meeting Rebecca for the first time, he is standing
on Mount Moriah (Genesis 24:63-67).
Jacob's dream of the ladder to heaven with the
angels ascending and descending, takes place on
this site (Genesis 27:10-22).
Over five thousands years, the
Jewish people have always found Temple Mount being the
holiest place on earth - the place where God's presence
can be felt more intensely than any other place on earth.
This connection is still very
much vibrant in Jewish practice.
- When religious Jews pray three times a day, they always
turn toward Jerusalem. (Someone praying in Jerusalem
faces the direction of the Temple Mount.) As the sages
teach us, all prayers travel towards the Temple Mount,
and subsequently goes to heaven. - Jerusalem is mentioned
numerous times in Jewish daily prayers and in the "Grace
- The Jewish people close the
Passover Seder with the words "Next Year in Jerusalem."
These same words are invoked to conclude the holiest
day of the Jewish year, Yom Kippur.
During a Jewish wedding ceremony, the groom breaks
a glass as a sign of mourning to commemorate the
destruction of the two Temples which stood on
The breaking of the glass is accompanied by the
recitation of part of Psalm 137: "If
I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand
forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee,
let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth;
if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest Joy."
Religious Jews often keep a small section of one
wall in their house unplastered and unpainted,
as a sign of mourning for the destruction of the
In adding to the events already
mentioned, the Book of Joshua (ch. 10) illustrates how
Adoni-Tzedek, the Canaanite king of Jerusalem, wages
war against the Jews.
Nearly the 400-year period from
the entrance of the Jewish nation into the land, until
the period of the Judges, Jerusalem remained a non-Jewish
city. It was not until the reign of King David (ca.
1,000 BCE) that Jerusalem was captured from the Canaanites
(2-Samuel 5) and converted into the political/spiritual
capital of the Jewish people. (Archaeologists agree
that the original Canaanite city and the City of David
was located in what is now the Arab village of Silwan,
a few meters south of the "modern" walls of
the Old City.)
King David purchased the peak of Mount Moriah (2-Samuel
24:18-25) as the site for the future Temple and gathered
the necessary construction goods. The Book of 1-Kings
(ch. 6-8) describes in great detail how King David's
son, King Solomon, built and dedicated the Temple: "And
it came to pass after the 408th year after the Children
of Israel left Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's
reign over Israel... that he began to build the house
of the Lord" (1-Kings 6:1).
The Temple of Solomon's is also
known as the First Holy Temple. While all archaeologists
agree that it stood on Mount Moriah, probably on the
site of the present Gold Dome of the Rock, its exact
location is unknown.
The Holy Temple lasted for Four
hundred and ten years and was destroyed by the Babylonians
when they besieged Jerusalem; there is no trace of it
Subsequent to the Babylonian
destruction, most of the Jewish population of Israel
was forcibly exiled from the land. This forced exile
on the road to Babylon is mentioned in the famous verse
from Psalm 137: "By the rivers of Babylon, there
we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion."
After Fifty years, Babylon was
captured by Persia, the Jews were permitted to return
to Jerusalem. Under the leadership of Zerubavel and
Nechemiah, the Jews rebuilt both the Holy Temple and
walls around the city (Nechemia 4-6).
This rebuilt Holy Temple is known
as the "Second Holy Temple." It stood for
420 years on the same site as the First Temple, on Mount
Moriah. The Second Holy Temple was remodeled a number
of times, but reached its most glorious form during
the reign of King Herod the Great (37-4 BCE). The great
Jewish historian, Josephus, who lived during the end
of the Second Holy Temple, gives detailed descriptions
of both Herod's construction and the layout of the Temple
compound (see "Antiquities" ch. 15 and "Jewish
Wars" ch. 5).
Second Temple period ended with the Roman destruction
of Jerusalem in 70 CE. It is possible that the
Jews tried to rebuild the Temple at later periods,
but they were never successful, and for over 600
years the site of the Temple Mount lay in ruins.
only remains are the massive retaining walls that
encompass Mount Moriah, built by Herod to support
the platform on which the Temple stood.
fact, the Talmud says that if the Romans (who
destroyed the Temple) had realized how much benefit
they themselves were benefiting from the Temple,
they never would have destroyed it!
Kotel was the only remaining part of the Holy
were Jews from around the world come to pray daily.
The Modern Jewish Association
While the Holy Temple hasn't stood for nearly 2,000
years, Jerusalem continues to be the focus of the Jewish
world. The Holy Temple may not be there, but the Jewish
belief is that the natural holiness of the site remains
forever. As well the Jewish tradition also maintains
that in the End of Days, during the Messianic Era, a
third and final Holy Temple will be built on Mount Moriah.
The holiest site in the world
to Jews is the Western Wall. The holiest spot for Jews
is Mount Moriah itself, several feet behind the Wall.
The Western Wall is merely a small section of Herod's
massive retaining wall and has significance only as
it relates to the Temple Mount itself.
So why do Jews pray at the Wall?
Since the destruction of the Temple, the Sages decreed
that due to the sanctity of the site, Jews (and non-Jews)
should not go up on the actual Temple Mount. Therefore,
the Western Wall became the site of prayer for Jews
wishing to get as close as possible to their holiest
site, the Temple Mount, as God's presence is strongly
connected to this site, It earned the mark "Wailing
Wall" because Jews coming to this site would shed
tears over the loss of the Holy Temple.