Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Here’s a little-known fact: The Dome of the Rock – the magnificent structure that stands atop the site of the Holy of Holies – was originally built up not for Muslims; rather, it, or its precursor, was built for the Jewish people.

How do we know this? We rely on the late Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren, and on a Byzantine historian from the 7th century.


Rabbi Goren, in his classic work The Temple Mount, wrote that the silver-domed Al-Aksa Mosque, at the Mount’s southern end opposite the gold Dome of the Rock, points southward toward Mecca and was built as a Muslim house of prayer. “At the request of the Jews,” Rabbi Goren continues, “Omar built the Dome of the Rock sanctuary to serve as a house of prayer for the Jews. This was after the Jews showed him the site where the Holy Temple had stood – and it does not point to Mecca.”

Most certainly one of Rabbi Goren’s sources was the Byzantine historian Theophanes. Written in Greek and translated into English in 1839, the following relevant passage from Theophanes was cited by English historian Guy Le Strange in his 1890 work History of Jerusalem Under the Moslems (p.11):

“In this year [635 C.E.], Omar began to restore the Temple at Jerusalem, for the building, in truth, no longer then stood firmly founded, but had fallen to ruin. Now when Omar inquired the cause, the Jews answered saying, ‘Unless thou throw down the Cross, which stands on the Mt. of Olives, the building of the Temple will never be firmly founded.’ Thereupon Omar threw down the Cross at that place, in order that the building [of the Temple] might be made firm…”

Thus we see that the Dome of the Rock, or its precursor by several decades, was built not for Muslims but for Jews, and was even supposed to be a “more firmly founded” version of the Holy Temple.

How ironic that this is the true background of the building that now symbolizes, throughout the world, Muslim control of Judaism’s holiest site – and the ban on Jewish prayer there.

Israelis officials have repeatedly promised of late, at the behest of pressure from without and within, not to change the “status quo” on the Temple Mount. Is it clear to all what exactly this means?

At the outset, it must be explained that the halachic aspects of visiting the Temple Mount are beyond the scope of this article. The issue is a matter of dispute among leading rabbis, and the opinions range from “forbidden because it leads to bloodshed,” “forbidden because we are impure,” “permitted if you know the halachic boundaries and precautions,” to “important to do so in order to retain the holy site for the Jewish people.”

When Israeli, American, and other diplomats speak of maintaining the status quo, they generally mean that Muslims must be allowed free entry for worship or playing soccer, while Jewish access must continue to be restricted.

However, some recent historical background is in order, showing that what people think is the “status quo” is actually not that at all. For one thing, how far back do we go when referring to the “status quo”?

There is much historical evidence that up until three centuries ago Jews historically prayed on the holy site relatively freely. Maimonides, for instance, wrote that he made an annual holiday to commemorate his visit to Jerusalem, on which occasion he “prayed in the Great and Holy House.” Many believe this is a clear reference to the site of the Holy Temple, and that he referred to it by the same phrase we recite in the beginning of the third blessing (Rachem) in the Grace After Meals. (The Rambam also held that nowadays, the site of the Temple is not absolutely forbidden for entry; rather (“Laws of the Chosen House 7:7), “No one may enter it except the places that one is permitted to enter.”


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Chaim Silberstein is president of Keep Jerusalem-Im Eshkachech and the Jerusalem Capital Development Fund. He was formerly a senior adviser to Israel's minister of tourism. Hillel Fendel, past senior editor at Israel National News/Arutz-7, is a veteran writer on Jerusalem affairs. Both have lived in Jerusalem and now reside in Beit El.


  1. Oeps, you seem to quote only zionist rabbi's.
    But not the mainstream.
    Like the Rambam, who paskens that you are chajiv Koret.
    The Ritwa disagree about the Chajiv Kores but agrees with that it is forbidden.

  2. God will give it back at the time Jewish people (which I'm Jewish) acknowledges The Lord and God. I understand are only 30% believe in God in Israel. The Lord will fight your battles if you acknowledge Him!!! Play instead is Rall come back to the Lord

  3. How can you derive from your quotation of Theophanes that "the Dome of the Rock, or its precursor by several decades, was built not for Muslims but for Jews"? The best you can derive from that was that the removal of the church was "for the Jews". He built what he built to mark the site of the rock.

    What you could have noted was that a Jewish convert to Islam, Kaʿb al-Aḥbār, who was a member of Omar's entourage at the time of the conquest of *Jerusalem, is said to have pointed out to Omar the site of the "Sakhra'," the "*Even She tiyyah" on the Temple Mount; Omar ordered the clearing of the Rock. Omar permitted the Jews to reestablish their presence in Jerusalem–after a lapse of 500 years–and also seems to have allotted them a place for prayers on the Temple Mount (from which they were driven out at a later date).

  4. I propose a reunion on the temple mount with the surviving members and current of the brigade the liberated the Kotel and the old city of Jersualem, along with their families, Knesset, and all of Israel and view movie and photos of the before and after to remind the Jews, arabs and the world of the political and physical factors and reality before the continued discremnation against the Jews from being in Jersualem since the arabs did not allow the Jews to come and ray them but instead built public toilets and stables defaming this holy place which they obviously have no religious claim to.

    Do NOT put lapid or Livini on the invitation list since zippi seems swollen. I guess no sex with the arabs lately.

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