A Photographic Journey to the Temple Mount 1839 – Until our time
The Temple Mount – al-Haram al-Sharif, is the most striking and visible symbol of the Jerusalem Old City skyline – the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque are at its center. The rectangular complex is one-sixth of the area of Jerusalem’s Old City, about 150,000 square meters. For more than 3000 years the Mount has been holy to hundreds of millions of people all over the world, stirring strong religious, political and moral feelings and spurring research in the fields of history, archaeology and culture.
Ancient Jewish traditions hold that this is the mountain of the binding of Isaac; the holy place where the First Temple of Solomon stood; the site of the Second Temple erected by exiles returning from Babylon, renovated during the times of the Hasmonean dynasty and King Herod and destroyed in 70 CE. Ever since, it has been a focus for Jews yearning and longing to rebuild the Temple when Redemption comes.
In the Christian tradition the site is tied to the life and acts of Jesus of Nazareth, who founded a new religion in Jerusalem. In the Islamic tradition, it is the third holiest site for Muslims after Mecca and Medina. The site was sanctified in the 7th century as the place where the prophet Mohammed ascended into heaven on his wondrous night journey. From that time until today, with the exception of the Crusader period (1099 – 1187), al-Aqsa Mosque – the Farthest Mosque – situated on the Mount, has been the most important center for Muslims in Jerusalem. Judaism and Islam commonly accept the designation of the foundation stone at the center of the Mount as the “navel” of the world – the place from which the entire world was created. In Hebrew, the Mount is called Temple Mount or Mount Moriah, and in Arabic al-Haram al-Sharif.
Today, the complex holds some of the most architecturally beautiful buildings in the world – the Dome of the Rock which was built around the Foundation Stone, and the al-Aqsa Mosque in the southern section. Daily, one can see throngs gathering to pray; groups of tourists from around the world who listen attentively to the explanations of their guides; and even children from the Muslim Quarter playing soccer in the courtyards of the holy complex. But behind these day-to-day appearances, stands a meaningful symbol and the most important, central holy space in the Middle East, both religiously and politically. The Foundation Stone, which is thought to be the foundation of the world, is also called the “Stone of Division”. The entire mountain complex can be likened to a volcano which erupts from time to time in extreme, fanatical, and violent disputes which sometimes result in loss of life. One one side stand the “Temple Mount Faithful”, a group of Jews who wish for the day when the Mosque will be wiped from the skyline of Jerusalem. On the other side stands a growing number of religious and political Muslims who deny the very existence of the Jewish Temple on this site, in stark contrast to scientific studies and accepted historical truth. The mood of the holy precinct and its history is one that combines ancient myths and strong beliefs, religious sensitivities and messianic fervor which translate into an insoluble political dispute of nationalism and religion.
Beginning in 1839, the same year that the camera was invented, first attempts were made to photograph the Mount. From then until today, this is possibly the most photographed site in Jerusalem: photographers, researchers, curiosity-seekers, tourists, religious pilgrims, ideologues, soldiers and police as well as members of the Waqf continue to photograph the Mount and its visitors at every opportunity. The exhibit offers a discerning look at the Temple Mount complex, al-Haram al-Sharif, through the lens of the camera from the beginning of photography (1839) until our time.
Among the photographs presented in the exhibition will be some of the first pictures of the Mount from the 19th century, the 1970’s fashion photography of Mula Eshet for Gottex set against the backdrop of the Dome of the Rock, photographs by King Hussein taken from the cockpit during a flight over the Temple Mount as part of a 1964 article for National Geographic, and the first photographs from the capture of the Temple Mount in the Six Day War, photographed by Amos Zuker.
Through extensive photographic research, the exhibit will display the story of the mountain within the history of the modern city: from the perspective of monumental architecture to the “tinderbox” of the Middle East, the place that was the central stage of the national-religious debate in the land of Israel. This is a clear and sober look, but full of hope for a time in which the Foundation Stone will be the foundation for cooperation and mutual understanding, as it is written by the prophet Isaiah: “…for my house will be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” (Isaiah 56:7)
Tour inspired by the Exhibition – The Mount an Up Close Look (these tours are only available in Hebrew) >>
Curator: Dr. Shimon Lev
Assistant Curator: Yael Brandt
Model Aviva Banai in a Gottex fashion shoot, Mula Eshet, 1976. courtesy of the photographer | People in front of the Dome of the Rock, Khalil Raad, undated. Buki Boaz Israeli photograph collection, Mevasseret Zion | Friday prayers during the month of Ramadan, Ammar Awad, 2016. Reuters | Muslim women taking a “selfie” in front of the Dome of the Rock, Ammar Awad, 2015. Reuters | Aerial photograph of mass prayer service during the month of Ramadan, Annie Belt Griffith, 1995. National Geographic Image Collection | Aerial photograph of the Temple Mount / al-Haram al-Sharif esplanade, Gali Tibbon, 2004. Courtesy of the photographer.