Friday, June 22, 2012

Temple Mount Tourism, 19th to 21st Century

Sarah Belzoni has left an

...account of a visit to the Holy Land, as she explains “It was that idea only that had brought me first into Egypt,,,” She left Cairo in January of 1818, stayed two months in Damietta, and arrived in Jaffa in March and then to Jerusalem just in time to witness the ceremonies of Holy Week. In May she began a journey on mule back, accompanied by only a driver, that took her to the Jordan and to the valley of Jericho...[and then] she went to Mount Zion and to Bethlehem. She returned to Jerusalem in preparation for the trip to “that sink of vice and wickedness, Grand Cairo” but, for a Christian foreigner traveling alone, she had the almost unparalleled opportunity for another dangerous adventure. In her disguise as a Turkish youth she climbed the Temple Mount but she only managed to look into the Dome of the Rock.
On a third try, she was more successful, dressing up as a Muslim female and renting the services of a 9-year old boy in order to facilitate entry:

The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem attracted other interested experts as related:

Built by the Ummayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik, this holy shrine surrounds the rock from which Mohammed ascended to heaven on his horse, Buraq, and is one of Islam’s most holy buildings. The rock is also revered in Jewish tradition as the site where Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice.

Until 1833 the Dome of the Rock had not been measured or drawn; according to Victor von Hagen,

‘no architect had ever sketched its architecture, no antiquarian had traced its interior design…unbelievers took their lives in their own hands when they entered those sacred portals’.

On 13 November in that year, however, Frederick Catherwood dressed up as an Egyptian officer and accompanied by an Egyptian servant ‘of great courage and assurance’, entered the buildings of the mosque with his drawing materials feeling ‘irresistibly urged to make an attempt to explore them’. In a letter quoted by W.H. Bartlett, Catherwood explained what happened next:

‘It was a proceeding certain to attract attention and expose me to dangerous consequences. I quickly sat down to work, not without nervousness, as I perceived the Mussulmen, form time to time, mark me with doubtful looks; however most of them passed on, deceived by my dress and the quiet indifference with which I regarded them. At length, some more fanatic than the rest, began to think all could not be right; they gathered at a distance in groups, suspiciously eyeing me, and comparing notes with one another; a storm was evidently gathering. They approached, broke into sudden clamour and surrounding us, uttered loud curses. Escape was hopeless; I was completely surrounded by a mob of two hundred people.'

'Few moments would have past ere we had been torn to pieces, when an incident occurred that converted our danger and discomfiture into positive triumph. This was the sudden appearance of the Governor on the steps of the platform, accompanied by his usual train. The crowd rushed tumultuously up to him, demanding the punishment of the infidel who was profaning the holy precincts. At this the Governor drew near, and as we had often smoked together, and were well acquainted, he saluted me politely. He at once applied himself to cool the rage of the mob. ‘You see, my friends’, he said, ‘that our holy mosque is in a dilapidated state, and no doubt our lord and master Mehemet Ali has sent this Effendi to survey it, in order to complete repair’. Turning to me, in hearing of hem all, he said that if anyone had the hardihood to disturb me in the future, he would deal in a summary way with them. Gravely thanking the Governor, I proceeded with my drawing. All went on quietly after this. During six weeks, I continued to investigate every part of the mosque and its precincts.’

Thus, Catherwood made the first complete survey of the Dome of the Rock, and paved the way for many other artists in subsequent years, such as Harvey, Richmond and Werner.

Added info:

In 1833, the English architect and graphic artist Frederick Catherwood, dressed as an Egyptian officer and armed with a document from the governor of Jerusalem describing him as an engineer in the service of Mehmet Ali, succeeded in spending six weeks on the Temple Mount with two companions. Under this cover, they managed to study the Dome of the Rock, the al-Aqsa mosque and other monuments on the Mount, and also to produce the most accurate plan of the Haram al-Sharif until that time. Their descriptions and drawings had a strong impact on the European public...In the 1850s, an Italian military engineer named Ermete Pierotti, who had been ignominiously discharged from the Piedmontese army for embezzlement, was engaged as architect and engineer to the Ottoman authorities in Jerusalem. This role gave him unrestricted freedom to study the Temple Mount. In 1864 Pierotti published a book, entitled Jerusalem Explored, that included descriptions of the structures, underground cisterns and conduits on the Mount.

In 1855, there was a breakthrough.  The Sultan removed the prohibition on entry for non-Muslims.

In March 1855, the Duke of Brabant, the future King Leopold II of Belgium, exploiter of the Congo, was the first European allowed to visit the Temple Mount: its guards – club-wielding Sudanese from Darfur – had to be locked in their quarters for fear they would attack the infidel. In June, Archduke Maximilian, the heir to the Habsburg empire – and ill-fated future Emperor of Mexico – arrived with the officers of his flagship.

That was then. 

Here's the Dome of the Rock in the early 1950s:

And now?

From a story by Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor at Reuters:
 A Palestinian plan to attract Muslims back to Al-Aqsa

...Al-Aqsa, the last of the three sacred sites the Prophet Mohammad urged Muslims to visit, sees only a few thousand foreign worshippers a year.

...Jews call the raised ground at the eastern edge of Jerusalem's Old City the Temple Mount, while Muslims know it as the Noble Sanctuary. Both claim sovereignty over it.

Muslims have kept up an informal boycott of the walled esplanade since Israel seized East Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan in a 1967 war, saying visits would amount to recognition of Jewish occupation of Palestinian territory.  Palestinian and Jordanian officials now want to reverse that.

The Dome was built by Jerusalem's Arab conquerors in 691 on the spot where Muslims say the Prophet Mohammad began his Night Journey to heaven. This is also where Judaism's two Bible-era Temples once stood, the first destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC and the second leveled by the Romans in 70 AD. The Western Wall, the last remnant of the second structure, is one of the most sacred sites in Judaism.

-   -   -   -

...The mufti answered his critics via Twitter: "Visiting Jerusalem increases one's feelings of rejection of occupation and injustice and helps strengthen the (Palestinian) cause."

...Speaking in his Ramallah office, Habash framed the Al-Aqsa issue in the wider context of Israel's tightening grip on East Jerusalem, which it annexed in 1967, and parts of the occupied territories.  "In Al Aqsa, we don't want to see a repetition of what happened in Hebron," he said, referring to the West Bank town and its Tomb of the Patriarchs, which was controlled by Muslims for centuries and known to them as Ibrahimi (Abraham's) Mosque. "After the 1967 war, Israel began letting settlers pray in the Ibrahimi Mosque. Step by step, day by day, year by year, they occupied more than half the mosque and made that into a synagogue," he said.

"We will not give up," Grand Mufti Husein told Reuters. "Al-Aqsa is important for Muslims because it is important for God."

Several good comments were left there and I added mine:

This bit - " "In Al Aqsa, we don't want to see a repetition of what happened in Hebron...After the 1967 war, Israel began letting settlers pray in the Ibrahimi Mosque. Step by step, day by day, year by year, they occupied more than half the mosque and made that into a synagogue," he said. "

a) well, actually, it was both a synagogue and a church before the Muslims came in 638 CE.
b) the Muslims were the ones to ban entry to non-Muslims, both at Hebron and also the Temple Mount.
c) despites 1949 armistice agreements, Jordan never permitted Jews to visit the Western Wall.
d) Arafat at Camp David II in 2000 denied to Clinton that a Temple had ever exited on the Temple Mount.

So, either the viewpoint these Islamic clerics are promoting is delusional, fanatic or simply a political perversion of history.  And they should not be getting a 'free ride' to pander their inanities as well as their discriminatory attitudes toward other religions.

And today's Jewish visitors:


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