Dome of the Rock, Haram al-Sharif, Jerusalem

by Leslie Hossack

Access has been controlled and contested for thousands of years in the Old City.

Dome of the Rock, Seen from the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem 2011

© Leslie Hossack

The world’s three great monotheistic religions have sacred sites in the Old City, and access has been controlled and contested for thousands of years. The Dome of the Rock, a Muslim Mosque built in 691 CE, sits atop the Foundation Stone on the Temple Mount. Seen here, the golden dome glows in the sunshine. In 1993, King Hussein of Jordan donated $8.2 million to fund 80 kilograms of gold to cover the dome.

On 29 November 1947, the United Nations passed a resolution calling for the establishment of a Jewish State. The State of Israel was declared on 14 May 1948, the day the British Mandate in Palestine ended. From 1948 to 1967, Jordan controlled East Jerusalem, and Israelis could not go to the Western Wall. During the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel occupied the Old City, but allowed the Muslim Religious Trust to manage “Haram al-Sharif” (the Temple Mount).

Since 1967, Jews have been able to visit the Western Wall. Today, anyone wishing to enter the Western Wall plaza must pass through strict airport style security. Visitors to Haram al-Sharif must pass through similar, but separate, security checks; however, men and women in immodest dress are not granted entrance. Non-Muslim visitors are not permitted to pray there or to enter the Dome of the Rock.

Life in Israel seems to revolve around issues of access and security in public spaces, both sacred and secular – from the Dome of the Rock and the Western Wall, to shopping malls and parking garages.

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