A Temple Mount expert, a rabbi who has been studying the subject for years, combined his knowledge of Jewish sources and archaeology and arrived at the conclusion that the Jewish Temples did not stand where visitors now see the prominent golden Dome of the Rock.
The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism. To be more precise, the site draws its sanctity from the two Temples that once stood there. Their precise location is a source of great debate and many Jews refrain from entering the site lest they enter areas that were restricted to Kohanim (priests) who were on the proper level of ritual purity. Knowing the precise location of the Temples would permit all Jews to ascend to the site as well as pave the way for a Third Temple to be built. Jews who ascend the Temple Mount frequently look to the golden dome as the focal point, believing the two Jewish Temples stood precisely there with the large stone, the centerpiece of the Muslim shrine, as the base for the Holy of Holies.
Rabbi Harry Moskoff, the author of the A.R.K. Report, has come to a different conclusion; the Dome of the Rock is close but not on spot. His 20-year search has led him through many possibilities.
‘At first, I thought it was in the northern end of the Temple Mount,” Moskoff told Breaking Israel News. He based this on the research of Professor Asher Selig Kaufman of Hebrew University, who was considered one of the leading experts on the subject until he passed away. Moskoff corresponded with the professor regarding his theory. “He believed the Holy of Holies was located where the Dome of the Spirits now stands.”
The Dome of the Spirits, Bir al-Arwah in Arabic, is a partly natural, partly man-made cave. What lies beneath the surface is unknown as the Muslim authorities refuse to allow even cursory observations on the Mount.
Moskoff then began to investigate the theory proposed by archaeologist Tuvia Sagiv who held that the Holy of Holies stood where the al-Qas (cup) Fountain now stands, much further south than the Dome of the Spirits. The fountain is the main ablution located between the Dome of the Rock and the silver-domed Al Aqsa Mosque. The fountain was originally supplied with water from Solomon’s Pools near Bethlehem, but water is now supplied by pipes.
“Each theory stood on the merits of its proofs but when combined, some of the proofs each man brought canceled out the other theory,” Moskoff said. Moskoff decided to continue his search for a location that would satisfy all the proofs. But what had been made clear to was that the Dome of the Rock did not satisfy any of the proofs.
“When it was built in the seventh century, the Caliph Abd al-Malik ordered it built. He asked the Jews of Jerusalem where the Temple had stood. He saw the ruins of the ruins of the Roman Temple of Jupiter that was built by Hadrian after the second Bar Kochba Revolt in the second century. The Jews intentionally misled him, telling him that those ruins were indeed the remains of the Jewish Temple.”
Moskoff emphasized that the Dome of the Rock is shaped like a Byzantine shrine and not like a typical mosque and does not face Mecca. He noted that the layout of the Dome of the Rock in relation to Al-Aqsa Mosque is identical to a temple of Jupiter found in Lebanon.
The Mishnah (oral law) states explicitly that the Holy of Holies was not in the center of the Temple Mount. Moskoff pointed out that topography was altered at several stages in history; during the reign of the Hasmoneans and 200 years later by King. The Bible states that Solomon built the Temple on the mountain.
Then Shlomo began to build the House of Hashem in Yerushalayim on Mount Moriah, where [Hashem] had appeared to his father David, at the place which David had designated, at the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. II Chronicles 3:1
“The verse states that it was on the mountain,” Moskof said. “It does not specify that it was at the top of the mountain. The Temple was located on a threshing floor bought by King David. These are not located on mountain tops. In the days of Solomon, the peak of the mountain was located where the Dome of the Rock is.”
Moskoff also cited a personal account recorded by Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, known as Maimonides and by the acronym Rambam who was the foremost Torah authority of the 12th century. The Rambam visited Jerusalem and ascended the Temple Mount, entering the Dome of the Rock.
“The Rambam would not have entered the building if he thought it was the location of the Holy of holies,” Moskoff asserted.
Combining all of the archaeological hints and based on the Jewish texts, Moskoff came to the conclusion that the Holy of Holies stood to the southwest of the Dome of the Rock.
It is interesting to note that his theory indicates the First Temple was tilted at an axis of 6.1975 degrees to the north of east in order to directly face the sun as it rose on Mount Moriah. The Second Temple was built on an axis of 5.971 degrees north of east. The change in alignment was due to the 70 years separating the destruction of the first Temple from the construction of the second. Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch, one of the leading Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) rabbis, and several other leading rabbis have written decisions agreeing with Moskoff’s theory.
If proven accurate, Moskoff’s theory would permit the construction of a structure for Jewish worship without infringing on the Muslim structures currently at the site. Moskoff is working to bring his theory to the attention of Israeli politicians.
“Jewish sovereignty on the Temple Mount needs to be advanced,” Moskoff said. “It is important for the Arabs to know that we are intensely interested in the site.”
He related an experience in which he witnessed a senior Palestinian politician addressing a group of foreign press in Hebron.
“It’s clear to us that the real Jews aren’t interested in Hebron. The Palestinian official said to the press. “They don’t consider it to be part of Israel. The only Jews who care about Hebron are the settlers in jeans and sandals with their tzitzit hanging out. The real Jews, the ones who wear black, the rabbis, they stay away.”
Moskoff learned a deep lesson from this.
“If we turn our backs or are the least bit apathetic about any part of Israel, even the places that are the most holy and important to us, we will lose them,” Moskoff said. “We need to show an intense interest in the Temple Mount. We can’t just walk away or shrug our shoulders because the Arabs are there.”
Moskoff’s theory would permit Jews to ascend to the Temple Mount without fear of wandering into forbidden areas. But as a Kohen (a descendant of Aaron and a member of the priestly caste) Moskoff warns that visiting the site is not to be treated lightly and only recommends it under specific conditions. A person who intends to ascend should prepare themselves physically and spiritually. Jews are required to immerse in a mikveh (ritual bath) and may not wear leather shoes. While on the site, a proper level of reverence must be maintained and the sanctity of the site must be recognized.
“This last point shouldn’t be a problem,” Moskoff noted. “If you have eyes to see Hashem in this world, the place glows with holiness.”
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Rabbi Moskoff has spent many years researching the subject but, as the article noted, the Muslim authorities refuse to allow any observations or archaeological research at the site. The article was intended to present Rabbi Moskoff’s theory but at this point in time, it remains a theory. Anyone who has any questions regarding the precise locations of the areas permitted to Jews on the Temple Mount is urged to consult their preferred rabbinic authority.