Temples, Jerusalem

Jerusalem Two successive structures in Jerusalem that served as the geographical focal point of early Judaism and, after the second Temple was destroyed and never replaced, as the symbol of the worldwide Jewish community’s hope that they might one day return to Jerusalem. The first Temple was built by Kings David and Solomon in the mid-tenth century B.C. At that time David and Solomon ruled over a unified kingdom of Israel, and built the large and elaborately decorated temple to reflect their power and status among the nations of the ancient Near East. It was built in a style common to that time and place, with a main entrance that faced east and through which one entered a courtyard. At the center of the Temple stood the Holy of Holies, a small shrine where the ark of the covenant was kept and to which only high priests had access. The Temple was destroyed by the Babylonian Empire in 587 B.C., after a long siege of Jerusalem and after the final conquest of Judah, the rump area of what remained of the kingdom of Israel. A later Jewish festival, 9 Av, partly commemorates the event. The Temple grounds, or Temple Mount as the area is commonly known, remained strewn with rubble for some seventy years until Jewish leaders returned from their exile in Babylon. They built a smaller temple under the guidance of a figure known as Zerubabbel; the construction was performed by the permission of the Persian emperor, who had conquered Babylon and who now controlled Jerusalem and its surrounding territories. The second Temple, about which far more is known than the first Temple thanks to a greater quantity of surviving records, was the site of the most important Jewish rites and ceremonies of the era, many of which included animal sacrifices. Leaders of Jewish communities living outside the city walls were commonly expected to go to the Temple for important events. In 167 B.C. the Temple’s sacred status was desecrated by a new king of Greek heritage, Antiochus IV, working together with Jews sympathetic to the introduction of Greek ideas into the faith. Following a violent rebellion, Jewish leaders rejected this Greek-inspired movement and rededicated the Temple in 164, an event com- memorated by the festival of Hanukkah. Under the Romans, in the first century B.C. local leaders, notably Herod, enlarged the Temple. All contained within walls, this enlarged Temple maintained a series of separate courts. The large Temple court was accessible to all visitors, and it was in this area that Jesus of Nazareth met with Jerusalem’s Jewish leaders in the early first century A.D.. Further within, in a consecrated area accessible only to Jews, was a court of women and the court of the Israelites, which could only be visited by adult male Jews. From it, devotees could see the sacrifices performed in the court of the priests. At the center of this complex was the Temple’s inner sanctuary, holding an altar with ritual objects such as a menorah and a new, symbolic, holy of holies. The second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70, after a further desecration and another major Jewish rebellion. All that remains of the structure is the Temple Mount’s Wailing Wall, a pilgrimage site for Jews. The destruction marked the beginning of the Jewish Diaspora, when communities scattered and no longer had a focal point for their faith. After the Islamic conquest of Jerusalem in the seventh century, Muslims built two sacred monuments of their own on or near the Temple Mount: the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque. SEE ALSO: Diaspora; Jerusalem; Judaism
Jerusalem Photos – 360 and Still Photos of Jerusalem

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