Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif

Located in the Old City of Jerusalem, the site is sacred to both Jews and Muslims. In Judaism, the Temple Mount, known as Har HaBayit in Hebrew, refers to the area where the First and Second Jewish Temples are believed to have once resided. The location is revered by Jews as the holiest site in Judaism, together with the Western Wall beside it, which is considered the last remnant of the Second Temple. For Muslims, the area of is known as the Haram al-Sharif (The Noble Sanctuary) and is what makes Jerusalem the third holiest city in Islam after Mecca and Medina. The Haram al-Sharif includes the Dome of the Rock shrine and the Al-Aqsa mosque. Sovereignty over Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount and related holy sites has become a major point of contention in negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. While Israel maintains sovereignty over the site, the Islamic Waqf runs it on a day-to-day basis. On September 28, 2000 Ariel Sharon (then Israel’s opposition leader and head of the Likud party) made an inflammatory walk on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif with 1,000 armed police, declaring permanent Israeli sovereignty over the site. This provocation is largely credited with being the spark that started the Second Intifada. In recent years, Jewish extremist groups have been on the rise, such as the Temple Mount Faithful, who seek to rebuild the Third Temple, calling for the "liberation of the Temple Mount from Arab/Islamic occupation." Due to these groups and to increased restriction of Muslim prayer at the site, Palestinians fear that that Israel intends to take over Haram al-Sharif. Tensions and clashes at the site rose again in late 2014, when the compound was closed by Israel for the first time since the start of the Second Intifada after a Palestinian murdered Yehuda Glick, an American-Israeli activist with the Temple Mount Heritage Foundation. See "The Politics of Prayer at the Temple Mount," Ruth Margalit, New York Times, Nov 5, 2014.

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