Richard Nowitz

Who’s in charge? The golden Dome of the Rock glistens in the early morning sun in the middle of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the holiest site for Jews and the third holiest (after Mecca and Medina) for Muslims.

The Temple Mount is now the subject of a bitter legal battle over protection of remains at the site. A group of Jewish activists charges that the Waqf, or Muslim religious council, that controls the Mount has destroyed, damaged or covered ancient remains. The group seeks to prevent the Waqf from further altering the Mount.

Judaism venerates the Mount because it was the location of the Temples—the first built by Solomon and the second rebuilt after the Babylonian Exile and later enlarged and rebuilt by Herod. Jews today pray at the Western Wall (not shown), a segment of the retaining wall built by Herod to enclose the enlarged platform on which the Temple stood. Muslims believe the prophet Muhammad made a miraculous night journey to the Temple Mount and from there ascended to heaven. Both faiths share the belief that the patriarch Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son on the Mount.

Despite its obvious importance, no archaeological survey has been conducted on the Temple Mount since it came under Israeli control in 1967. A hundred years earlier the site was examined by Charles Warren for the London-based Palestine Exploration Fund.