Last week I went to the Temple Mount for the first time. (Yes, it is now open to tourists, unlike the previous time I lived in Israel.) Unlike Ariel Sharon's famous visit, this visit was completely quiet and peaceful -- in fact, it stood in sharp contrast to the rest of the noisy and crowded Old City. I wasn't able to find the gas station though.
The only entrance open to tourists is from the Jewish Quarter, next to the Kotel Plaza.
At the Kotel Plaza itself, they've clearly thought of everything. See #4:
This sign is of questionable accuracy:
There is no question that entering the Temple itself in a state of tum'ah / ritual uncleanness (in which we all remain, if we've ever been to a cemetery, until a red heifer is successfully bred) is forbidden, with a punishment of kareit. But the Temple isn't there anymore, and it's not so clear from the rabbinic sources that this also applies to the Temple's footprint in the post-Temple period. And even if it does, the footprint of the Temple is only a small fraction of the area of the Temple Mount. According to Mishnah Kelim 1:8, since I haven't had any unusual discharge or given birth (which would be even more unusual) lately, there's no problem with my entering the Temple Mount (though I shouldn't enter the next wall surrounding the Temple and its courtyard -- a wall that no longer exists).
In any case, in the interests of keeping the peace, I'm still glad that this sign is there, because many people who would be deterred by the sign are the people who it's a good idea to keep off of the Temple Mount. And anyone who is inclined to cause a ruckus on the Temple Mount who might be at all swayed by the previous paragraph should be aware, before acting on this inclination, that the author of this blog is a REFORM JEW.
Here's an older version of the sign:
Next to the ramp leading up to the Temple Mount, between the Kotel Plaza and the Robinson's Arch area, archaeological excavations are going on:
The Kotel Plaza from above. It was hopping with multiple celebrations (complete with ululations). The Monday morning after Pesach must be a popular time for bar mitzvahs (I'm guessing many of them were international visitors).
The Jewish Quarter, the new ramp, and the old ramp.
The Jerusalem Archaeological Park from above, and beyond.
The first thing that struck me about the Temple Mount is how big it was. Lots and lots of wide open space. It's a huge park with children in school uniforms running around on what seemed to be recess. If we were eventually to resolve our differences, there is plenty of room for multiple religions to have holy sites there. In the meantime, there is plenty of space for neutral archaeologists to dig it up without disturbing the two mosques.
Looking east toward the Mount of Olives:
The ablution fountain:
The Muslim cemetery just outside the eastern wall:
The Christian Quarter is in the background:
The Jewish Quarter in the background:
A gate leading out into the Muslim Quarter (where the Temple Mount is at street level):
Oops. "Al-Maghrib" means both "Morocco" and "the west". I'm guessing a better translation would be "Western Gate". (This gate is in fact on the Western Wall.)
The Dome of the Rock seen from many angles:
So if you've been to the Kotel, you've seen this minaret and this metal grate on top of the wall:
Now here they are from the other side:
כי ביתי בית תפלה יקרא לכל העמים.