dome-1226973_640Though there are a number of Muslim holy sites in the land of Israel, international tensions going back centuries have complicated everybody’s journey to many of these holy sites, be they Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Baha’i or even just a curiosity seeker from another faith.

Likely the most iconic element of Islam in Jerusalem, the Dome of the Rock is an Islamic shrine that is among the few locations that all people are most easily allowed into. Built around a large stone that is widely believed to be the altar of the First and Second Temples of Jerusalem, Islamic doctrine holds that this was the point from which the Prophet Muhammad ascended to glimpse Paradise itself, a journey described in the 17th Sura of the Qu’ran. A number of most trusted hadiths also cite this area as the stone where Abraham prepared to sacrifice Ishmael, the father of the Arabic people, both highly revered figures in the Islamic faith, though other hadiths place this event in Mecca instead. The Dome has a checkered history and has been held by a number of different groups before the modern caretakers.

Perhaps more noteworthy is the Al Aqsa Mosque that was constructed in CE 720 on the southernmost side of the Temple Mount. Unlike the Dome of the Rock, the Al Aqsa Mosque has long been a strong point of Islam in Jerusalem and is actually the third most important Muslim place of prayer, trailing only behind the sacred cities of Mecca and Medina where the religion began. For some years, it was actually the location Muslims prayed towards before that position was eventually superseded by Mecca during the Prophet’s life time. Though officially under Israeli control, the Islamic Waqf still administrates the site and leaves it open for Muslim visitors to this very day.