MYTH: If you are not Muslim, you cannot visit Al Aqsa/The Temple Mount. Some might have heard that you can't visit this beautiful, historical site if you are not Muslim. But this is simply not true.
FACT: YOU CAN visit the complex, and see the beautiful buildings. You will just not be able to enter the mosques and there are limited times/rules for entering the space. (Side note: You are also not allowed to pray in this space, if that is something you are interested in.)
Here's how you do it.
For the visual experience, check out my video:
For starters, WHAT IS AL AQSA/THE TEMPLE MOUNT?
AL AQSA refers to the Al Aqsa mosque that sits on the complex. It is the 3rd holiest site in Islam and is believed to be the destination of Muhammed's "Night Journey". The name "Al Aqsa Mosque" means "farthest mosque". It is believed that Muhammed was transported from here to the Sacred Mosque in Mecca.
THE TEMPLE MOUNT is a term referring to the site of both the first and second Jewish temples. It is the first holiest site for the Jews and is believed to be where the 3rd temple will also one day stand when the Meshiach (messiah) comes again.
The most famous building on the Al Aqsa/Temple Mount complex is the DOME OF THE ROCK. This is the large golden-domed mosque that sits on the Temple Mount. This is an Islamic shrine that was originally built in 691 CE (without the golden top) over the Roman temple to Jupiter; which was built in 70 CE over the site of the destroyed 2nd Jewish Temple. The shrine is said to be built over the site where Muhammed ascended to heaven.
So now, back to HOW DOES ONE VISIT?
WHEN TO VISIT
Non-Muslim visitors can come Sunday-Thursday, between 7:30-11:30am.
There is an additional visiting hour from 1:30-2:30 during the summer, and 12:30-1:30 during the winter.
Non-Muslims will not be allowed to enter during major Islamic Holidays.
There is one entrance for non-Muslims to visit located to the left side of the main entrance to the Western Wall (Kotel) plaza, through the Dung Gate to the old city.
You will see the line to a secured entrance. I suggest planning for unexpected wait times.
There is a FREE shuttle every 20 minutes from Jerusalem's First Station that will drop you off at this gate.
It is most guaranteed that you will be allowed in if you are accompanied by a licensed tour guide. In general, you shouldn't have any problems. But if you'd rather be safe than sorry, I suggest the fabulous Ethan Goldsmith.
Bring your passport! If you are an Israeli citizen, bring your Teudat Zeut and your foreign passport if you have one.
Things you will NOT be allowed to take in with you: any religious paraphernalia (i.e. bibles, siddurs, shofars, etc.), computers, ipads.
LADIES, you must cover your knees and shoulders, and you might be asked to cover your elbows. PRO LADY TIP: when visiting a city or country with a lot of religious or holy sites, bring an extra shirt/scarf to cover yourself up. You never know when you will need it.
That's about it! I hope you get to take the time to visit this beautiful, historical site; and all the amazing sites of Jerusalem and it's Old City. Have fun travel tips? Leave them in the comments!