Enter Temple Mount, the massive open plaza that takes up a 6th of the Old City in Jerusalem. Over 2,000-years-ago the Sanhedrin (Jewish council) agreed to let King Herod build the Second Temple which took 46 years to construct and was completed in 20AD. He extended the masonry platform on Temple Mount and made it the most beautiful temple in the ancient world. Jews traveled from far and wide to make three annual traditional pilgrimages to the Temple. Herod gained permission from the Sanhedrin to build the Court of the Gentiles so that gentiles could admire the architectural marvel, without entering the Temple itself. Today, Temple Mount shows no trace of the Grand Temple. See the structures on the mount including the Golden Gate, Scale Arches, the Dome of the Prophet, Dome of the Chain, and the remains of a wall that may date back to the Hasmoneans. Also, see Al-Aqsa Mosque, and, the Dome of the Rock (completed in 692AD) with its famous golden dome. Your guide will tell you about the Koran story of Muhammad’s Night Journey to the Furthest Mosque which has been associated with the Al-Aqsa Mosque despite no mention of Jerusalem in the Koran. Also, learn about Temple Mount’s religious and political significance. Leave Temple Mount in the direction of the Western Wall, a remnant of the Second Temple’s retaining wall, and the most sacred Jewish site in the world. Look down upon the Davidson Center where you can see the excavated Temple Mount's southern and western walls.
Transport will be waiting at the Old City Dung Gate to take you to Herodium, another of King Herod’s massive construction projects. Between 22BC and 15BC Herod had a small city, and palace-fortress built at Herodium. It was the most elaborate structure of its kind in the ancient world with towers, bathhouses, courtyards, columns, fountains, frescoes, cisterns, royal quarters, and a theater. Herod ordered a mausoleum built at Herodium where he could be buried after his passing. When preparing the mausoleum, a massive dirt embankment was added around the palace-fortress creating a conical-shaped hill. The tour takes you to the hill-top site and through the excavated structures. Herod’s burial tomb was uncovered by archaeologist Ehud Netzer, who searched for Herod’s tomb for thirty years before finding it just two years before he died after a fall at the site of the tomb.
Additional Options in the Area:
1. The Western Wall excavations. Due to restrictions, a visit must be arranged at least 21 days ahead of time or entry is on a first-come basis depending on available space each day.
2. The Davidson Center and the Southern Wall excavation.
3. The Herodian Quarters.
4. Tower of David at Jaffa Gate.