Mughrabi gate – Temple Mount, Jerusalem

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The Mughrabi Gate (Magharibah Gate) on the southern side of the Western Wall is the southernmost of the open Temple Mount gates. It was named after the adjacent Mughrabi Quarter. The Mughrabi quarter was destroyed during the works to expand the Western Wall Plaza after the Six Day War in 1967.

The Mughrabi Gate is the only one of the Temple Mount gates that is under the control of the Israeli police, unlike the other gates that are also under the control of the Muslim Waqf.           

We are near the Western Wall, which is 488 meters long. Along the Western Wall there is the largest number of gates to the Temple Mount compared to all other walls of the Temple Mount. Some of the gates are from the Second Temple period (6th century BC to 1st century), some from the Mamluk period, and some were built in other periods.

The Mughrabi Gate is known by several other names, among them: the Gate of the Westerners because it is close to the neighborhood of the Westerners, used to be call so by its residents, most of whom came from the west relative to the Middle East, that is, from counties in Northwest Africa such as Morocco. Today, this is the only gate of the Temple Mount gates through which non-Muslim visitors can enter the Temple Mount.

The history of the gate is extremely important in the context of the Jewish-Muslim conflict over the Western Wall and the Temple Mount in general. Originally, an earthen embankment named “Ma’aleh HaMughrabim” – led to the gate and was built on top of the only house in the Mughrabi neighborhood that was not destroyed.

Due to the collapse of one of the supporting walls of the embankment, which connected the Western Wall Plaza to the Mughrabi Gate, and that occurred following snowfall and a minor earthquake in February 2004, it was decided to dismantle it. In its place, a wooden bridge was built to allow temporary access to the Temple Mount. In January 2005, the Israeli government decided on a plan to restore the gate and the embankment. At the beginning of 2007, the embankment was dismantled for archeological works. The plan was that once the archeological works have been completed, the construction works will begin. These actions were accompanied by riots on the part of Muslims in the immediate area. The riots surrounding the restoration work on the earthen embankment, once again raised the question of the rights of the Jews at the Western Wall and the legitimacy of the archaeological excavations around the Temple Mount.

Let’s go back to the beginning of the 20th century. After the Balfour Declaration in 1917, with the Zionist institutions highlighting the Western Wall as a national symbol in addition to its religious significance for the Jewish people, the Mufti of Jerusalem claimed that the Jews intended to take over the Western Wall, and therefore declared the Western Wall, without any religious or historical reference, as a sacred Muslim site.

The Wall, which until now the Muslims did not attach to it any importance, was henceforth called ‘al-Buraq’, as the name of the miraculous riding animal of the Prophet Muhammad.

In the 1920s, the mufti of Jerusalem ordered the opening of the Mughrabi Gate in the south of the western wall plaza; In doing so, he turned the small prayer area, from a dead end due to the buildings of the Mughrabi neighborhood that were adjacent to the wall, into a passage for those exiting or entering the gate, and those, continuously disturbed the worshippers. In August 1929, a mob of Muslims burst through the gate, ransacking the Jewish worshipers, and destroying sacred objects. A few days later, the riots events of 1929 broke out. As a result of these events, a commission of inquiry was established by the British. The commission’s report included an explicit comment about the use of the Al Buraq legend by the Mufti to incite against the Jews.

Let’s go further back in time, several hundred years back. The first link between al-Buraq and this area at the western wall can be attributed to Mujir al-Din, a 15th century Jerusalem judge, historian and geographer, whose composition “History of Jerusalem and Hebron” is an important contribution to the knowledge of Jerusalem. Among the buildings he describes on ​​the Temple Mount is also the mosque known as the Mosque of the Westerners (Masjid al-Maghrib). According to his description, it is clear that at least in the 15th century, the Al-Buraq Mosque was located within the Temple Mount square and was certainly not included in the Mughrabi quarter which was also mentioned by Mujir al-Din.

Mujir al-Din noted that the neighborhood was founded in 1193 by Salah al-Din’s son, al-Afdal Ibn Salah al-Din as an endowment for immigrants from the Maghreb. There is very little information about the history of the Mughrabi neighborhood.

It is commonly thought that the residents of the Mughrabi neighborhood were members of the lower class; There is almost no information about public buildings or religious buildings that were in their neighborhood.

After the Six Day War in 1967, the area of ​​the Western Wall Plaza was expanded to the west and south. As a result of this expansion, the northern pillar and the massive stone lintel of an ancient gate were exposed. This gate is known as ‘Barclay Gate’, discovered in 1852 by the missionary James Turner Barclay, who was then the American consul in Jerusalem. The gate is placed in the area of the western wall where females pray. Barclay discovered the gate from its inner side, from within the Temple Mount. The discovery of the gate led several researchers to identify it with one of the gates of the Temple Mount from the time of the Second Temple. The gate was blocked with stones at the end of the 10th century, and the gate room on its inner side was dedicated to al-Buraq by the Muslims. Today the room is closed and entering it is only with the approval of the Waqf people.

the outer facade of ‘Barclay Gate’ was covered, as the surface outside the Temple Mount rose many meters above the gate’s lintel. See in the picture the difference in the height of the street before they cleaned the area and today.

At some point in time, probably in the 12th century, a gate was installed in the Western Wall above the level of Barclay gate. The new gate was named ‘Bab al-Maghriba’, the gate of the Mughrabian – as the name of the residents of the neighborhood that was built nearby, and who came to Jerusalem from Morocco in the time of Saladin. This gate is still open today, and as I mentioned, it serves as the only entrance to the Temple Mount for non-Muslims.

And to conclude as usual I have a question for you, there is another gate not far away from here which is also named the Mughrabi or Western Gate. What is the well-known name of the gate. The answer will appear at the end of the video.

How to get there?

Information Sources

  1. Book: Ariel: A Journal for the Knowledge of Eretz Israel - The Temple Mount & its sites, Editors: Eli Shiler, Publisher: Ariel
  2. Book: The Dig at the Temple Mount, Author: Meir Ben-Dov, Publisher: Keter
  3. Qadmoniot: Magazine for the Antiquities of Eretz-Israel & Bible Lands No.101-102, Publisher: Israel Exploration Society Jerusalem
  4. https://www.antiquities.org.il Israel Antiquities Authority

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