The literal English translation of Masjid Al-Aqsa (pictured above) is “the farthest mosque” which refers to the event of the night journey Prophet Muhammad ﷺ took, known as Al-Isra and Al-Miraj.The angel Jibreel came to the Prophet ﷺ at night and transported him from Makkah to the site of Masjid Al-Aqsa. The Prophet ﷺ made this journey on a Buraq, which according to hadith is a white animal smaller than a mule but larger than a donkey. At Masjid Al-Aqsa, Prophet Muhammad ﷺ led the other prophets in prayer and then ascended to the heavens from this location. In the Qur’an, Allah refers to this event as a journey from the sacred masjid, alluding to Masjid Al-Haram, to the farthest masjid, referencing Masjid Al-Aqsa.
The religious significance of Masjid Al-Aqsa does not end there. For almost a year and a half after emigrating to Madinah, Muslims would pray towards the site of Masjid Al-Aqsa. While praying in Madinah, Prophet Muhammad ﷺ received revelation to change the qiblah from the direction towards Masjid Al-Aqsa to the direction towards the Kaabah.
Masjid Al-Aqsa underwent major expansion and reconstruction during the Umayyad rule of Palestine in the late seventh century. During this rule, the Dome of the Rock was built to complement Masjid Al-Aqsa. The Dome is one of the most recognizable structures in this city and is decorated with calligraphy on the outside and inside. When the Ottomans came to power in the 16th century, many renovations took place, including a new fountain and new domes in Masjid Al-Aqsa.
In light of the current situation in Palestine, where instances like these are not out of the ordinary, traveling there, while doable, still might not be the most advisable of all options.
However, one should always recognize the religious significance of the sites within the city and remember to appreciate the history behind them.