Who is Roman Empress Eudocia and why is it important to the Temple Mount?

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https://har-habait.org/panel/pic/har_habait362.jpgremnant of a wall built in Jerusalem by the empress

Remnant of the Wall of Jerusalem built by Eudocia near south-eastern part of Temple Mount


Jews, on the other hand, never forgot the Temple Mount even when none of the original temple buildings remained standing. Wherever they lived, they faced Jerusalem three times every day and prayed for the restoration of the temple and the renewal of the sacrificial service.[21] Furthermore, there are indications that despite imperial bans, some Jews continued to pray on the Temple Mount. The late fourth-century sage Rabbi Bibi offered instructions to those who went to the Temple Mount to ensure their behavior would not degrade the holiness of the place.[22] A sixth-century aggadic work, Midrash Shir Hashirim Rabba, includes an instruction for Jews everywhere to face in the direction of the Temple Mount when praying, adding that “and those who pray on the Temple Mount should turn to the Holy of Holies,”[23] an injunction that only makes sense if the ban was not strictly enforced.

The Jewish people’s continued attachment to the Temple Mount is exemplified by an event that occurred during the reign of the Roman Empress Eudocia (401-60). When she went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 438, she was greeted warmly by Jews everywhere, probably as a result of her policy of supporting non-Christians. When the leading rabbis asked her for permission to once again ascend the Temple Mount, she immediately agreed. Great excitement gripped the local Jewish leaders who sent letters to other communities throughout the world informing them of the good news and asking them to come on pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the coming Sukkot festival. More than 100,000 Jews came to Jerusalem that year, but once again, Jerusalem’s Christians launched a violent protest and blocked access to the mountain.[24]

For almost two centuries after this incident, Jews were forbidden to live in Jerusalem. Until the Persian conquest in 618, Jerusalem was officially a city without Jews. This would change dramatically under the brief period of Persian rule and the subsequent, and far lengthier, era of Muslim hegemony.

We see that long after the destruction, the Jews had a strong interest in wanting to visit the Mount.

Rabbeinu Nissim says the reason we don’t immediately pray for rain after Succot is in honor of the Jews who would visit the Temple Mount even after the destruction of the Temple, to give them time to return home from their visit to the Mount on Succot. Source of the information in Hebrew: https://har-habait.org/#/articleBody/30708

“בשלשה במרחשון שואלין את הגשמים. רבן גמליאל אמר: בשבעה בו – חמשה עשר יום אחר החג (=סוכות) כדי שיגיע אחרון שבישראל לנהר פרת” (משנה תענית א’).

נוהגים ישראל עד ימינו להתחיל ולבקש את ירידת הגשמים בברכת השנים שבתפילת עמידה רק בז’ בחשון ולא מיד לאחר חג הסוכות, על מנת שעולי הרגלים שעלו לירושלים ולבית המקדש בחג הסוכות ישובו לבתיהם הרחוקים לפני שיחלו לרדת הגשמים. הלכה זו נוהגת גם בימינו, כאשר המקדש חרב.

רבנו ניסים בפירושו למשנה מסביר את הפסיקה שנשמרה לכבודם של עולי הרגלים אף בזמן החורבן: “לפי שהיו מתאספים בכל הסביבות ברגל לירושלים כמו שעושין גם היום, ומפני עולים הללו ראוי שנאחר השאלה שהיא היתה עיקר התקנה”.