On Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day) 2018, the day commemorating the victory in the 1967 Six Day War that unified Jerusalem, a record 2,080 Jews ascended the Temple Mount. This is the most Jews that have been at the holy site in one day since the Second Temple stood in all its glory almost 2,000 years ago.
Yera’eh, an organization promoting ascending to the Temple Mount, counts the number of Jews who ascend every day. Elisha Sanderman, a representative from Yera’eh, informed Breaking Israel News that on Sunday, 2,080 Jews ascended. “Last year on Yom Yerushalayim, a little more than 900 Jews went up so I thought I was being optimistic by expecting 1,500 people,” Sanderman said. “To see so many Jews on the Temple Mount was truly a joyous day reminiscent of the Temple Feasts.”
This was an all-time record, breaking the previous maximum of 1,260 who went up on Tisha B’Av, the somber day commemorating the destruction of both Temples.
“It was Yom Yerushalayim and when Jews look to Jerusalem, their hearts turn to the Temple Mount, Sanderman said. “We are breaking record after record.”
Assaf Fried, the spokesman for the Temple Organizations Headquarters, sees Monday’s success as part of a global historic process.
“Yesterday we saw the most Jews on the Temple Mount than have been on the Temple Mount at one time since the Second Temple was standing,” Fried told Breaking Israel News. “We returned to the Temple Mount over 70 years ago and despite all the amazing things that are happening in the rest of Israel, our holiest site is still waiting for us.”
This reality has taken a long time to begin to change but has seen drastic improvements in the last few years. According to Yera’eh, a mere 5,658 Jews went up to the Temple Mount in 2009. In 2014 and 2015, about 11,000 Jews ascended to the Temple Mount each year. This improved in 2016 when 14,626 Jews who went up. This improved even more in 2017 when 25,628 Jews went up to the Temple Mount. This year promises to be far more impressive than even that figure.
“This trend of Jews coming to the site started slowly but it is gaining momentum and now, there is no way to stop it,” Fried said.
Fried attributes this increase in Jewish visitation to improved conditions.
“Just a few years ago, Jews felt threatened on the Temple Mount,” Fried said. “The Muslims were permitted to yell and curse at the Jews. They are no longer permitted to do so. On Yom Yerushalayim, many families with small children visited the site, something that would have been impossible, or at least exceedingly unpleasant, just a few years ago.”
Another demographic change has been an increase in the number of Haredi Jews that ascend to the site.
“Until recently, almost all of the Haredi rabbis instructed their followers not to visit the Temple Mount,” Fried explained. “Recently, we have seen a drastic increase in the number of Haredi Jews at the site. Before Yom Yerushalayim, several major rabbis began advocating to ascend to the Temple Mount.”
Fried noted that the Muslims at the site were confronted with an unprecedented situation: being a minority at the site.
“In the morning, when the crowds began to arrive, The Arabs were in shock and didn’t know how to react,” Fried said. “In the afternoon, the Arabs brought more people to the site to create tension. For the most part, the Israeli police were very good at keeping order. In one instance, an Arab attacked a Jew with a belt and injured him.”
One person who was less exuberant was Yaakov Hayman, Chairman of the United Temple Movements, who was on the Temple Mount on Yom Yerushalayim.
“It was wonderful for the Jews but the police are not willing to create a situation in which we have free access to the Temple Mount,” Hayman told Breaking Israel News. “They are not set up for it. Jews are not permitted to enter with any belongings but there is not sufficient place to store anything. Jews were hurried through, only permitted to stay on the Temple Mount for just a few minutes.”
“I believe this was more than just an inconvenience; this was an intentional attempt to inhibit Jews from visiting the site,” Hayman said. “Any advance that is made for Jewish access to the site, any move towards Jewish prayer or ritual at the site, will not come because of the authorities but in spite of the Israeli authorities. Not the police, the security minister, or even the Prime Minister are working towards Jews having rights on the Temple Mount.”
“The ultimate success on the Temple Mount will be made by the Jewish People demanding it and showing that by their presence and what we are seeing now is only the beginning of that movement.”
Hayman saw an example of that take place in front of his eyes. While walking around the Temple Mount compound, a large group of Jews began singing a Hebrew song about building the Temple.
“There were so many Jews singing that the police couldn’t do anything about it,” Hayman said. “And that is the true message about the day. What are the police going to do when there are 4,000, or 8,000 Jews at the site and one thousand begin praying.”
This increase in Jewish interest in the Temple Mount is not being reflected in the Christian pilgrims who visit Israel. According to Israeli government statistics, a record 1.5 million Christian tourists visited Israel last year with the vast majority visiting Jerusalem as a site of religious interest. Nonetheless, a mere 300,000 Christians visited the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Israel. It should be noted that as non-Muslims, Christians are forbidden from praying at the site.