Police announced this morning that Jews would be barred from visiting their holiest site on the holy day of Tisha B’Av (the ninth of Av) and Palestinians took the opportunity to hold violent riots.
Update: Since this announcement was made, the police have changed their mind and allowed Jews to ascend the Mount.
In order to enter, Jews undergo scrupulous security checks which include a background check and thousands of Jews began lining up at 5:30 AM in order to visit the Temple Mount compound. Today is Tisha B’Av, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av, which commemorates the destruction of both Jewish Temples which once stood at the place now occupied by the Dome of the Rock. Though it is impossible to know how many Jews intended to visit the Temple Mount today, more than 1,400 ascended the Temple Mount last year on Tisha B’Av last year and over 1,300 the year before.
“A special assessment was conducted by the Jerusalem District Commander, and eventually it was decided that, given the amount of worshipers and the high friction potential, visits to the Temple Mount would not be possible at this time,” the Jerusalem District Police Spokesperson’s Unit announced in the morning.
The Muslims were allowed to enter.
Unlike Jews who are only permitted to enter in limited numbers and after scrupulous security checks, Arabs freely enter the site with no security checks.
Though Israeli law protects the equality of religion and the rights of every religion to worship, the Israeli police prevent non-Muslims from praying inside the Temple Mount compound citing security concerns of Muslim riots.
The tensions were amplified since the Jewish holy day of Tisha B’Av.
The holiday coincided this year with the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha in which the Muslims celebrate Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Ishmael. The son is not named in the Quran which describes Abraham slitting his son’s throat but finding a lamb instead of his son on the altar. Islamic traditions identify Ishmael as the son who was sacrificed.
The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Mohammed Hussein, ordered all mosques in Jerusalem except for Al Aqsa, the silver domed mosque on the Temple Mount, to be closed on Sunday so that more Arabs would go to the Temple Mount. Scuffles broke out between Arabs and police on Saturday as Jews gathered in the Old City for special prayers marking the beginning of Tisha B’Av.
This morning, a sign was put up at the entrance to the Temple Mount depicting Hamas terrorist and of the Muslim Brotherhood’s former leader, Mohamed Morsi, with Arabic writing saying, “No to the ‘Deal of the Century'” and quoting Morsi’s saying, “Our soul yearns for the Temple.”
Hamas banner on Temple Mount on Tisha B’Av.
No Jews allowed on our holiest site while terrorist sympathizers are welcome. pic.twitter.com/jCb43gAxe1
— Elder Of Ziyon ҉ (@elderofziyon) August 11, 2019
Ahmad Tibi, an anti-Israel Arab member of Knesset who supports the two-state solution and routinely defends Hamas, entered the Temple Mount and violent Arab riots broke out shortly thereafter.
חבר הכנסת אחמד טיבי הגיע להר הבית pic.twitter.com/SV6cmFfpXe
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) August 11, 2019
Breaking Israel News editor David Sidman was on hand to report events as they unfolded.
“There is a battle going on right now on the Mountain of God,” Sidman said from the scene, emphasizing that the appearance of a banner featuring Morsi was particularly disturbing. “At the head of the Muslim Brotherhood, he overthrew the government of Egypt. The significance is that this is not a matter of a conflict over one religious site on this particular day. This means that the Waqf is inviting the Palestinians in Jerusalem to look to the Muslim Brotherhood and what they did in Cairo. They want the same thing here in Jerusalem.”
Though Sidman was in the Old City as an observer, he was unwillingly drawn into the violence.
“I was walking through down the street and there were a lot of little scuffles breaking out. I saw an Arab grab a Jewish boy by the back of the neck,” Sidman related. Sidman served in the IDF in a combat unit and his instincts took over. “I immediately ran over and gave him a flying elbow to the head. He turned to fight but when he saw that I wasn’t running away, he stopped.”
Initial reports indicate that the head of the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf was injured in the ensuing riots.
Israeli police responded to Arab violence with non-lethal crowd dispersal means and are in the process of closing the mosque to Muslim worshipers.