This week, the Israeli government acceded to the demand of the Jordanian government to close the Temple Mount to Jewish visitors, essentially surrendering Judaism’s holiest site on the anniversary of the victory that returned the Jews to the Temple Mount.
Jordan: Temple Mount only for Muslims
On Monday, the Jordanian Foreign Ministry sent an official protest memorandum to Israel demanding that it stop what it defined as “the provocations in the Al-Aqsa Mosque” by permitting “extremists to enter the mosque under Israeli security for the last ten days of Ramadan.”
Dhaifallah Al-Fayez, the spokesman for the Jordanian Foreign Ministry, called Israel’s actions “a blatant violation of the historical and legal status quo, international law and the obligations of Israel, the occupying power, in East Jerusalem and the sanctity of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the sanctity of Ramadan.”
Al-Fayez demanded that Israeli security forces “stop harassing Jerusalemites, whether those who wish to reach Al-Aqsa Mosque, especially in the blessed month of Ramadan, or reach the churches of Jerusalem.”
Al-Fayez emphasized that the entire Temple Mount compound is a place of worship for Muslims only and that the Jordanian Waqf has the sole authority to manage all the affairs of the mosque. He called on the international community to: “Assume its responsibility in putting pressure on Israel to stop its continuing violations in Jerusalem.”
Hamas and the Temple Mount
The Jordanian demand echoes one made by Hamas the previous week in which the terrorist group that rules in Gaza. Hamas demanded that Israel prohibit Jews from visiting the Temple Mount “in exchange” for quiet in the Gaza sector. The demand came after a week in which over 40 rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza.
The Israeli government responded to these demands by prohibiting Jewish visitation to their holiest site as of Monday. Jews will be permitted to visit the site beginning next Monday morning which is Jerusalem Day, the day commemorating the IDF victory on the Temple Mount. It is ironic that the Israeli government’s capitulation to the Jordanian demand comes on the 21st day of the Hebrew month of Iyyar, precisely 54 years and five days after the beginning of the Six-Day War.
The Israeli capitulation does not entirely appease the Jordanians as the site will open to Jews before the end of the Muslim month-long fast of Ramadan which will end with the three-day Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr (Festival of Breaking the Fast) on Wednesday, May 12. Tragically, this period is usually marked by increased Arab violence in Israel. Arabs have clashed with Israeli security forces in recent weeks around the Old City.
Yaakov Hayman, the chairman of the Temple Movement, noted that the present situation is full of irony and precious little reason.
“During Ramadan, Muslim Arabs do not go to the Temple Mount during the day and the police do not allow Jews to visit the site at night,” Hayman explained. “It would be very easy for the police to maintain the current visiting hours for the Jews while still allowing Muslims to be alone at the site when they come to pray at night.”
Hayman added that his organization has petitioned to expand the hours Jews are permitted to visit, including evening hours and hours on Shabbat.
“This would allow the average Jew who has a job to visit our holiest site,” Hayman said. “But this has been going on for years with illogical and racist policies that are set according to Arab violence.”
Assaf Fried, the spokesman for the Temple Organizations, noted that closing the Temple Mount on Muslim holidays is unfair but has become the accepted routine.
“In the last ten years, it has been customary for the police to close the Temple Mount during Ramadan due to Arab violence,” Fried said. “This is a bad principle and a dangerous precedent but this is the situation. It certainly has an element of capitulation but I prefer that the police carry out its duties and succeed in maintaining order will not entirely abandoning the Temple Mount.”
“We are running a campaign to bring as many Jews as possible to the Temple Mount on Jerusalem Day. Hopefully, this will succeed and the ultimate victory will only come when all of the Jewish people demand their right to their holiest site.”