On Sunday, on the holy day of Tisha B’Av, Yeraeh, a Temple Mount organization, recorded 1,679 Jews ascending to the Temple Mount, marking a 71% increase over last year. The number included at least two Members of Knesset, dozens of prominent rabbis, and even a bride and groom in preparation for their wedding.
Yesterday marked a new record for Jewish visitation to the site on Tisha B’Av. Last year, about 1,000 Jews visited the site despite coronavirus restrictions. In 2019, the police barred Jews from visiting due to Arab violence, permitting only about one dozen Jews to enter. In 2018, some 1,400 Jews visited the Temple Mount on Tisha B’Av.
Tisha B’Av (the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av) is a fast day commemorating the destruction of both Jewish Temples in Jerusalem. Jews also refrain from wearing leather shoes and bathing. Jews also refrain from studying Torah, an act that brings great joy.
The day was marked by unseasonable heat, a burden on the Jews who were fasting, and heavy traffic in Jerusalem’s Old City as many came to visit the site of the Jewish Temples on the anniversary of their destruction. Pre-dawn Arab violence on the Temple Mount also increased the burden on the Israeli police who were tasked with protecting the right of Jews to visit their holiest site on the holy day. The Arabs barricaded themselves into the compound in an attempt to prevent the police from entering and, according to some media reports, pelted police with stones.
The police were deployed in increased numbers after predawn Arab rioting in response to calls by Imams and other Arab leaders. Despite security efforts, United Hatzalah volunteers treated two men, one woman, and one child who were injured in two separate stoning attacks that took place near the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem.
In the first incident, a man, woman, and a one-year-old infant were lightly injured after rocks were thrown at a Jewish vehicle near the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. In the second incident, rocks were hurled at another Jewish car injuring the driver a Jewish man.
The Jews who ascended prayed, recited Lamentations, sang Temple songs, read the Torah, and more. This is a recent phenomenon indicating that the police are finally enforcing the law that legislates religious equality on the Temple Mount. The Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel (1948) guarantees freedom of religion for all. A 2015 Jerusalem magistrate court decision upheld the rights of Jews to pray on the Temple Mount. The law permits the police to make temporary restrictions based on security considerations. Until recently, this has resulted in a total ban on non-Muslim prayer.
VIPs also arrived
Among those who ascended the Temple Mount were Rabbi Israel Ariel, Rabbi Shmuel Moreno, Rabbi Eliyahu Weber, Rabbi Dvir Tal, Rabbi Chiya Ben Hamo, Rabbi Michael Pua, Rabbi Yochai Makbili, Rabbi Elisha Wolfson, and more.
Three MKs ascended the Temple Mount: Amichai Chikli, Sharren Haskel, and incoming Knesset member Yom Tov Kalfon. Chikli reportedly sang Hatikva, Israel’s national anthem, on the site, an act which the Israeli police normally prevent as they do any sign of Israeli nationalism.
Also present at the holy site were former MK and Temple Mount Activist Rabbi Yehuda Glick, former MK Shuli Moualem, and the head of the Gush Etzion Council, Shlomo Ne’eman.
A bride and groom also ascended the Temple Mount in preparation for their wedding later this week.
Jews removed for Biblical commandment
One group was removed from the site after group singing and a confrontation with Waqf personnel. Several Jews were removed from the mountain after prostrating on the stones, a Biblical commandment that is only permitted to be performed at the location of the Temples.
The Islamist Ra’am (United Arab List) Party, currently a coalition partner of PM Naftali Bennet, issued a statement saying, “Muslims have an exclusive right to the al-Aqsa Mosque and no one else has any right over it.”
Ra’am warned worshippers in a statement on Sunday against a “large number of settlers who have been storming and violating the sanctity of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque since the morning hours.”
“This could cause violent events and ignite the situation in Jerusalem and the entire region in way that could lead to a devastating religious war, especially when officials and MKs are allowed to storm al-Aqsa, hold prayers, hold religious ceremonies and read the national anthem ‘Hatikva,’” the party stated.
Mahmoud Habbash, the religious affairs adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, released a statement saying, “Israel has no religious, historical or legal right to any inch of Jerusalem and the al-Aqsa Mosque compound.”
Habbash threatened a violent reaction to the Jews on the Temple Mount.
“The Palestinian bond in Jerusalem and al-Aqsa will continue and escalate because we are exercising our legitimate right to protect our land and our holy sites and to defend ourselves,” Habbash said, adding that the Jews ascending to the site could ignite a religious war.
The PA added that the Israeli “provocations constitute a challenge to the American demands for preserving the historical status quo in Jerusalem.”
Hamas, the ruling party in Gaza and a terrorist organization, issued a warning on Friday, saying that Jews visiting the Temple Mount was Israel “playing with fire”. Hamas called on Palestinians to “keep their fingers on the trigger” to defend Jerusalem. This echoes the recent conflict between Gaza in which Hamas preempted Jerusalem Day celebrations by firing over 4,600 rockets at Israeli civilian centers.
Jordanian Foreign Ministry spokesman Daifallah al-Fayz objected to the presence of Jews at the site, issuing a statement saying, “the entire Temple Mount compound “is a place of worship purely for Muslims.”
Jews to be barred from Temple Mount
The Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha will begin on Monday evening and Jews will be banned from the Temple Mount during the holiday. The Temple Mount will be closed to non-Muslims from Tuesday and will reopen on Sunday.
Eid al-Adha is the Muslim holiday celebrating Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Ishmael.