Last Thursday, Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, the former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, issued a statement warning that Jewish children ascending to the Temple Mount posed an “existential danger” to the site. Sabri’s speech was reported in Arabic in Shehab News and translated by the pro-Israel blogger Elder of Ziyon:
“The preacher of Al-Aqsa Mosque, Sheikh Ikrima Sabri, warned today, of an ‘existential danger’ threatening the blessed mosque, as it was transformed into a lawless intrusion arena for students of settlement [i.e. Israel] schools, as part of their compulsory tours. Sabri said that the occupation’s [i.e. Israel] transformation of the Al-Aqsa Mosque [i.e. Temple Mount] into a shrine for settlement schools is an attempt to promote a Jewish character of Jerusalem and end the Islamic landmarks in it.
“[Sabri] added that the occupation [i.e. Israel] wants to make Jerusalem the capital of the Jews, accordingly it completes its procedures with the purely Jewish characteristics to say that Jerusalem is Jewish.
“[Sabri] continued, ‘We’ve said before that Al-Aqsa Mosque is in danger, but today it is really facing dangers.”
Sabri then criticized the recent discussion in the Knesset in which Education Committee considered the need to teach Israeli students about the historic connection between the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and the Jewish people. This educational initiative would include school trips to Judaism’s holiest site.
“[Sabri] considered the decision to include Al-Aqsa in the program of trips to the settlement schools as ‘a blatant interference in the affairs of the mosque, and an insult to its sanctity and its courtyards,” Shehab News wrote. “Sheikh Sabri stressed that Al-Aqsa Mosque is above being subject to the decisions of the Israeli Knesset or the occupation courts, as it is for Muslims alone and by a divine decision.
“We categorically reject the Israeli decision regarding Al-Aqsa, and we hold the occupation government fully responsible for any damage to the blessed mosque,” Sabri added.
“He cautioned about the seriousness of the decision, which violates Al-Aqsa courtyards, intensifies the presence of Jews inside it, and tightens the noose around Muslims, indicating that this step is in the interest of imposing Israeli sovereignty over the mosque.”
Sheikh Sabri pointed out that “these extremist Jewish groups feel that the atmosphere is ripe for them to attack Al-Aqsa Mosque.”
The preacher of Al-Aqsa Mosque called on the people of Palestine and Jerusalem to “intensify the pilgrimage to the blessed mosque, and to reconstruct it permanently, to repel any possibility that we might be surprised by the extremist Jews.”
Sabri was appointed by Yasser Arafat in 1994 and removed from his post by PA President Mahmoud Abbas in 2006. He has made many controversial statements which include Holocaust denial and has been arrested several times for incitement.
In addition to evoking a reaction from Sheikh Sabri, the discussion in the Knesset recommending educating Israeli schoolchildren about the Temple Mount, the Waqf also reacted harshly, saying that the claim that Israel has a historical and religious connection to the site is “false and slanderous.”
Elder of Ziyon came to a powerful conclusion from Sbri’s words. “The Temple Mount is a microcosm of the entire conflict,” he wrote. “Israel wants to share with the Muslims, Muslims want to expel the Jews.”