“This is the teaching regarding the Temple: Atop the mountain its entire boundary all around, shall be most holy. Ezekiel” (43:12)
In yet another controversial decision at the holiest of Jewish holy sites this month, any non-Muslim will be banned the Temple Mount for the final two weeks of the Ramadan holiday. The Joint Committee of Temple Organizations emphatically condemned the closure on Wednesday, according to the Jerusalem Post.
According to the committee, a religious body that seeks to enlarge Jewish prayer rights as well as eventual Jewish sovereignty over the Mount, this is the first time that the hallowed site has been closed completely during Ramadan.
Access to the Temple Mount by non-Muslims have always been restricted during Ramadan in the past. On a regular day non-Muslims are granted access for just three hours every morning and one hour in the afternoon. During Ramadan, the visiting hours are traditionally scaled back to just morning entry.
According to Rabbi Yehuda Glick, a spokesman for the committee, in previous years the Temple Mount has been open in the morning to non- Muslims for the entirety of Ramadan.
Glick attributed the change in policy to a new phenomenon in which hundreds of Palestinian youths have slept at the site during this year’s Ramadan.
There have been a number of flare-ups at the Mount leading up to, and during the first two weeks of Ramadan this year. First were the numerous reports that Muslim officials were encouraging children to play soccer, volleyball and other games on the holy site premises. Now comes the call to sleep there. Then came the 9th of Av, the day the Jewish people mourn the destruction of the temple, who attempted to ascend to the site they were fasting and praying to be rebuilt, only to be rebuffed by authorities due to an Arab mob threatening violence. The very next day, Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin visited the Temple Mount but was forced to leave by police due to threats and harassment by Muslims at the site according to the Post.
Additionally, Jewish anger was aroused when it was announced earlier this month that prostrating, which may be perceived as praying, on the Temple Mount would lead to immediate evacuation. Jews are already banned from moving their lips in any manner that may be perceived as a prayer.
Although the site has been open sporadically during the past two weeks, it was closed by police on Thursday.
On Sunday a notice was posted at the entrance to the Mugrabi Gate, the only entrance for non-Muslims to the Temple Mount, saying that visitation for Jews and other tourists was not possible on that day.
The same message was posted for Monday, while the police informed the committee that because of the fact that “thousands of Muslims are staying the night at the site for the last 10 days of Ramadan, the Temple Mount will not be opened tomorrow [Tuesday] for visitors.”
On Tuesday, the police informed the committee that entrance for non-Muslims would not be possible until after Id al-Fitr, the festival ending Ramadan.
The committee issued a statement to the press asking why the police was not willing to preserve public order at the site.
“Is the police not able to protect the [public] order on the Temple Mount? Why does the police not ban the dozens of Muslims responsible for disturbances, just like it permanently bans Jews who pray at the site?” the group asked.
Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, the director of the Temple Institute and a prominent advocate of prayer rights on the Temple Mount, was banned last year from the site, following a visit during which he was videoed praying.
“Why have the police not arrested those causing the disturbances? Why do the police not create Jewish-only prayer times?” the committee asked.
According to the Post, the police did not respond to inquiries about the claim that this is the first year the Temple Mount has not been accessible during Ramadan.