In preparation for Passover next week, almost 300 Jews visited the Temple Mount on Thursday, double the average amount, in a reminder of the yearly pilgrimage in the days of the Temple.
Despite Arab incitement, the unusually large number of Jews went through the rigorous preparations required for such a visit, which includes bathing in a Mikveh (ritual bath). Israel National News reported that the crowd included five grooms, a bride, 50 children, and a bar mitzvah boy.
In addition to ritual preparations, Jews going up to the Temple Mount also undergo strict security checks, which may include body searches. They are instructed about not praying and other activities prohibited to Jews on the Mount. Jewish visitation is restricted to four hours a day, five days a week. Non-Muslims must also be accompanied by Waqf guards to insure they do not pray or make prayer like gestures.
The number of Jewish visitors to the Temple mount has risen steadily over the years, almost doubling from 5,658 visitors in 2009, to an all-time high of 10,906 in 2014. Jewish visits dipped slightly in 2015 to 10,766 due to police restrictions.
There are no restrictions on Muslim visitation to the site, except for those due to imminent or existing security situations.
Christian visits to the Temple Mount have dropped consistently over the years. From a high of 401,872 Christian visitors in 2010, last year saw less than half that number with 192,998 visitors. An article in the Jewish Press attributed this trend to, “the unpleasant and threatening atmosphere that is created by the Muslims and the Waqf on the Jewish holy site, towards the non-Islamic visitors”.
A French Christian tourist was beaten by a mob on the Temple Mount and hit in the head with a rock last year. His offense was waving an Israeli flag. Also last year, a group of Christian visitors was removed by the Waqf for wearing skullcaps that made them look Jewish.
Police are on heightened alert, anticipating an even larger number of Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount than in previous years.
Security cameras intended to quell Muslim violence on the Temple Mount have yet to be installed. The cameras, a solution to Temple Mount violence, were suggested by Jordan’s King Abdullah II, the official caretaker of the site, and brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry. Initially agreed to by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, installation of the cameras has been delayed by Palestinian objections they will be used to help the Israeli police arrest Palestinians. It has also been suggested the Palestinians are in a power struggle with the King of Jordan over the holy sites and installation of the cameras is seen as giving more authority to Jordan.