The Israeli government has decided to place restrictions on visitation to the Temple Mount by non-Muslims during the Muslim month of Ramadan, Israeli Kan News reported on Sunday, including during the Jewish holiday of Passover. The hours of visitation by non-Muslims will be limited to four hours in the morning, Sunday through Thursday, and non-Muslims will be entirely barred from the site on the last ten days of Ramadan. Jews will also be prohibited from bringing food or drink to the site as the Muslims will be fasting from sunrise until sundown during Ramadan.
This has been government policy every year and while authorities claim it is due to the threat of Arab violence at the site, violence on the Temple Mount has nonetheless intensified every year during Ramadan. This year, Ramadan begins in the evening on Wednesday, March 22, and ends on Thursday, April 20.
The last Friday of Ramadan called “Alvida Jumma” or “Friday of Farewell,” is considered one of the holiest days on the Muslim calendar. In 1979, this Muslim holiday was usurped by the Iranian regime in 1979 which renamed it “Quds Day, dedicating it to hatred of Israel and Zionism. It is not celebrated by any other Muslims outside of Israel and Iran. In 2017, over 300,000 Arabs arrived at the Temple Mount to observe Quds Day.
In addition, this year, Passover runs from the evening of April 5 to the evening of Thursday, April 13. Last year, Arab rioting intensified on and before Passover leading to the arrest of over 300 Arabs in one day on the eve of the Jewish holiday. In years when Passover did not coincide with Ramadan, Muslims scattered bread (referred to as chametz and forbidden to Jews on Passover) on the pathways.
Tom Nisani, CEO of the Beyadenu association for the Temple Mount, responded to the report.
“Cleansing the Temple Mount of Jews and taking away the right to visit our holiest site in the afternoon on the eve of Passover strikes at the heart of Judaism,” Nisani said, emphasizing that the afternoon on the eve of Passover is when, for thousands of years, Jews arrived at the Temple in Jerusalem to perform the most important ritual of the year; sacrificing the Paschal Lamb.
“These restrictions on Jews will only serve to turn the Temple Mount compound into a base for Arab violence and terrorism, the destruction of antiquities, and harm to the police, as it does every year,” Nisani told Israel365 News. “This has never decreased the Arab violence and will certainly not help anything. The full responsibility for this surrender to terrorism will be in the hands of the ministers of the government and the cabinet.”
Rabbi Yehuda Levi, Co-founder of High on the Har and Director of Outreach for Yeshivat Har Habayit, was dismayed at the report of possible restrictions.
“It’s unfortunate that a Jewish government can’t figure out a way to allow Jews and Muslims to coexist religiously during the Muslim holidays,” Rabbi Levi said. “The policy showcases that the priorities of the Muslim holiday take precedence over the Jewish significance of the site.”
“Imagine if the positions were reversed and the Muslims were prohibited from the site for the entire seven days of Passover,” he said. “There is never a time, not even for one day when the site is open to Jews and closed to Muslims. This is a clear statement of where the priorities are. I am not denigrating the government but this is the reality right now. The Jewish government has decided that violence and terrorism set the agenda. And that is a shame.”
Jewish visitation to the site has increased steadily in recent years and Yeraeh, a Temple Mount activist organization, reported that 20,329 Jews visited the site since the beginning of the Jewish New Year on Sept. 25, 2022. This constitutes a 16% increase compared to the same time last year
Last year, over 780 Arabs were arrested on the Temple Mount for violent activities during Ramadan. In 2021, the Temple Mount was closed to Jews for 19 days during the Muslim month of fasting. This was met with massive riots at the site, accompanied by riots in Arab-Jewish cities and over 3,400 rockets from Gaza. As the Arabs rioted on the Temple Mount, they also worked to create physical barriers to prevent Jews from visiting their holiest site. The barriers were created using stones that were remnants of the Jewish Temples, damaging the stones in the process. Rioters barricaded themselves in the al-Aqsa Mosque. They also threw rocks and launched fireworks at the Western Wall from the Temple Mount. In other locations, the Arabs took advantage of the absence of Jews to carry out illegal excavations that potentially destroyed artifacts at the site.