This week, the Israeli police were forced on two separate occasions to dismantle illegal renovations being carried out by the Waqf on the Temple Mount at the Shaar HaRachamim, the Gate of Mercy, also known as the Golden Gate.
The subterranean hall was locked in 2003 by court order after it was used as a meeting place for a Hamas-affiliated organization. In 2019, Palestinians illegally forced their way into the site and transformed it into a prayer hall.
The Palestinian Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Mohammed Hussein, decried the actions of the police.
“The mosque belongs only to Muslims,” he said. “We reject any [Israeli] attempt to interfere in the administration of the Islamic holy sites. We are opposed to any attempt to alter the status quo at the Haram al-Sharif.”
Inexplicably, the Palestine Chronicle published a report that seemed to contradict the Mufti’s remarks, claiming that Christians also had an interest in the renovations. The Chronicle cited the “Islamic-Christian Committee” as opposing the Israeli actions, which they claimed were geared towards converting the “mosque” into a synagogue.
“The Islamic-Christian Committee in Support of Jerusalem and its Sanctuaries’ yesterday warned that the Israeli occupation is planning to turn the Bab Al-Rahma Prayer Hall into a Jewish synagogue,” they wrote, citing Quds Press. It should be noted that non-Muslims, including Christians, are banned from entering any of the structures on the Temple Mount. They are, however welcome at the Western Wall and all other Jewish holy sites that are under Israeli control.
“In a statement, the committee warned of a pre-planned Israeli maneuver to Judaise Al-Aqsa Mosque, pointing out that ‘separating Bab Al-Rahma Mosque from the whole area of Al-Aqsa Mosque and turning it into a Jewish synagogue is part of the plan’,” the Palestine Chronicle concluded. the committee stressed that “Any attempt to change the status quo will have dangerous consequences that the Israeli occupation will be blamed for.”
The status quo as it applies to the Temple Mount is, indeed, changing. The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs wrote that the “status quo” on the Temple Mount has changed—benefitting the Palestinians.
“In the 55 years since the Six-Day War, changes in the status quo have greatly improved the Muslims’ hold on the Temple Mount,” the JCPA wrote. “Muslims have inaugurated four new mosques on the Temple Mount since 1967: the Dome of the Rock, which originally was not built as a mosque; the El-Marwani Mosque, located underground in Solomon’s Stables; the “Ancient Al-Aqsa” Mosque, established in 1998 under the existing upper mosque; and the Gate of Mercy (Golden Gate) prayer area, set up and turned into a mosque in 2019.”
“The establishment of additional mosques on the mount stemmed from a new definition of the Temple Mount compound by the Muslims, who began to refer to all of the area as ‘Al-Aqsa’ and to regard the entire mount as one great mosque. Until the Six-Day War, the compound as a whole was called “Al-Haram al-Sharif” (the Holy and Noble Place), and was defined differently from the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Much of the recent Arab activity at the site was clearly destructive to the sanctity of the site as well as the antiquities.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad joined the condemnations and called on Muslims to protect Al-Aqsa.
“The Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas condemns the storming of the Bab al-Rahma prayer hall at the Al-Aqsa Mosque by Israeli occupation forces who ripped out its electrical wiring and denied the hall’s guards access to it,” Abdul Latif Al-Qanou, a Hamas spokesperson said in a statement. “This aggression adds to the series of crimes committed against the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque by the fascist Israeli occupation forces in a bid to enforce the spatial and temporal division scheme.”
“Hamas reiterates that Islam’s third holiest mosque will remain of a Muslim character and it will never be divided.”
The Israel Police stated that “in an inspection conducted at the site, safety deficiencies and changes that were made illegally during the month of Ramadan were discovered, and accordingly the situation was returned to its original state. The Israel Police will continue to act to protect the holy places, and to maintain security and order in accordance with the existing practice at the site.”
The Temple Mount is the holiest site to Judaism but the Sha’ar HaRachamim bears additional significance. According to Jewish tradition, the Messiah will arrive via the Sha’ar HaRachamim. Out of a mistaken belief that Jewish tradition speaks of the Messiah being from the priestly caste, the Ottomans built a cemetery in front of the gate in order to prevent the Jewish Messiah from arriving.
In 2011, it was discovered the Arabs had begun burying their dead adjacent to the Eastern Wall of the Temple Mount, in between centuries-old Jewish graves and the Temple Mount. Not only was this illegal and destructive to the archaeology of the site, it was, in effect, jumping to the front of the resurrection queue.
Even stranger was when authorities caught Arabs preparing fake Muslim graves at the site, graves which contained no human remains, an action that can only be an attempt to distance Jews from being buried in the spot where the resurrection will begin.
It has also been conjectured that this is an attempt to prevent a Jewish Kohen (priest) from ever performing the ritual of the Red Heifer, since he is forbidden for reasons of ritual purity from walking over a grave, and he must do so in order to bring the ashes of the Red Heifer to the Temple. This is a mistaken belief since the remains of a non-Jew do not carry impurity.