For the first time in a decade, Israeli soldiers in uniforms ascended to the Temple Mount this week and toured the Al Aqsa Mosque.
The tour for the uniformed soldiers was permitted after a long time period in which the police objected to such visits, Temple Mount Heritage Foundation Chairman Yehuda Glick told Arutz Sheva.
“There was a discussion of the Knesset Interior Committee and MKs Tzipi Hotovely, Aryeh Eldad and Danny Danon asked the police how come they don’t let soldiers go up to the Temple Mount,” Glick said.
“Suddenly,” he said, “we saw Arab websites displaying pictures of soldiers on the Temple Mount. We hadn’t known about it."
“It’s absolutely amazing,” said Glick, adding: “It’s not just because of the special relationship the paratroopers have to the Temple Mount, but also because the police kept saying that it would be dangerous if uniformed soldiers visit the compound. All of a sudden we see that it’s not so dangerous.”
Police have had a policy of discrimination towards Jewish visitors to the compound. Among those regularly turned back were brides who wished to visit the holy site on their wedding day, and soldiers who came in uniform.
While Muslims are allowed to pray freely at the Temple Mount, Jews are allowed to enter the area only in small groups, and may not pray while there. This is the result of then-Defense Minister Moshe Dayan's decision to leave the holiest site in Judaism in the hands of the Muslim Wakf after Jerusalem's reunification in 1967.
Activists held a protest last summer in which they accused police of discriminating against Jews in an attempt to appease the Muslim Wakf religious authority. Police limit the number of Jewish worshippers allowed on the Temple Mount at one time in order to prevent conflict with Muslim worshippers. They often close the Mount to Jews in response to Muslim riots – despite evidence that Muslim riots have been planned in advance for the specific purpose of forcing Jews out.
Glick praised the police and the army for allowing the tour and said, “I welcome it and I hope it’s the start of a new era, in which every soldier in the IDF will tour the Temple Mount as part of their military duty.”
MK Tzipi Hotovely also welcomed the tour and said, “Now we must turn to the next battle - allowing Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount. Only when the State of Israel will see real sovereignty on the Temple Mount will we know for sure that the Mount is ours.”