In wake of Tuesday’s decision by police officials in charge of the Temple Mount to ban non-Muslims entrance to the holy site, some two hundred protesters stood Wednesday morning at the foot of the Mugrabi entrance seeking to reverse their exclusion.
The mass protest was prearranged following an announcement by Police Commander Avi Bitton that the Temple Mount will remain closed to Jews and tourists at least until after the end of Ramadan’s closing festival of “Eid” which is to be next Sunday, the 11th of August.
During this current Ramadan, many Jews who have ascended to the Temple Mount have been inexplicably turned away or even harassed by threats from Muslim extremists. Deputy Foreign Minister of Israel, Zeev Elkin, was among a group of Jews who were chased off the Temple Mount on the eve of the day commemorating the Temples' Destruction, the 9th of Av.
On the 9th of Av itself, Jews were banned completely from ascending.
Since the Mount’s closure to all non-Muslim visitors, activists have decided to take action and convene at the holiest site of the Jewish people at the beginning of the Hebrew month of Elul, a month dedicated to repentance. For many of the activists, showing solidarity today was a reminder that this is in fact the holiest place for the Jewish people.
“People have come far to be here early in the morning to make this statement, to make this prayer to the Almighty, as we begin this special month of repentance" said Rabbi Chaim Richman, the international director of the Temple Institute.
“The one place where that relationship [to God] is manifest is the place of the Holy Temple. Ironically this is the one place where Jews are currently prohibited from entering," he added
The Women in Green, a grassroots Zionist movement, declared in a statement that it took the decision of the officials very seriously:
“It seems the police are throwing a trial balloon. They are trying to see if the Temple Mount is important to a large Jewish population, or only to some "crazies". It is obvious that if this passes quietly, it will get worse for the Jews.”
The hundreds of individuals who arose early to attend the prayers and vigils outside of the Temple Mount seek the same privileges as Muslim visitors, who have unrestricted access to the site.
Jewish visitors, however, are subjected to severe restrictions, including a total ban on conducting prayers or any other religious rituals, despite the site being the holiest place in Judaism. The ban on Jewish prayer has continued despite numerous court rulings that such restrictions are illegal.