Two Arab rioters were arrested Thursday for attempting to attack MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud Beteinu) as he visited the Temple Mount. Hundreds of rioters threw stones at Feiglin and several individuals who accompanied him. Feiglin was forced to leave the site, and police took steps to break up the riot.
As a result of the riot, the Temple Mount was closed Thursday morning to Jews and to tourists.
Feiglin has been a strong advocate of Jews' asserting their rights to pray on the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism. Last month, Feiglin initiated a Knesset debate on freedom of religion and Israeli sovereignty on the Temple Mount. Although Jews are technically allowed to visit the Temple Mount, the decision on whether or not they will be admitted is generally in the hands of the Waqf, the Muslim religious trust that controls access to the site. Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount is illegal.
During the Knesset debate, Feiglin attacked the discriminatory management of the holy site, which is under the de facto rule of the Waqf. Jews are often forbidden from entering and arrested for having religious or national symbols. Behind the back of the people we have given up on any Israeli sovereignty on the Mount,” remarked Feiglin. “Any terror organization can wave its flag there -- the flag of Israel? Don't mention it even. And a verse of Psalms is pretext for an arrest. The police even recommend taking the kippah off your head.”
After being forced to leave the site Thursday, Feiglin said that “the incidents today show more than ever that the Temple Mount is such a powderkeg specifically because it is clear to the Palestinians that violence pays off. Israeli weakness encourages this violence.”
Police, Feiglin said, did an admirable job of protecting the Jews and tourists caught up in the riot and putting down the riot. “But cutting our visit short and clearing the Mount of Jews on the one hand while allowing the rioters to remain on the other left the victory in the hands of those who initiated the violence, and will only encourage more violence.”
On Sunday, Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) was also forced to leave the Temple Mount after rioters threw stones at him. Then, too, police cleared the Mount of non-Muslims.
“A reality in which rioters determine the day's agenda on the Temple Mount, and prevent Jewish visitors from ascending [to the Mount], is unacceptable," Ariel stated after the visit. "I went up to the Mount this morning, I intend to keep on doing so in the future, and I demand that security forces help keep Jewish sovereignty intact and allow any Jew to ascend to the Mount freely."
The Temple Mount is Judaism's most sacred spot. Israeli police, in an attempt to appease the Muslim Waqf which was left in charge of the Temple Mount compound after the 1967 Six Day War, ban Jews from praying or performing any other form of worship.
Police sometimes close the Mount to Jews altogether in response to Muslim riots - for days or weeks at a time - despite evidence that such violence is usually planned in advance for the specific purpose of forcing Jews out.