Thousands of police and IDF troops will be on duty Thursday, as tens of thousands of Jews arrive at the Kotel (Western Wall) for the Birkat Cohanim (Blessing of the Cohanim) ceremony, a special feature of the Jewish festivals. Troops will be on special alert following the unrest on the Temple Mount Wednesday.
Police will be stationed along all paths to the Kotel, with shuttle buses depositing worshippers outside the Dung Gate adjacent to the Kotel. Private cars are banned in the Old City Thursday, and the public is asked to use public transportation only. Leading the ceremony will be Chief Rabbis Yiztchak Yosef and David Lau.
On Wednesday, Muslims rioters hurled flares and rocks at police forces on the Temple Mount, Judaism's holiest site. One police officer was reportedly slightly injured. The Temple Mount was closed to Jews Wednesday, and it remained closed Thursday. Six Arab rioters who took part in the rock throwing have been arrested, police said.
Speaking to Arutz Sheva, Dov Kalmanovitz, the Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem, demanded that the Israeli Police to close the Temple Mount to Arab visitors. On Thursday, when Birkat Cohanim is conducted, “the Chief Rabbis will visit the Western Wall and thousands will flood the Jewish quarter. It is inconceivable that the Israeli Police prevents Jews, who want to ascend the Temple Mount, from entering, and allows Arabs - who riot - to continue to respect the mosques there and throw stones," he added. Kalmanovitz then called on police "to maintain security" at the Mount - "either by allowing Jews to ascend to the Mount or by closing it completely."
"We need to make order out of the chaos which erupts at the site every holiday," he stressed. "I already expect Arabs to throw stones tomorrow at the Western Wall. We should teach the Arabs a lesson for once and close it for them [too]."
Despite being the holiest site in Judaism, Jewish access to the Temple Mount is very limited - including a blanket ban on Jewish worship there - in what activists condemn as a capitulation to Muslim extremism. sraeli police, in an attempt to appease the Muslim Waqf which was left in charge of the 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.