They were warned not to pray at the location, but they did so anyway. The police escort who accompanied the Jewish groups was friendly and polite, according to the Jewish activists.
Seven of the gates to the Mount are closed Tuesday. During the rest of the year, the police allow free access to the Mount through these gates, but only to Muslims.
Three gates are open only to Muslims aged over 50. This step is taken in order to prevent Muslim violence against Jews who enter the Mount. Younger Muslims have been issuing calls to interfere with Jewish entry into the Mount.
Jews may enter freely throught the Rambam Gate, next to the Kotel.
Jews were not as lucky last Wednesday and Thursday, on Rosh Hodesh (the celebration of the new month) of the Hebrew month of Iyar. Lines emerged as hundreds of Jews sought to visit the Temple Mount.
The Muslim gatekeepers worked at their usual slow pace, and very quickly a long line developed – stretching at times for dozens of meters, outside the Dung Gate of the Old City. The wait for some was hours.
“It is hard to believe that the state does not already recognize the Temple Mount as a Muslim site, with anyone who is a non-Muslim an unwelcome annoyance,” said Yehuda Glick of the Liba Project for Jewish Freedom at the Temple Mount.
“Police say that a half million tourists, meaning non-Muslims, visit the Mount annually, but it's clear that there are a million more who would like to visit but don't because of these long lines,” said Glick. “It's time that the government takes responsibility for visit procedures on the Mount.”
Despite its supreme importance to Jews as the site of the two Holy Temples of Jerusalem, non-Muslim visitors are banned from praying there and face arrest if suspected of doing so. Visibly Jewish visitors are subjected to particularly rigorous checks for "forbidden religious items", which many describe as discriminatory and humiliating, and religious Jewish groups are closely monitored both by Waqf officials and Israeli police.
Jewish groups often face blanket bans from ascending altogether, and Islamist groups regularly riot or engage in organized campaigns of harassment of Jewish visitors, in order to prevent Jews from ascending. The recent Jewish festival of Pesach (Passover) saw particularly severe riots by Hamas-affiliated groups on the Temple Mount - triggering calls for the resignation of Israel's Internal Security Minister and prompting Tuesday's conference.