Daily Israel Report

Pope Toured Temple Mount, Prayed at Western Wall

Muslim websites denounce visit of pope to Temple Mount to 'provoke Islam,' but visit proceeded smoothly.
By Shimon Cohen, Ari Yashar
First Publish: 5/26/2014, 8:33 AM

The pope toured the Temple Mount Monday, in a visit that went very smoothly despite calls by Muslim extremists to prevent Pope Francis's visit to the holy site.

On the Temple Mount, the pope met with the Mufti of Jerusalem and the Jordanian Waqf (Islamic trust) which has de facto control over the holiest site in Judaism. There he said "may we work together for justice and peace."

Later, the pope headed to the Western Wall (Kotel) Plaza, which was cleared of all other visitors in advance by the police. He received a short lesson on the history of the Temple Mount, with the Kotel Rabbi, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich, at his side. He placed a note in the Kotel and prayed.

Afterwards he will meet with President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and place a wreath on the grave of Zionist pioneer Theodor Herzl in a gesture of apology, before visiting the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum and returning to the Vatican.

Muslims call to prevent "defilement" by pope

Muslim websites published various announcements inciting against the pope ahead of his Monday visit, calling on Muslims to come to Al-Aqsa Mosque to defend it from the "provocative teasing" by the pope.

The notices also called to prevent the "defilement" of the mosque, according to the Joint HQ of Temple Organizations.

According to the reports, the extremist Muslim sources warned that the pope's visit to the Temple Mount on Monday would ignite disturbances, and called on the Israeli government to prevent the visit.

The Temple Movements called on Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich to close the Temple Mount to all religions on Monday, so as not to let any side use the holy site to advance its position.

Several Muslim suspects have allegedly been arrested by police in recent days over suspected intentions to disturb the order, even as police have conducted a harsh crackdown on Jewish "extremist" youths.

A controversial visit

Jewish youths suspected by police of intending to protest against the pope, in what was termed a "provocative act," or who posted notices against the pope reading "impure, leave our Holy Land," were promptly arrested. The total of arrests last week was 15, although a judge ruled in favor of the two who posted the notice, allowing them to protest.

The pope has already courted controversy during his two-day trip to Israel by calling the Palestinian Authority (PA) the "state of Palestine" on Sunday. He likewise made an unexpected stop at the security barrier between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, built to prevent terror attacks, to pray at a section with "free Palestine" spray-painted on it.

Tensions have likewise been high over the pope's visit to the David's Tomb Complex in Jerusalem's Old City on Monday, where he will hold prayer services.

On Saturday night 15 protesters were arrested at the site after barricading themselves in as an act of protest against rumored plans to change the status quo of the site. Another 26 were arrested on Sunday while facing off against police who prevented them from entering the holy site.

Rabbi Avraham Goldstein, the Rosh Yeshiva (dean) of the Diaspora Yeshiva, told Arutz Sheva he has information indicating Israel plans to let Catholics hold fixed prayers in the Compound. The move would prevent Jews from entering the site, given that Jewish law forbids using a building used for idol-worship, a category Catholic worship with its effigies falls under in Jewish law.