A 35 percent rise in the number of Jews ascending the Temple Mount was recorded compared to last year's figures, and a record number of Jews who ascended in one day since the Temple Mount was liberated 50 years ago, are facets of the positive turnaround taking place in the relationship between Jews, police, and the Temple Mount. This is how the Temple Mount Organizations report the days of Passover.
According to the report, more than 1,300 Jews made pilgrimages to the Temple Mount during the holiday itself, and nearly 1,700 in a total calculation including the day after the holiday and holiday eve.
Rabbi Yitzhak Levy, a rabbi at Har Etzion hesder yeshiva, expert on the history and archaeology of the Temple period and a veteran pilgrim to the Temple Mount, defined the sweeping changes on the Temple Mount and its entrance as "the days of the Messiah." According to him, the revolution in service to pilgrims has switched from a feeling of resistance to invitation, one that warms hearts that beat for the Temple.
On the cooperation between the organizations and the police, they report that "even before the holiday, police commanders from all levels initiated talks and meetings with representatives of Temple Mount pilgrims at the joint headquarters and political echelons, with the aim of making the Jewish ascent to the Mount more efficient, and MK Yehuda Glick, who was in constant contact with the police, even arrived at the scene to examine entry arrangements. While the entrance for MKs to the mountain itself is still prevented by order of the Prime Minister. According to him, the police went out of their way to provide a positive and inviting ascension experience.
"The Temple Mount was never closed to Jews this Passover because of rioting or threats by Muslims, as opposed to previous years," he said, adding that "in the forum of police Temple organization monitoring headquarters, a series of preventive arrests and periodic detentions of Muslim suspects who have rioted in the past or intended to took place before the holiday. Also throughout the holiday the police prevented the entry of suspicious young Muslims to the mountain, and for the first time broke the locks on the Al-Aqsa Mosque, apparently in the context of locating suspects and assailants involved in throwing fireworks and stones."
"At the entrance gate to the Temple Mount, police permitted the establishment of a Temple Organization headquarters stand with light refreshments for those waiting to go up to the Mount, and the police even distributed blessing cards to the pilgrims. During the intermediate days of the festival, police brought Jews to the Temple Mount in two parallel groups simultaneously, and the waiting time was very short compared to previous years."
The only case in which the Temple Mount was closed to those waiting was due to a sudden sharp rise in the number of visitors. About fifty people were turned away and their visit was canceled. The Temple organizations note that even among those who managed to enter, not all were permitted to have a full circuit. "The police drew conclusions, increased forces, and under the command of District Commander Doron Turgeman, who went to the area in person, the number of Jews in each group was raised to 44. While last year such incidents were repeated over and over again in disregard of the visitors, this year the new inspection officer even warmly honored the visitors in his own home.
The organizations' headquarters note that the positive developments on the Temple Mount may be attributed to Interior Minister Gilad Erdan, the Police Commissioner, District Commander Yoram Halevi, and the Commander of the Territories, who have been working to remove disturbances from the Temple Mount and to improve Jewish pilgrimage to every place under their jurisdiction.
"On the other hand, the Prime Minister's office is still in a state of fear and worry about possible danger, and the Prime Minister is preventing Knesset members from going up to the Temple Mount, and at his request the police stop any Jewish prayer attempt in the area. It should be noted, however, that there has also been change in this issue. Throughout the holiday, 9 Jewish worshipers were removed from the mountain, compared to 43 on Passover last year.
"There is still much to be done on both the mountain itself and the miserable entrance gate today, and even the pressure on visitors to the Mount has not stopped altogether," say Temple Organization headquarters. "If the rate of immigrants continues to increase, the whole system of visits to the Temple Mount will change, pilgrimage will become unlimited, and the visitors being forced to leave to allow entry to the next group will cease. From there the road is open to prayer, renewing service, and afterwards building the Temple, which will take a much shorter time than the long path we have taken until now."