Daily Israel Report

Temple Mount: The Good News and the Bad News

Some religious Jews have enjoyed their recent visits to the Temple Mount, while others find that they are the victims of pure discrimination.
First Publish: 8/26/2003, 8:09 PM

The initial excitement over the opening of the Temple Mount to Jews appears to be wearing off, and in fact religious Jews are finding it harder and harder to enter. This morning, only one group of about 20 religious Jews was permitted to enter. Afterwards, Jews with beards and kippot (skullcaps) were made to wait for up to an hour and a half before being told that the Mount was closed - while all the while, other Jews and tourists were courteously waved in by the police and blessed with, "Enjoy your visit."

Arutz-7's Yosef Zalmanson recounts:
"I arrived around 9:45 AM, and met one person who had just completed his visit. He told me that everything had gone smoothly. When I arrived at the Mughrabim Gate, however [near the Western Wall], I found that things had apparently taken a turn for the worse. A group of religious Jews was being made to wait, while other tourists were waved straight in. When asked over and over when they would be allowed in, the religious Jews - some of whom had come from as far as Emanuel and Karnei Shomron - were merely told to wait and move back... I soon found out that the direct reason for the delay was the visit of two MKs on the Mount - Gilad Erdan of the Likud and Eliezer Cohen of the National Union. [MK Erdan later called on the Jewish public to visit the Temple Mount. - ed. note] We were happy to hear of their initiative, but felt sure that they would not be happy to learn that their visit was causing us such delays...
"When the MKs completed their visit and were talking to a cameraman, I showed MK Erdan the discrimination and asked him if this was right in his eyes. 'Is it conceivable that in Israel, the Jewish State, religious Jews should be told to wait on the side while other Jews are allowed in?' I asked him. 'Look how they let in some people, while we are forced to wait! Isn't this truly a disgrace?!' He explained that the desired goal of bringing as many Jews as possible to the Temple Mount could be achieved only at a slow pace...
"I again showed him the discrimination going on in front of his eyes, and finally he was in fact moved enough to say, 'Let me go check.' Erdan then returned to the Mount, and returned a few minutes later with good news - he had spoken to the police officer in charge, and we would apparently be let in very soon. Unfortunately, however, he did not stick around long enough to see that just a few minutes later, the police announced to us that the Mount was closed and that we would not be allowed in. It was still 25 minutes before the 'official' closing time, and some of us had come from very far and had waited a long time - but this did not bother the police. 'Come early tomorrow,' were their parting words, 'around 7:30 AM.'"

Rabbi Chaim Richman of the Temple Institute, who was among those who were allowed to visit this morning, painted a rosier picture. He told Arutz-7's Tamar Yonah that a group of distinguished-looking Moslems "accosted us - not physically - and continually provoked us, telling us that this was their property, etc. The mufti himself followed us the whole time and nearly punched one of us - but I have to say that for the first time in living memory, the police were visibly on our side. They [wanted] us to continue. The police were filming the Moslems, and calmed us and told us to proceed and not to worry...
"What was really amazing was that when we were leaving, a large group of Waqf agitators tried to block another Jewish group from coming up by starting to pray right there. The police actually stopped them; one of the policemen said to them, 'I'd like to see the first one of you dare to take out a rug or a prayerbook and start to pray' - and that stopped them. The police really made good on their promise not to allow the Moslems to dictate what's going on up there. We have to give credit where it's due - whether it's to [Public Security Minister] Tzachi HaNegbi or whoever... and just as one of the policemen even said to us: If only more Jews would come up here every day, we wouldn't have these problems. Now's the time for Jews to come to the Temple Mount!"

It was later learned that three Waqf officials who caused a disturbance yesterday and succeeded in impeding Jewish visitors to the Mount were arrested over the night. Two of them, including the head of the morning shift of the Waqf guard, have been ordered to deposit a 5,000-shekel bond, and will not be allowed on the Temple Mount for two months. "That's nothing," complained one Jewish activist, a Belzer Hassid who has been in the forefront of Temple Mount activity for over 30 years and who was witness to this morning's humiliation of religious Jews. "If it had been a religious Jew who had committed even one-thousandth of what they did, he would be sitting in jail for two months!"

Asked about the fact that entry into certain parts of the Temple site makes one liable for 'karet' (the Biblically-mandated Divine punishment of 'cutting off'), the man - an educator in the Sochatchover Yeshiva in Jerusalem - explained that because we know the exact sites that are forbidden, those who follow rabbinic guidelines need not worry that they will step even near the banned areas. He then added mockingly, "Look who's talking about 'cutting off' - a people that already has its head cut off [referring to the Holy Temple]! We are like a body without a head - and it's of course much more comfortable to live just a 'fleshy' [materialistic] existence, without our 'head'..."

He expressed the hope that the on-again, off-again opening of the Temple Mount would not deter Jews from visiting the holy site - after ritual immersion in a mikveh, removing shoes, and knowing the permitted places - and once again becoming "regulars" there.