A large group of Muslms on the Temple Mount
A large group of Muslms on the Temple MountTemple Mount HQ

Hundreds of Jews who attempted to ascend the Temple Mount Wednesday morning were shocked to discover that they were barred entry onto the holy site. The ban came after Muslim groups demanded that Jews stay off the site, and despite a promise by police that Jews would be allowed to enter it.

Tens of thousands of Jews visited the Kotel (Western Wall) Tuesday night and Wednesday, celebrating the holiday of Shavuot. Among the customs of the holiday is an all-night Torah learning session, topped by morning prayers that began at dawn. Shavuot is also one of the three festivals in which Jews are bidden to “appear before G-d,” visiting the Holy Temple – which is on the Temple Mount. In commemoration of this commandment, many Jews ascend the Mount on the Passover, Sukkot, and Shavuot.

Jews attempting to enter the site on Wednesday morning witnessed dozens of armed Arabs who were apparently waiting for the gates to open, planning to being a riot. Police did not intervene to remove the group which appeared to be preparing for a riot, but instead kept Jews off the site. Activists said that this was at least the fifth festival in row in which Jews were banned from the Mount.

Dozens of people who attempted to enter the site – many of them coming to Jerusalem specifically for this purpose – said that they would petition the High Court to demand that police provide them with the necessary permits and protection to allow them to enter the site.

Activists said that they would also demand that the government replace Public Security Minister Yitzchak Aharonovich, whom they say is personally behind preventing Jews from ascending the Mount.

Activists also added that they would once again attempt to enter the Temple Mount site on Thursday. They said that Wednesday's closure may have been due to complaints by Jordan over the visit of 400 Jews to the Mount on Tuesday. Muslim worshippers, who often harass Jews on the Mount, were not allowed access because police and the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) had received intelligence about “malicious intentions” and Islamist incitement calling on Arabs to riot and prevent the Jews from entering.

Jordan chose to condemn Israel's deployment of large number of troops and police on the Temple Mount.

According to the official Petra news agency, Amman said Israel’s move is tantamount to “a flagrant violation of international law.”

The Temple Mount is Judaism's most sacred spot. Israeli police, in an attempt to appease the Muslim Waqf which was left in charge of the Temple Mount 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.