Hundreds of Jews began ascending to the Temple Mount - the holiest site in Judaism - on Wednesday, in honor of Hoshana Rabba, the seventh and final day of Sukkot. However, the police closed off the Mount to visitors at 10:15 a.m., because of Muslim rioting that was led by Arab Knesset members.
Police said that about 500 people had visited the Temple Mount since 7:30 a.m., of whom 103 were Jews.
After a situation assessment, the Temple Mount was closed off to visits from 10:15 due to “operational considerations.”
Willow beating proceeds on course
Hundreds of police officers have fanned out in the Old City to provide security for thousands of Jews who went to the Western Wall (Kotel) for the Beating of the Willows ceremony.
In the ceremony, five willow branches, but not those used in the four species in the lulav, are struck on the floor at the end of the service as a reminder of similar services held in the Temple. Some commentators say that the willow branches symbolize the enemies of the Jewish people and G-d's revenge upon them, a major theme of the Sukkot Haftorah scriptural readings.
Three policemen were lightly hurt when Muslims threw rocks at them near the Gate of the Tribes of Israel to the Temple Mount. Four rioters were arrested. Violent rioting near the Lions' Gate was reportedly led by Arab MKs.
The police, who blocked Jews from entering the Mount in the first half of the seven-day Sukkot holiday, changed course Wednesday morning and began blocking Muslims under 50 from entering, in an attempt to quell violent Arab rioting.
However, the elder Muslims also exhibited their contempt for the Jewish pilgrims, and shouted wildly at them. Police therefore only allowed the Jews into the Mount in small groups, each of which was surrounded by a police force, for protection, during the morning hours.
This, too, stopped less than three hours after the Jewish tours of the Mount began, when all visits to the Mount were halted by police.
Before the closure, Jewish activists reported that the Muslims were conducting loud prayers in the Temple Mount plaza, while Jews were being specifically forbidden from any kind of prayer. The Temple Organizations Headquarters has called on the prime minister to close off the Temple Mount to Muslims on Jewish holidays.
Police said that the restriction on Muslim entry was decided upon due to intelligence information about plans by Arabs to riot at the compound, as they have done several times already in recent days.
The decision was made by the Jerusalem DistrictCommander of the police following an assessment conducted Tuesday evening.
Police were also deployed starting early Wednesday morning in eastern Jerusalem and the Old City to prevent disturbances. The Jerusalem Police said that "the police will have zero tolerance towards any party who tries to disturb public order."
Several Jews even succeeded in surreptitiously carrying out the commandment of waving the lulav on the Mount, as this video shows.
On Monday morning, the Jerusalem Police stormed the Temple Mount and locked Arab rioters inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The youths had collected rocks and fireworks and prepared firebombs, which they stored inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque in order to use them against police and interfere with non-Muslim visits to the Mount.
Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the rabbi of the Kotel (Western Wall) and Holy Sites, decried last week the Arab attempts to wreck the week-long Sukkot holiday by launching violent riots against police and Jewish visitors on theTemple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism.
Speaking to Arutz Sheva, the rabbi argued that the Arab rioters are intentionally trying to prevent Jews from reaching the site on Sukkot, one of the three Jewish pilgrimageholidays that in ancient times required Jews to travel to the Temple in Jerusalem.