Jews waiting to enter the Temple Mount
Jews waiting to enter the Temple Mount Israel news photo: Flash 90

The Temple Mount was closed to Jews Monday morning for the second day in a row during this holiday week of Sukkot, following an incident in which a group of some 50 Chassidim attempted to reach the Mount of Olives and were attacked by a mob of Arabs.

Male Arab worshipers above the age of 50, women of all ages and children are being allowed to continue to enter the site.

"They were lucky to escape with their lives," Israel Police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld told Israel National News, adding that police would reassess the situation "in a few hours, once the Birkat HaKohanim (blessing of the priestly class on the People of Israel) is completed at the Kotel." He noted that the Temple Mount had been closed to Jews as a precaution "due to the security risks involved."

When asked why Jews were being blocked from the area, when it was the Arabs who had attacked, Rosenfeld had no comment, other than to repeat the information that the decision would be reviewed in a few hours' time. "The situation is changing rapidly," he added.

Tens of thousands of Jewish worshipers streamed to the Western Wall early Monday morning to be present for the traditional ceremony, a blessing performed during each Jewish festival. The ritual is one that hearkens back to a similar practice during the time of the Holy Temple.

The incident follows one on Sunday in which Fatah-linked Islamic clerics called on Arab worshipers to "come protect the Mount."  Israel Police quickly moved into place, cordoning off the area and blocking access to the site. Nonetheless, Arab violence followed, with some 250 Arabs hurling rocks and bottles at police near the Lion's Gate. At least one police officer was injured and several people were arrested.

The violence continued into the night, with Arabs in the northern part of the capital burning tires and flinging rocks at passing vehicles. One police officer was wounded and two of the attackers were arrested.