Mosques on the Temple Mount
Mosques on the Temple Mount Israel news photo: Flash 90

On the eve of the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah, at least three Jews and one Arab were arrested on the Temple Mount before noon on Sunday.

A man with three children was arrested, on suspicion of praying in violation of police instructions “aimed at avoiding confrontations with Muslims” on the holy site.

A spokesperson for the Jerusalem District Police announced also that two Jews were arrested on suspicion of prostrating themselves on the site.

Aviad Shapira, son of Rabbi Moshe Shapira, and brother of Rabbi Yehoshua Shapira of Ramat Gan and Rabbi Yitzchak Shapira, head of the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva, was one of those arrested. The second detainee was Moshe Spitz of the Jewish community of Neria.

Both were suspected of praying on the Temple Mount, police said, and were arrested despite the apology and assurance of a local police commander, Avi Biton, who noted that one prayer on the site is permitted in accordance with a decision by the Supreme Court.

In general, praying on the Temple Mount is forbidden by law, police have said. Prostrating one's self is considered to be part of prayer, and treated as such by police when spotted. 

Police also said that an Arab was arrested as well, on suspicion of being involved in organizing the disturbances that took place at the site on Friday.

All three detainees were taken to the David District police station for questioning. Authorities continued to allow visits to the Temple Mount by non-Muslims as usual.

Hundreds of Muslim worshipers hurled rocks at police officers stationed at the Mughrabi Gate to the Temple Mount on Friday, after prayers ended at the Al Aqsa mosque on the site. No one was physically injured, but police had to force their way on to the holy ground and use stun grenades in order to repel the attackers.

It is not clear how the worshipers were able to suddenly access their abundant arsenal of stony missiles, since they had poured out of the mosque, allegedly after "prayers." 

One day earlier, Muslim violence at the mosque had succeeded in preventing Jews from not only reaching the Temple Mount – Judaism's holiest site – but also managed to block Jews from accessing even the Western Wall, the Kotel, which is adjacent and also considered holy and a part of the area. Police barricaded the area and stopped people from entering the Western Wall plaza even though large crowds had streamed in from around the country, and some from abroad, in order to pray at the Wall during the holiday of Sukkot.

The seven-day holiday is one of the three festivals in the Jewish calendar during which Jews are commanded to “go up to Jerusalem to pray” at the Holy Temple – the sole remnant of which is the Western Wall that surrounded it.