Visiting the Temple Mount
Visiting the Temple MountFlash 90

Hundreds of Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount this morning (Tuesday) were turned back upon their arrival, after being informed at the gate that the police had decided to close Judaism's holiest site to Jews.

Scores of Jews from across the country - including participants in a pre-organized ascent of hundreds of Jewish schoolchildren - arrived in cars and buses, after undertaking the necessary preparations to ascend the Mount in accordance with many interpretations of Jewish law, including ritual immersion in a mikveh (ritual pool).

"We are talking about continued harassment against the Jewish world on the Temple Mount by the Israeli police. Hundreds of children made their way here with their parents after coordinating their ascent with the police," complained one visitor to Arutz Sheva.

"The police have once again violated the order of the Knesset's Interior Committee to open the Mount to Jews without disruption during the intermediate days of the Sukkot holiday," he added.

Among those visitors banned from ascending was Member of Knesset Shuli Muallem of the Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party.

Aviad Visulai, Chairman of the Temple Mount Movement - an umbrella organization representing Temple Mount activists - condemned the summary ban, and called for the replacement of the police presence on the Temple Mount with a private security company.

"The police have proved, again and again, that they are unable to secure Jews with free access to the Temple Mount," he said.

Visulai continued: "After the police closed the Mount to Jews during [the Islamic holy month of] Ramadan, they should have opened it exclusively for Jews during the Jewish festivals, to enable free access to all Jews, without submitting to Muslim terrorism."

The sweeping ban on Jewish visitors comes a day after a Jewish man was arrested for praying on the site, in violation of a ban on all signs of non-Muslim worship.

The Temple Mount is Judaism's holiest site, and the location of the two Holy Temples of Jerusalem. Despite that fact, in the face of pressure and threats of violence by Muslim extremists, the Israeli authorities enforce a ban on Jewish prayer or other religious rituals, on behalf of the Waqf Islamic trust, which administers the site.

Numerous court rulings have stipulated that Jews must be permitted to pray on the Temple Mount as a basic right to freedom of religion. Nevertheless, the Israeli police force has repeatedly ignored the rulings, citing unspecified "security concerns" as a pretext to continue enforcing the ban, and even barring religious Jews from the area for days or even weeks at a time.