Turkish tourists have begun holding regular visits to a Jewish prayer space at a holy site outside of Jerusalem, intentionally interfering in the locals’ prayer services in what some say is a bid to push Jews out of the space.
According to a report by Makor Rishon Sunday, Muslim tourists have begun holding regular pilgrimages to Samuel’s Tomb just outside of Jerusalem.
The compound, which is located entirely in Area C, under full Israeli control, and located between Jerusalem's Ramot neighborhood and the Givat Ze'ev suburb' is considered sacred by both Jews and Muslims.
The site has been informally divided between the two, with a functioning mosque on the premises and a space designated for Jewish prayer next to the tomb itself. In addition, Muslims have in the past been permitted access to the site used for Jewish prayer around the tomb when it is not in use by Jewish worshippers, and individual visitors have been permitted even at prayer time.
In recent months, however, groups of Muslim pilgrims visiting from overseas have begun disrupting Jewish prayer services at the site on a regular basis, entering the compound as a group, with a guide loudly talking over the Jewish worshippers, before leading the Muslim pilgrims in their own prayers.
Earlier this month, one of the pilgrims filmed one such incident and uploaded it up the title “[We] visited Samuel’s Tomb – and the Jews went crazy”.
During the incident, Jewish worshipers politely requested that the group of Turkish pilgrims not interrupt the afternoon prayer service. While the imam nodded, seemingly signaling his agreement, the group continued to pray loudly, making it difficult for the Jewish prayer service to continue.
One Israeli worker who helps maintain the site told Makor Rishon the visits are now a regular phenomenon, occurring three or four times a week, and appear aimed at intentionally disrupting the Jewish prayer services.
“I think it started right after the whole story with the magnetometers on the Temple Mount,” the source said, referring to the metal detectors placed at the entrances to the Jerusalem holy site in 2017 following the murder of two Israeli Border Police officers by Arab terrorists. The metal detectors were later removed by Israeli authorities.
“Since then, the Turkish pilgrims’ bus comes here three to four times a week. There are also Muslim tourists from India and China, but they’ve never behaved the way the Turkish pilgrims have.”
Behind the visits is a Turkish imam known for his anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, Ahmet Mahmut Ünlü.
Also known as Cübbeli Ahmet Hoca, the 53-year-old imam and backer of Turkish President Recep Erdogan is known for his popular videos on Islam, made available via Lelegul TV, and his fiery rhetoric against ‘Western imperialism’ and Jewish conspiracy theories.
In 2014, Ünlü accused the United States, Britain, and “the Jews” of orchestrating the expansion of the ISIS terrorist group in the Middle East.