For the first time since shortly after the Six-Day War - according to Temple Mount Faithful members - large organized groups of religious Jews visited the Temple Mount this morning. Three groups totaling over 100 people, all of whom immersed in a mikveh (ritual bath) prior to the visit, entered the Temple Mount compound, and circled the compound from within accompanied by a professional guide.
One of the participants, a member of the Temple Mount Faithful, enthusiastically told Arutz-7's Yosef Zalmanson today, "This is most definitely a turning point in terms of our efforts on behalf of this holy site. We had a feeling of freedom. The police specifically did not tell us that we were not allowed to pray, and I would even say that they turned a blind eye when they saw some of us saying Psalms in groups of 2 and 3. Some of our group even bowed down on the ground..."
"Until now," he continued, "when religious Jews were allowed up, it was only in small groups of two or three or four, closely guarded by a policeman on one side and a Waqf official on the other. We were not even allowed to talk too much, and certainly not to recite Psalms. This time, we were free to walk around for over an hour, and our guide, Yoel Elitzur, even took us to places on the eastern half of the compound. We of course avoided all places that according to some rabbinic opinions are forbidden halakhically."
The Temple Mount loyalist gave a "pat on the back" to Public Security Minister Tzachi HaNegbi, "who was instrumental not only for the visit itself, but was also apparently responsible for the police's benign approach."
Another participant noted that not everything was roses, however. Fifty people waiting to enter were not allowed to do so, "because the Waqf people act as if the site belongs to them, and they close the gates at 11:00. It was heart-breaking to see people who came from all over the country, including a bridegroom whose wedding is tonight, being sent away without being let in... In addition, one person who insisted on wearing only socks [Jewish Law forbids leather shoes on the Mount, and he hadn't brought slippers] was thrown out and is not allowed to visit the site for 15 days... It's a disgrace."
The first-quoted visitor said, "We see this as a great turning point, and praise the police for 'ignoring' our prayers today - but we want Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount to be truly free... From now on, until further notice, groups of this type will be allowed up every morning until 11 AM - and so the ball is now in our court."
Yoel Elitzur, the first group's guide, later told Arutz-7,
"Until now, when we were allowed up [long ago], it was a humiliating process, with identity cards and phone checks, etc. - but this time it was much different. Early this morning, I went with my 11-year-old son to the Wall, after having gone to the mikveh and making sure to complete the morning prayers by 8 AM, when the Temple Mount gate opened. It was very exciting. We waited around for a short while until a group gathered, in accordance with a police request. The basic feeling was that even though there were limitations, we were basically free... The ruins that the Arabs made there with their recent construction work were not visible to us; they are basically underground. What they destroyed is already in the garbage dumps of Jerusalem."
Elitzur made a special call to Arutz-7's listeners:
"I would like to say that I see as one of the greatest moment in world history the announcement during the Six-Day War that 'the Temple Mount is in our hands.' There was great excitement, followed by a great disappointment with what could be called a national treachery there, and we were thrown out of the Temple Mount in a humiliating way - and it could be that we deserved it, because the number of visitors was so meager that simply was not honor to G-d... I take part every month in the march around the Temple Mount gates. I feel that this is an event that has much 'siyata dishmaya' [Divine Providence], in that it has grown from a few dozen to a few thousand participants in a matter of months. I ask myself, 'Are we allowed to let this 'siyata dishmaya' go to waste?' I am sure that the great strength of these thousands can be used - and I call upon them, as well as those who did not take part, to fulfill the Halakhah [Jewish law], immerse in the mikveh as required, and come to the Temple Mount, and take advantage of this new situation. Let us change this degrading situation in which this most holy spot on earth has been Judenrein, and let's have Jews once again be regulars on the 'Mount of the House of our G-d.'"
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