On Friday, an estimated 15,000 Muslims packed into the Temple Mount for Friday prayers, the first time the site has been open in 45 days since the third national lockdown began.
Now with the easing of lockdown restrictions, Outdoor gatherings are supposed to be limited to 20 people in one space. But no doubt after tens of thousands ultra-Orthodox Jews attended two funerals of revered rabbis — in open defiance of Israel’s COVID regulations — there was no stopping Muslim prayers on Friday.
In fact, Israel actually cannot restrict the holy site, which is home to the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque.
“There is no solution,” coronavirus czar Nachman Ash acknowledged in December.
Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem are overseen by the Waqf, a Jordanian council.
Last week, Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion warned Arab officials that unvaccinated residents would not be permitted to pray at mosques, go to schools or stay at hotels.
“They are doing themselves a favor, they are not doing me a favor,” Lion was heard saying in an audio recording of the meeting. “If they do not want to be vaccinated, they will not be vaccinated, but they will not be allowed to enter hotels, they will not be allowed to enter mosques, they will not be allowed to enter schools, and then they will say: ‘Why didn’t you tell us?’”
Israel’s vaccination campaign has slowed down over the past week causing national and local government officials to roll out incentives, or threats, regarding withholding of services to those who haven’t gotten the shot.
Lion accused Arabs in Jerusalem of being “indifferent” to the national vaccination strategy.
“They will be under pressure soon when everyone goes back to work and then they tell him, ‘Hello, stop, you did not get vaccinated, stay home now,’” Lion said. “Remember what I tell you, friends — whoever does not get vaccinated will not be able to return to a normal routine.”
Nicole Jansezian was the news editor and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS.