The Temple Mount will be closed to Jewish visitors “until further notice,” the Jerusalem Post reported Saturday. The Israel Police made the decision after riots broke out again Friday following the afternoon Ramadan prayers at al-Aqsa Mosque. Local media estimated that somewhere between 90,000-150,000 Muslim worshippers attended the third Friday prayer session for the month of Ramadan.
After the prayers, several hundred Muslims clashed with police, throwing rocks and waving Palestinian and Hamas flags. The crowds shouted slogans in favor of Hamas and called for jihad (holy war).
Israel Police reportedly deployed a drone with tear gas to disperse the rioters. Prior to the prayers, Hamas had called for “mobilization” and one unnamed security official told Channel 12 news that Hamas recently increased its incitement to violence.
“We are the men of Muhammed Deif,” the crowds chanted, referring to the military commander of Hamas, on Israel’s ‘wanted’ list for over 25 years for his role in orchestrating countless Hamas suicide bombings, killings and kidnappings. Israel last targeted Deif during Operation Guardian of the Walls in May 2021.
Israel allows Muslims to visit and pray on the Temple Mount, whereas Jews are only allowed to visit but must refrain from praying or performing religious rituals, a policy commonly referred to as “the status quo.” The Temple Mount is the holiest place for Jews, as it is the site of the two biblical temples. However, it is a “widely reported reality” – at least in recent months and years - that Jews are frequently allowed to quietly pray on the Temple Mount as well.
The Arab world last week demanded an end to all Jewish prayer at the site. “Our demands are clear that al-Aqsa and Haram al Sharif in all its area is a sole place of worship for Muslims,” Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said speaking on behalf of Arab foreign ministers. “These violations are a blatant affront and provocation of Muslim feelings everywhere and they risk a cycle of violence that threatens security and stability in the region and the world,” the Arab League said in a statement.
Israel’s Diaspora Minister Nachman Shai warned Saturday that the status quo was “deteriorating” as more Jews go to visit the site. “There are a lot more Jews who are going up to the Temple Mount,” Shai said. “There are some that stop on the way and pray, which was forbidden. There is a certain escalation, a certain deterioration. Also with the status quo. They opened the Mount and let more and more Jews go there. The price that we will pay later, all of us, will be huge.”
During the Passover holiday last week, a record 4,600 Jewish visitors came to the Temple Mount. Earlier in April, six Jews were arrested for planning to sacrifice a goat at the holy site.
“Israel is preserving and will continue to preserve the status quo on the Temple Mount, and we have no intention of changing it whatsoever,” Foreign Minister Yair Lapid told a delegation of visiting U.S. officials last week. He added that the only ones to disturb Muslim prayer at the al-Aqsa mosque were, “extremists and Hamas supporters who took control of the mosque, desecrated it, disrupted prayer, launched fireworks, and threw Molotov cocktails and rocks.”
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.