As Jews marked the second morning of the Pesach holiday, Muslims rioters marred the day by hurling flares and rocks at police forces on the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site. One police officer was reportedly slightly injured.
The Jerusalem police are on high alert and have fanned out in large forces around the Old City, in order to protect Jews who wish to pray at the Western Wall (Kotel) and visit other parts of the City.
However eyewitnesses have told Arutz Sheva that Jewish visits to the Temple Mount itself have once again been halted.
Temple Institute International Director Rabbi Chaim Richman said would-be visitors told him that they were forced to wait for an hour before being allowed up – after which the few who were permitted to ascend were very quickly removed as a result of the rioting.
Jewish Temple Mount activists say that police have not been allowing Jews into the Mount over the last two days, and have effectively caved in to Islamists who have holed up in the Al Aqsa Mosque, where they have stockpiled rocks.
On Thursday, the traditional Birkat Hakohanim, or Priestly Blessing ceremony, will be held at the Kotel plaza. Tens of thousands of Jews are expected to attend the ceremony, which is to be led by the Chief Rabbis of Israel. The event will be carried live on Arutz Sheva.
Hamas-linked Islamists rioted on the Temple Mount Sunday, preventing Jewish visitors from ascending Judaism’s holiest site.
In response, police banned Jews from the site – prompting Temple Mount activists to accuse authorities of essentially collaborating with Muslim extremists to prevent Jews from visiting the Mount. The Temple activists say that about 20 Hamas men stayed in the compound overnight and that the police allowed them to do so.
Israeli police on Monday announced that Muslim access to the Temple Mount would be curtailed. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that only men aged 50 and over would be allowed to pray. There is no age limit on women’s participation, however, he told AFP.
“It’s a precaution that has been taken after a security assessment of the possibility of disturbances,” the spokesman added.
Despite being the holiest site in Judaism, the Temple Mount is administered by the Islamic Waqf foundation, and Jewish visits are subject to strict restrictions including a blanket ban on prayers or other forms of worship, under pain of arrest.
Jewish groups have long condemned the discrimination as a surrender to Muslim extremism; a new bill proposed by the Jewish Home party is currently being debated to grant equal prayer rights to Jews and Muslims on the Mount.
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