Ben-Gvir visits Temple Mount

January 3, 2023 by TPS
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Israel’s far-right national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has visited the compound that houses the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, a move condemned by Palestinians as provocative and, despite warnings, it could lead to violence.

MK Itamar Ben-Gvir, leader of Israel’s Otzma Yehudit party, speaking to reporters in Jerusalem on Oct. 30, 2022. Photo by Shalev Shalom/TPS.

Israel’s Minister of National Security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, visited Jerusalem’s Temple Mount on Tuesday morning despite Palestinian threats of violence.

Following the brief walk around the holy site with a security escort, Ben-Gvir said, “Our government will not surrender to threats from Hamas.”

He added, “The Temple Mount is the most important place for the people of Israel. We maintain the freedom of movement for Muslims and Christians, but Jews also go up to the site, and those who make threats must be dealt with with an iron fist.”

Ben-Gvir’s office said in a statement that the visit was preceded by a security assessment with the heads of the National Security Agency (Shin Bet) and Israeli police who “determined there was no obstacle” for the minister’s visit.

The Likud party denied reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had discouraged Ben-Gvir from visiting. A number unconfirmed Hebrew media reports suggested that the Prime Minister wanted the visit delayed till after Netanyahu’s own visit to the United Arab Emirates. The Prime Minister’s Office confirmed on Monday that Netanyahu will make his first foreign visit as Prime Minister to the UAE. No date has been announced, but the trip is widely expected to be next week.

Ben-Gvir’s visit coincided with the anniversary on the Hebrew calendar of the beginning of the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem. The siege preceded the destruction of the First Jewish Temple and Jews mark the date by fasting.

The Palestinian Authority Foreign Ministry denounced Ben-Gvir’s visit, calling it an “unprecedented provocation.”

“Netanyahu bears responsibility for this attack on al-Aqsa,” the statement said.

Hamas spokesman Hazem Kassem also condemned the visit, saying, “The crime of the Zionist Minister Ben-Gvir in invading the Al-Aqsa Mosque is a continuation of the aggression of the Zionist occupation against the holy places.”

The Temple Mount, where the First and Second Temples were built, is the holiest site in Judaism. The delicate status quo governing it goes back to 1967, when Israel liberated the Old City of Jerusalem from Jordan during the Six-Day War.

Fearing a religious war, then-defence minister Moshe Dayan agreed to let the Islamic Waqf, a Muslim trusteeship, continue managing the holy site’s day-to-day affairs, while Israel would maintain overall sovereignty and be responsible for security. According to the status quo, Jews and non-Muslims would be allowed to visit the Temple Mount, but not pray there.

In September, the number of Jews visiting the Temple Mount crossed the 50,000 threshold for the first time in modern history, according to Beyadenu, an organization working to advance Jewish ties to the holy site.

While Judaism is the holiest place in the world for Jews, rabbis are increasingly divided over Jews ascending to the Temple Mount. For centuries, the widespread rabbinic consensus was that the laws of ritual purity still apply to the site. But in recent years, a growing number of rabbis have argued that ritual purity laws don’t apply to all sections of the Temple Mount and encourage visits to permitted areas to maintain Jewish connections to the Mount.


One Response to “Ben-Gvir visits Temple Mount”

    There are two distinct matters in question here, one halachic and one political. Halachically, there are issues with Jews visiting the Temple Mount. Politically, it is beyond outrageous that a Jew should be accused by a Hamas leader of “invading” the site of both of our Temples over which Israel holds sovereignty..

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