Police allow Jewish visitors ascend Temple Mount

April 9, 2023 by Pesach Benson
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Israeli police allowed Jewish visitors to enter the Temple Mount on Sunday morning after the conclusion of Muslim dawn prayers.

Visitors entered the hilltop plaza in groups of around 20, escorted by police.

Jews visiting the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on April 9, 2023, during the week-long Passover holiday. Photos by Netanel Malchutya/TPS

For several nights, including Saturday night, Islamist Palestinians have barricaded themselves inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque with a stockpile of stones and firecrackers. Police did not enter the Temple Mount, and it is believed that guards employed by the Islamic Waqf, which administers the holy site, evacuated the Palestinians.

The Waqf is funded and overseen by Jordan, which appealed to Israel not to order police to evict the Palestinians.

Also, on Sunday morning, thousands of Jews visited the Western Wall for the traditional Priestly Blessing. The event, held during major holidays, features hundreds of kohanim, descendants of Aaron the Priest, giving special blessings.

There were fears that violence would disrupt the Priestly Blessing with the overlap of the Islamic month of Ramadan and the week-long Jewish holiday of Passover.

The Temple Mount, where the First and Second Temples were built, is the overall holiest site in Judaism. The Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall, is the only remnant of a retaining wall encircling the Temple Mount built by Herod the Great and is the holiest site where Jews can freely pray.

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.

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 organisation working to advance Jewish ties to the holy site.

The delicate status quo governing the Temple Mount 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.

Jordanian oversight over the Waqf is enshrined in the Israel-Jordan peace treaty of 1994.

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