Riots erupted on the Temple Mount on Sunday, as Muslims celebrating Eid al-Adha (“Festival of Sacrifice”) attempted to prevent Jews from entering. Police ultimately pushed back against the protesters to allow a record-breaking number of Jews to visit the site.
Hundreds of Jews lined up to visit the Temple Mount on the morning of Tisha B’Av, the day on which Jews mourn the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem, as well as a series of calamities which befell the Jewish people throughout history on the same date.
However, local Islamic authorities on Friday had urged Muslims to converge on the site on Sunday in the hope of preventing Jews from praying there.
“This decision comes after the organizations of the alleged Temple requested the occupation government to allow Jews to break into Al-Aqsa during Eid,” the Higher Islamic Commission, the Council for Wakf and Islamic Affairs and the Supreme Council of Fatwa said in a joint statement on Friday.
Mufti of Jerusalem Sheikh Mohamed Hussein also announced on Friday that the Eid prayers in Al-Aqsa would be delayed for an hour, to start at 7:30 a.m. instead of 6:30 a.m. on Sunday, with the aim of hindering Jewish access to the site.
Indeed, on Sunday morning some of the 80,000 Muslim worshippers confronted police on the Temple Mount, causing them to close the site to Jews, citing security concerns.
“A special assessment was conducted by the Jerusalem district commander, and eventually it was decided that, given the … high friction potential, visits to the Temple Mount would not be possible at this time,” the Jerusalem District Police Spokesperson’s Unit announced in the morning.
Right-wing politicians and others decried the closure, calling on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reverse it.
United Right Party leader Ayelet Shaked told Army Radio that it is “important on this day for Jews to enter the area,” while former Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat praised police for “appropriate” consideration for Muslim worshippers, but said “we must continue to allow Jews to ascent the Temple Mount. Exercise your authority and do not capitulate to .”
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SOURCE: Jerusalem News Service, Malkah Fleisher