(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Decrying the “severe restrictions” facing religious Jews who attempt to ascend
the Temple Mount, MK Danny Danon (Likud) called Tuesday for “complete religious
freedom” atop the incendiary holy site, before going up to the mount himself to
mark Tisha Be’av.
Flanked by a large security apparatus provided by the
Jerusalem Police, Danon ascended to the site to mark the day on which the
destruction of the First and Second Temples occurred, and to voice his concerns
about the current state of access to the Temple Mount for Jews who wish to visit
it for religious reasons.
“Jews wearing kippot – religious Jews – who
wish to go up to the Temple Mount can only do so in groups of 10 or 15
a time, while Muslim worshipers are allowed free and total access to the
the thousands,” Danon said.
“This current situation cannot be allowed to
continue,” he added. “This place does not belong to the Wakf [the
that oversees the administration of Muslim sites on the Temple Mount] it
to the people of Israel.”
After returning from his nearly hour-long tour
of the site, Danon, who said the visit had been “very emotional,” told
that in addition to his police escort atop the mount, his entourage had
followed by Wakf officials and photographers.
“They watched and recorded
everything we did,” Danon said.
In a conversation with The Jerusalem Post
earlier on Tuesday, Danon had said that he saw “no more fitting day”
Be’av for a trip to the holy site.
“This is the day in which the Jewish
people mourn the destruction of the two temples that once stood upon
Danon said. “And I can think of no better time than today to go there
commemorate this mourning.”
Danon added that he planned on taking up the
matter of religious freedom at the site with Internal Security Minister
Aharonovitch in the coming days.
“I will meet with MK Aharonovitch in an
effort to find different ways to approach the current situation,” Danon
“In my opinion, my trip there today is an important step for
advancing this issue, and I plan to continue to work on it.”
hours before Danon arrived at the site, three Jewish protesters were
police after they attempted to “cause a provocation” during a small
was held near the Mughrabi Gate entrance to the Temple Mount.
protesters, many of whom were from a group called Free the Temple Mount
arrived at the site to both mark Tisha Be’av and call for “free and
access for Jews to the Temple Mount.”
Police reported no further
disruptions at the Western Wall plaza or throughout the Old City on
thousands of people ignored the summer heat and arrived at the Kotel and
surroundings for prayers and quiet reflection.
In the afternoon, dozens
of men could be seen sitting on the floor or on low stools next to the
Wall, reading Kinnot, liturgical poems, composed in memory of the
MK Danon’s visit to the site sparked somewhat of a flurry,
and dozens of worshipers and passersby flocked to the crowd of reporters
photographers to see what the commotion was about.
But minutes after
Danon and his entourage had left the area, the solemn tone of the day –
observant Jews fast and refrain from outward signs of enjoyment – had
to the Western Wall area.
“We’re waiting for Moshiah [the Messiah],” an
elderly, bearded man said, as he walked slowly across the plaza’s
stones. “And the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash [Holy Temple], may it
speedily and within our days.”