The Gate of Mercy, or Shaar HaRachamim in Hebrew, also called the Golden Gate, as seen from inside the Temple Mount complex.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Jordan’s King Abdullah II left Amman for Washington on Saturday to speak with members of Congress about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the crisis over the Golden Gate on Temple Mount.
In talks on Thursday, Israeli and Jordanian officials failed to resolve what began on February 22, when Jerusalem’s Wakf Islamic religious trust unilaterally opened a building near the Golden Gate that Israel had closed in 2003. In response, Israel arrested a senior Wakf official two days later.
The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court is expected to allow the police to close the building again, unless the Wakf submits a written response to the court on Sunday.
Palestinian officials called on Muslim worshipers to head to the Temple Mount on Friday to protest the court’s intention to allow the police to close the building near what Jews call the Gate of Mercy and Muslims call Bab al-Rahma.
By noon on Friday, thousands had gathered. The Israel Police deployed mounted units and riot police to the Damascus Gate, along with the elite Yasam Special Patrol Unit, to confront any rioters.
After prayers ended, large crowds of male and female worshipers clogged the alleys of the Old City and the historic Via Dolorosa. Tourists and the Arab crowds pressed against each other, going in opposite directions as police looked on.
Hundreds of vegetable and fruit sellers set up makeshift tables and mats to sell their goods, as they do every Friday, adding to the masses of people and tensions. Dozens of beggars also came to the Damascus Gate and shouted for spare change.
Thousands more gathered near the Lions Gate, the site of clashes in July 2017, after a temporary decision by Israel to install metal detectors followed a terrorist attack.
Several young men tried to incite the crowds. But for the most part, the worshipers walked out of the gate without any incidents. Some young teens shouted at police, and words were exchanged, but the police apparently had orders to reduce tensions, not escalate the situation.
Outside the Lions Gate, worshipers walked back to A-Tur. Dozens of buses were parked along the street, in which worshipers were brought to and from prayers. Near the Gate of Mercy, adjacent to a large Muslim cemetery, some teens gathered to smoke and talk. Women took photos. Tourists examined the graves. Police units deployed for violence sat and looked on as they fiddled with their tactical vests and truncheons.
According to the Jordan News Agency, Abdullah is looking to “bolster the strategic partnership between Jordan and the United States,” and will also discuss the “latest regional developments, especially those connected to the Palestinian cause.”
Under the terms of Jordan’s 1994 peace treaty with Israel, Muslim shrines on the Temple Mount fall under the custodianship of the Hashemite Kingdom.
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