Border Police officers patrol Temple Mount.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Sinai Province fires rockets towards airport used by multinational peacekeepers The left-wing NGO Emek Shaveh, a consortium of archeologists and community activists, published a report on Tuesday claiming that 144 individuals were denied access to the Temple Mount by police from 2012- 2014.
According to the organization, which “focuses on the role of archeology in Israeli society and in the Israeli- Palestinian conflict,” the data were provided by the police on restrictions applying to two broad categories: “visitors” and “worshipers.”
“‘Visitors” are all non-Muslim (including Jewish) tourists and the general public,” the report stated, adding that the term “worshipers” refers to Muslims.
Out of 144 instances of partial or complete denial of entry to visitors or worshipers between 2012 and 2014, the report stated that restrictions spiked last summer during the peak of Operation Protective Edge and Jerusalem rioting.
“In 2014, the restrictions to Muslims reached a peak of 41 instances of restriction by age or gender, and one closure of the entire compound for prayer,” the report stated, referring to the October 30 closure that followed the attempted assassination of right-wing activist Yehudah Glick.
“The tremendous increase in the number of days when worshipers were restricted by age in 2014 paralleled the rise of political tension that summer, coinciding with the kidnapping and murder of Israeli youths, the murder of Muhammad Abu-Khdeir, the Gaza attacks, and the clashes in East Jerusalem,” the report stated.
Broken down by year, the report found that 19 people were denied access to the Temple Mount in 2012, 44 people were denied access in 2013, and 81 individuals were denied access in 2014.
One of the report’s major findings is that, during the height of Operation Protective Edge and rioting in the capital last summer, the compound was temporarily closed to non-Muslims for 23 days – more than the preceding two years combined.
Additionally, the report claimed that police enforced age restrictions on 52 occasions between 2012 and 2014, barring Muslims under the age of 50 during periods of pronounced unrest.
“The police prefer to limit the age of worshipers rather than close the site to Muslim prayer,” the report stated.
In its concluding section, the report states that the status quo on the Temple Mount is overwhelmingly compromised during “political and security tensions in Jerusalem.” For instance, in 2014 the Israel Police imposed age restrictions on worshipers 41 times, amounting to nearly 15 percent of the year, it stated.
“This number indicates that the feeling among Palestinians that Israel is changing the status quo in the area is backed-up by police data, even if the restrictions were made due to extenuating circumstances, such as the attempt to murder Yehudah Glick,” it stated.
Moreover, the report said there is a direct correlation between access restrictions and increased attempts by right-wing Jewish groups, such as Glick’s Joint Committee of Temple Organizations, to challenge the status quo.
“The main challenge facing the Israeli authorities is to maintain the status quo during tense times, especially when the pressure for change comes from the right and the Israeli government,” it stated.
The report concluded that “in the future it will be impossible to separate events in Jerusalem from the changes to freedom of worship on the [Temple Mount], and the ability of the police to maintain the status quo.”
While police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said he could not verify the report’s accuracy, he emphasized that all restrictions at the holy site are carried out to ensure the safety of visitors and worshipers alike when a clear threat is presented.
“In general, only in specific cases have the police denied individual access into the Temple Mount or Old City based on security- related issues,” Rosenfeld said. “This is a standard procedure.”
“The Jerusalem police protect all the holy sites in the Old City, and specifically the Temple Mount, and carry out general security measures to allow access to the thousands of people that visit the Temple Mo