The Temple Mount in Jerusalem .
(photo credit: JACK BROOK)
Amid heightened security to protect thousands of fasting Jewish mourners observing Tisha Be’av at the Western Wall Sunday morning, police removed seven Israeli visitors from the Temple Mount for not adhering to the strict code of conduct at the contested compound.
“This morning there were disturbances on the Temple Mount, where over 400 Jewish visitors entered, when seven people did not behave according to how they were supposed to – meaning they did not walk in the direction they were told to, and they were removed from the area,” said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.
“After they were removed, hundreds of more visits continued throughout the morning without further disturbances.
Police units were on the Temple Mount to make sure that there were no major incidents.”
Rosenfeld said a total of 983 visitors, including 583 non-Jewish tourists, visited the compound on the annual day of mourning, which concludes Sunday evening.
He added that hundreds of extra police officers from various units are maintaining security throughout the Old City. No instances of violence were reported, he said.
Although the Temple Mount is Judaism’s holiest site – where the First and Second Temples once stood, before being destroyed by the Babylonians and Romans, respectively – the country’s Chief Rabbinate forbids Jewish visitation there due to ancient purity laws.
Nonetheless, numerous Temple Mount and rightwing activists who actively promote the construction of a third Temple contend that the purity laws are unnecessary, and that unlimited access and prayer rights should also be granted to Jews.
Moreover, the activists cite the Temple Mount’s “status quo” as an egregious example of selective religious segregation.
Jewish groups visiting the compound are assigned heavily armed security details due to chronic physical and verbal attacks by Muslim extremists known to stage riots in protest against Jewish visits.
There was a brief period of quiet on the Mount after the government banned two Islamic Movement Northern Branch hate groups, the Murabitun (for men) and the Murabitat (for women), from the site last September to stop their chronic attacks against Jewish visitors.
The groups’ expulsion led to a campaign of incitement by the Palestinian Authority focusing on the false and deadly accusation that the Jews intend to destroy al-Aksa Mosque, which has largely fueled the last 11 months of terrorist attacks.
Many imams, Palestinian political leaders, and even school teachers incite Arab youth to violence against Jews to “defend al-Aksa Mosque,” despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s repeated assurances that the status quo will remain.
The mounting violence in Jerusalem has led police to announce a NIS 1 billion initiative to recruit 1,200 more officers, build six police stations in the capital’s Arab neighborhoods, and install nearly 200 more CCTV cameras.