A man walks next to the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount compound .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In an unprecedented move, a deputy minister of the Foreign Ministry on Tuesday called on Jews to ascend the Temple Mount during Jerusalem Day on Wednesday.
Deputy Minister Tzipi Hotovely made the request at a speech before Temple Mount activists, one day after beseeching US President Donald Trump to fulfill his pledge to relocate the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and to renew construction in the West Bank.
“Go to the Temple Mount on Jerusalem Day,” Hotovely (Likud) implored members of Temple Mount organizations.
“Fifty years ago, we heard the call: ‘The Temple Mount is in our hands.’ Now, in the jubilee year, our job is to show that the Temple Mount is in our hands,” she continued. “The mount is open to Jews, and this is a great privilege that has fallen on our part.”
According to the Temple Mount Institute, the Foreign Ministry has never officially called upon the public to visit Judaism’s holiest site on Jerusalem Day.
The plea comes several months after UNESCO approved a controversial resolution claiming the holy site is unrelated to Jewish history, and less than one month after the organization approved another resolution claiming Israel does not have sovereignty over Jerusalem.
Amid heightened security, thousands of Jews are expected to convene at the Western Wall on Wednesday to celebrate the symbolic jubilee year.
Former Meretz city councilman Dr. Meir Margalit, who held the East Jerusalem portfolio, deemed Hotovely’s remarks a dangerous provocation.
“First of all, the police will never allow people to do this, so it’s just cheap demagoguery,” said Margalit by phone on Tuesday.
“Second, it seems that she doesn’t understand the message that President Trump sent to the Israeli government, which was very clear: He wants to achieve a peace agreement between Palestinians and Israelis.”
Margalit continued: “It is clear that this is a provocation against the message of President Trump. If Israeli politicians make such kinds of provocations, we will never achieve an agreement with the Palestinians. So, this is not just a provocation, it is sabotage of all the American efforts.”
Deeming Hotovely a geopolitical “pyromaniac,” Margalit said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must temper such inciting rhetoric from government officials.
“He should tell her that we are in a new period in the Middle East where Israelis cannot do whatever they like, and that from now on we have to be very careful if we want to keep this relationship with America,” he said.
However, Rabbi Chaim Richman, international director of the Temple Institute, which advocates for Jewish rights to freely visit and pray at the holy site, said Hotovely’s statements are long overdue, adding that the plea in no way undermines peace or a close relationship with the US.
“The Temple Mount is the most important and the only holy place for the Jewish people to pray at, so this is a question of perspective,” said Richman.
“I think it’s wonderful that the Temple Mount has become a part of the public discourse, as opposed to years ago when people said Temple Mount advocacy was radical,” he continued.
“The fact that government officials recognize the problem and irony of the imbalance of Jews not being able to pray there is a really wonderful thing, and shows the idea that Jews want to visit the Temple Mount – not because they are radicals, or to make trouble and threaten peace – but because of the innate and natural desire to be at a place that is holy to them.”
Moreover, Richman asserted that peace will only come when Jews are “treated with the respect they deserve.”
“Israel safeguards the rights of all the religions, but what about ourselves? What about our own rights?” he said.
“So, the elephant in the room is the fact that here we are, 50 years after the reunification of the city, and we’re not talking about the Temple Mount, which is the heart and soul of Jerusalem.”