Looking out on the Temple Mount.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The government discriminates against Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount out of concern for their safety, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Monday at the Knesset.
Erdan spoke at a conference organized by MK Yehudah Glick (Likud) to encourage more Jews to visit the holy site and to express thanks two years after he survived an assassination attempt by a Palestinian who cited Glick’s Temple Mount activism as the reason for the shooting.
"Jerusalem is a city of peace,” Glick said. “Peace means many opinions. I didn’t agree with everything said today, but the beauty of a democratic state is that everyone can express opinions.”
Glick presented Erdan with a certificate honoring the minister’s efforts to make the Temple Mount safer for Jewish visitors, specifically citing his banning of Islamic Movement-affiliated agitators, the Morabitun and Morabitat.
“I wouldn’t have believed two years ago, when you were hovering between life and death, that you would end up in the Knesset giving out certificates,” Erdan said “It goes to show you should never give up.”
The public security minister gave an overview of the policies relating to the Temple Mount, where he said the situation is “complex and explosive.”
“The status quo on the Temple Mount today discriminates against Jews,” who are not permitted to pray at the holiest site for Judaism, Erdan admitted.
“Muslims can pray there, and millions do each year.”
Erdan said the reason for the limitations on Jewish visitors is “violence and harassment” by Muslims on the Temple Mount, which he called “racist,” since they don’t treat tourists as badly.
“Our biggest concern is for the security of the visitors,” he said.
Erdan also said he has made it his goal to try to make entry to the complex easier for Jewish visitors.
The minister added that the police does not write its own policies for the Temple Mount; they are determined through a dialogue between the prime minister and Jordan, whose Islamic Trust (the Wakf) manages the site.
At the same time, Erdan said he finds the situation frustrating, because of his personal views.
“Our right to the Temple Mount is indisputable and no international group can rewrite history or deny that. The Temple Mount is the holiest place for the Jewish people; that cannot be changed,” he said, in a pointed reference to a recent UNESCO resolution denying Jewish ties to the site.
Several other speakers also referred to the UNESCO vote, which referred to the Temple Mount and Western Wall only by their Arabic names.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein called the decision a “joke” and responded with a quip of his own: “If we don’t have a connection to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, why are we always fighting about it?” Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said that, in 2017, in honor of the 50th anniversary of Jerusalem’s liberation, her ministry plans to give diplomatic visitors artifacts found in the Temple Mount sifting project, which searches for archeological finds in rubble from areas of the site destroyed in unauthorized construction by the Wakf.
“Contrary to the attempts to Islamicize the Temple Mount, Judaism does not take holy sites for itself, but allows free worship for all religions,” she said, quoting from High Holy Day prayers referring to the Temple: “Because my house will be a house of prayer for all nations.”
Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben Dahan called on the government to adopt regulations he drafted in his previous position as deputy religious affairs minister, regulating Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount.
“Even though I personally do not ascend the Temple Mount, because that is what my rabbis said, I support those who listen to their rabbis and go on the Mount. We must regulate Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, the sooner, the better,” Ben Dahan said.