Tzipi Hotovely visits Temple Mount.
(photo credit: EZRA GABBAY)
Police statistics show that Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site, have increased 92 percent since 2009.
The trend is driven by several activist groups who encourage Jewish Israelis and tourists to visit the Temple Mount because they want to reassert the Jewish connection to the site, one they feel has waned due to tight restrictions on non-Muslim visitation and a total ban on non-Muslim prayer.
According to the new figures, 10,906 Jews ascended the Temple Mount in 2014, up 28% from the 8,528 who visited the site in 2013. Some 7,724 Jews visited the site in 2012; 8,247 in 2011; 5,792 in 2010; and 5,658 in 2009.
“The official figures indicating that Jewish visits to the Temple Mount have almost doubled in recent years, clearly demonstrate that the Jewish people are undergoing a spiritual awakening, and reconnecting – not only to their most holy site, but to their own destiny,” said Rabbi Chaim Richman, the international director of the Temple Institute, which promotes Jewish visitation to the Mount.
“Many of our generation’s leading rabbinical authorities have determined that not only are halachically sensitive Jewish visits to the Temple permissible – such visits are actually a mitzva, in fulfillment of Jewish law. The time has come for all rabbis to deal with this important issue in the same earnest manner. As more Jews visit the site, the ability for our people to peacefully pray there increases exponentially.”
It has been the mainstream rabbinic opinion for many years to ban Jews from the site since it is impossible to know where certain prohibited holy areas are located. Several senior rabbinic figures in the national- religious community, however, have permitted visitation in recent years, arguing that the prohibited areas can be avoided.
The increasing number of visitors, who have included high-profile politicians such as outgoing Likud MK Moshe Feiglin, has led to demands for increased access and a reduction in the restrictions imposed on Jews and other non-Muslims at the site.
These demands have reached the Knesset, with Likud MK Miri Regev proposing a bill that would allow Jews to pray on the Temple Mount, while Deputy Religious Services Minister Eli Ben-Dahan has also advocated for changing the status quo.
The site is administered by the Jordanian government and the Wakf Islamic trust that bans non-Muslim prayer and restricts non-Muslim visitation to strict time periods.
The increased Jewish visitation and demands for prayer rights have led to vehement diplomatic objections by the Jordanian government to any change in the status quo, and the demands of Jewish activists have been used by Palestinian religious officials and politicians to incite against Israel.
On October 17, 2014, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said there was a “fierce onslaught on Al-Aksa Mosque, Jerusalem and the Holy Sepulchre Church,” and said Fatah should spearhead the effort to stop “settlers” from entering the Temple Mount.
“We should all remain present at the Noble Sanctuary [Temple Mount],” he said. “We must prevent them from entering the Noble Sanctuary in any way. This is our Al-Aksa and our church. They have no right to enter and desecrate them.
We must confront them and defend our holy sites.”
On October 29, Rabbi Yehudah Glick, a prominent activist for Jewish rights on the Temple Mount, was shot and severely wounded in an assassination attempt, which was followed by a further spate of Arab terrorist attacks.