Right-wing activists try to enter the Temple Mount compound (file).
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Hundreds of Jewish visitors attempting to visit the Temple Mount on Sunday and Monday mornings were forced to wait in line for hours at a time, rushed by police, or barred entry to the disputed holy site due to Arab threats, a student activist group claimed.
According to Tom Nisani, a spokesman for the Hebrew University-based Students for the Temple Mount, which advocates for greater Jewish prayer rights there, Jewish visitors were harassed or refused passage, while large groups of non-Jewish visitors were granted entry.
Noting that it is well known that the exponential influx of Jews attempting to visit the holy site during Passover and other holidays results in increased Arab harassment, Nisani said he expected police to be better prepared to safeguard the hundreds of Jewish visitors.
However, he said, when between 200 and 250 Jews queued up at Mugrabi Gate Sunday morning at 7:30, they were singled out and told to wait in an isolated area while their non-Jewish counterparts expeditiously ascended the bridge in groups as large as 40.
“We expected the police to do their job and let groups of Jews in on Sunday and Monday, but basically all the Jews with a kippa or tzitzit were put aside at the bottom of the bridge and told to wait, while Christians and other visitors were allowed directly in,” said Nisani.
When police did allow the Jewish visitors to enter, he said, it was limited to between five and 10 people at a time.
“Jews waited up to two hours in the sun and the police would not allow more than one small group up there at a time, because they claimed they could not protect us on the Temple Mount, because of Arab violence,” he continued.
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After the Jews waited until 9:30 a.m. to gain entry, Nisani said, police then forcibly ushered small Jewish groups to the holy site while pushing and shouting at them to come and go within “one minute or less.”
“They kept shouting ‘Keep going! Keep going! Don’t take any pictures!’ and ‘Get out as soon as possible!” he said, estimating that approximately 50 Jewish visitors did not get in at all.
“Some of the people who didn’t get in [had] traveled all the way from the North,” he said.
When he asked police why Jewish visitors were forced to rush, officers cited Arab violence and presented an ultimatum: You can either do a short tour, because of the Arabs, or just go home without any visit.
On Monday morning, when between 100 and 150 Jews lined up at for entry, police remained hostile to Jewish groups, Nisani said, while again granting non-Jewish groups of up to 40 unencumbered, regular passage.
“Today was even worse,” he said on Monday afternoon. “At 8:30 a.m. when people brought water for those waiting in line, the police shouted and threatened them, forcing them to leave.”
Nisani claimed that roughly 80 Jewish visitors were allowed in, many of whom were once again rushed, during the final two visiting hours between 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., to limit their time on the Temple Mount to a minute or less.
Asked to comment on the allegations of discrimination, Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that he was “not familiar” with any incidents of harassment of Jews, although he claimed that “special security arrangements” were made for Jewish visitors.
“Israeli police made security measures, taking into consideration how sensitive this time of year is,” he said.
“A number of groups visited the Temple Mount without any incidents taking place.”
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