According to the Yeraeh organization, which promotes Jewish visitation and prayer rights at the Mount and seeks to rebuild the Jewish Temple at the site, 1,263 Jews visited from 7:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. – a record for a single day.
The previous record was 995 Jewish visitors this past Jerusalem Day. Last year, only 400 Jews visited the site on Tisha Be’av.
On Tuesday afternoon, Israel Police arrested three Jewish men, allegedly tasering one of them who was already on the ground, following an altercation in the Old City just outside the Temple Mount.
According to the police, the three men became involved in a heated dispute and then a physical confrontation with an Arab man close to the Chain Gate (Bab al-Silsala), where non-Muslim visitors exit the Temple Mount.
Police arrived at the scene to halt the fight and arrested the Arab man along with the three Jewish men.
Video footage shot during the arrest shows the police using considerable force against the detainees, and at one point, one of the policeman draws a taser gun, although it is unclear from the video if he used it or not.
Yair Kehati, a Temple Mount activist who happened to be present and who shot the video, told The Jerusalem Post
that the police officer “100% used the taser,” saying that he heard the signature sound of the device.
In the video, a policeman can be seen pushing and shoving one of the detainees and then wrestling him to the ground. Another one of the detainees was also wrestled to the ground, and while already lying down, was apparently tasered by one of the policemen.
The police said in response to the incident that the men arrested “opposed the instructions of the police, and began to attack the policemen,” although the video shows no evidence of the detainees attacking the policemen.
“Security and protection operations of the police and Border Police in Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount, is conducted professionally and sensitively,” the police said in a statement.
According to Yeraeh, the recent tensions over the Temple Mount and the volte-face by the government over metal detectors at the site has generated massive interest in visiting the site.
The large number of visitors caught the attention of Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, who alleged that “extremists broke into al-Aksa [Mosque],” during a conference in Istanbul of foreign ministers from 45 Islamic states.
“One crisis has finished, but many more dangerous crises are likely to break out because of the ongoing violations of Israel, like that which we have seen today,” said Safadi.
“It is a Palestinian-Jordanian- Arab Islamic promise to defend al-Aksa Mosque and the Temple Mount against the efforts of the occupation to change the place from an Arabic, Islamic, Christian [site],” he added.
Asaf Fried, a spokesman for an association of organizations dedicated to Jewish rights on the Temple Mount, said that the activist groups had been receiving numerous calls since the crisis ended from people seeking to visit because they felt that the government had forfeited the state’s sovereignty over the site.
“People are very angry; the government’s behavior last week was humiliating and degrading,” said Fried.
“If Moshe Dayan gave the Wakf the keys to the Temple Mount in 1967, then last week Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave over sovereignty of the Temple Mount to the Wakf.”
According to the police, nine Jewish visitors were removed from the Temple Mount on Tuesday for not abiding by regulations at the site, most likely meaning that they attempted to pray or bow down, and five were arrested for attacking policemen and interfering with policemen while carrying out their duties.
Jewish and any non-Muslim prayer is strictly forbidden on the Temple Mount by the Islamic Wakf.
Along with the new record for Jewish visitation on one day, records have also been broken for Jewish visitation during this Hebrew calendar year, with 18,000 Jews having visited the Temple Mount in the framework of organized tour groups this year, easily beating last year’s figure of 14,908, and with six weeks of the year still to come.
Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef spoke out against the mass visitation by Jews to the site, echoing the long established position of the Chief Rabbinate, and the general haredi perspective, that visiting the Temple Mount is prohibited due to an impure Jewish status that cannot be expunged in present times.
“Precisely today, Tisha Be’av, the day on which the Temple was destroyed, we must repeat that going up to the Temple Mount is forbidden according to Jewish law; those Jews who go up are desecrating its holiness,” said Yosef.
There are, however, a significant number of national-religious rabbis, including prominent arbiters of Jewish law such as Rabbis Nachum Rabinowitz and Dov Lior, who permit and encourage Jewish visitation to the holy site, and who last week called on Jews to visit the Temple Mount “to strengthen our hold on this holy place.”
Rabbi Eyal Yaakobovitz, dean of the Hesder yeshiva in Safed, said on Tuesday that he was greatly saddened by Yosef’s comments about desecrating the holiness of the Temple Mount.
“God forbid that those who go up stain its holiness, the opposite is true, for it is said of them ‘Zion rejoices in her sons,’ and there is no more fitting day than today to fulfill the words ‘You will arise and have mercy on Zion... because your servants take pleasure in her stones and love her dust,’” said Yaakobovitz.
Magen David Adom treated more than 170 people who fainted or felt weak, dizzy or confused during the Tisha Be’av fast on Tuesday. The numbers were higher than usual because of the heat. Sixty-six fainted and six suffered from dehydration.
No severe cases were recorded. Large numbers of medics and paramedics were on duty around the country, especially at the Western Wall plaza in Jerusalem where thousands prayed. Dozens more people who felt unwell during the fast were treated at Terem clinics.Judy Siegel contributed to this report.