Muslims pray at Temple Mount.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Temple Mount will be closed to all non-Muslim visitors for the final 10 days of Ramadan, which concludes on July 17, police said on Tuesday.
The temporary closure of the contested holy site to non-Muslims has become pro forma for the end of the month-long holiday over the last several years, Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
“This is standard procedure for security reasons,” he said. “Last year the Temple Mount was also closed for security-related reasons for the final 10 days of Ramadan to ensure a peaceful conclusion to the holiday.”
While Rosenfeld did not state why the final 10 days necessitated visiting restrictions, he emphasized that the measure is temporary, and will be lifted as soon as Ramadan ends.
“Immediately after the holiday concludes the Temple Mount will be open again on regular days and hours for all tourists and visitors,” he said.
Outside of Ramadan, the Temple Mount is usually open to non-Muslims for three hours every morning and one hour in the afternoon, while during Ramadan it is only open only in the morning.
The Joint Committee of Temple Organizations – an association of right-wing groups seeking full Jewish prayer rights, as well as Israeli sovereignty on the Temple Mount – has condemned the practice, which was first enforced five years ago.
On Tuesday, Rabbi Yehuda Glick, a spokesman for the committee, described the closure as an “escalation into giving into terror.”
“Until five years ago, it was closed for the last three days [of Ramadan], then they closed it for four more days, and two years ago they began closing it for 10 days,” he said.
“This week it was barely open, and we’re getting to a point where they’re going to close it down every day of Ramadan for the simplest concern that violence will occur there.”
According to Glick, who was nearly killed last year in an assassination attempt over his activism for Jewish prayer rights on the Temple Mount, the police-enforced closures will engender more violence.
“It’s a very sad and dangerous message to violent, radical Muslims that if you threaten us with violence, it will be shut down,” he continued.
“And that’s the goal they hope to reach.”