Against the backdrop of heavy rioting on the Temple Mount and inside Jerusalem's Old City, prominent rabbis and politicians called on Sunday evening for Jews to forge a stronger bond with the site, and to ascend the Temple Mount with increased vigor.
Nine police officers were lightly wounded and 21 Arab rioters were arrested during clashes on the Mount, in the alleyways of the Muslim Quarter and in east Jerusalem on Sunday.
The declarations came during a conference at the capital's Heichal Shlomo, which was attended by Rabbis Dov Lior, Yaakov Meidan, Yuval Cherlow and Elyakim Levanon, among others.
MKs Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), Uri Ariel (National Union), Arye Eldad (National Union), Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) and Uri Orbach (Habayit Hayehudi) were also in attendance, along with Jerusalem Deputy Mayor David Hadari (Habayit Hayehudi) and Likud Central Committee member Moshe Feiglin.
News of the gathering, which was organized in part by the Temple Institute - a Jerusalem-based organization dedicated to researching and, eventually, rebuilding the Temple - was linked to Sunday's unrest in the capital, as Islamic groups had apparently gotten wind of the rabbis' intention to call for Jews to visit the Mount.
The Islamic leaders mobilized their followers to head for the Mount as well, "in its defense."
Temple Institute director Yehuda Glick, who welcomed the series of speakers at the event, began by invoking the late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, telling the crowd, "Before he was murdered, [Rabin] said that the greatest danger facing democracy in Israel was the surrender to violence.
"Yet, recent events show an alarming phenomenon of police actually caving in to Palestinian violence on the Temple Mount."
Thus was the tone of the conference, in which Glick and others spoke out against "discrimination" against religious Jews who wish to visit the site.
"When a visibly Jewish person wants to go onto the Mount, they are made to wait, sometimes as long as an hour, while police subject them to humiliating security checks and searches," Yosef Rabin, who is affiliated with an organization called The Movement for the Establishment of the Temple, told The Jerusalem Post.
"Meanwhile, secular Israelis and non-Jewish tourists are allowed to enter the site freely. One of the messages here tonight, in addition to the call on Jews to increase their presence at the Temple Mount, is to call attention to, and hopefully put an end to, this discrimination by police.
"It's absurd to me that the only other place I know of where Jews are forbidden from praying, on a state level, is Mecca," Rabin added. "But we're talking about the Temple Mount - the holiest site in Judaism."
Rabbi Yaakov Meidan, the head of the influential Har Etzion Yeshiva in Alon Shvut, addressed the crowd in a similar vein, saying, "There are many people who believe that the police are leftists, or anti-Jewish.
"But I can tell you that the police are neither leftists nor are they anti-Jewish," he continued. "They are two things - one, they are able to identify the side that has momentum, and two, they prefer less work. Therefore, they will often assist the side with momentum, in order to make their own lives easier."
Meidan went on to explain that it was the Arabs who had the momentum on their side, and therefore the police preferred to keep Jews from praying on the Temple Mount, out of concern for Arab reactions.
"But if Jews were to increase their presence, keep coming to the Temple Mount, and if they get thrown out, come back and file a complaint, then we would gain the momentum, and I'm not talking about a few people here. I'm talking about hundreds and thousands," Meidan said.
Other rabbis discussed the halachic rulings that had been reissued by prominent rabbis recently, forbidding Jews from entering the Temple Mount out of concerns of ritual purity. Many high-profile rabbis, such as Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and the Lithuanian haredi Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv have publicly reiterated these rulings of late.
"But this is simply because they're afraid that people who don't know where they can or can't go, will go up and enter the truly forbidden places," said Rabbi Yosef Elboim, who heads The Movement for the Establishment of the Temple.
"If we were able to go up there and mark where it is permissible to go and where it is forbidden, I believe these rabbis would change their rulings," Elboim said. "Unfortunately, given the current climate, we cannot do that right now."
The rabbis weren't the only ones to make such calls. At the conclusion of the conference, Hotovely told the Post that a stronger bond needed to be forged between the Temple Mount and the Jewish people.
"And the way to do that is to declare it," she said. "The way to do that is to go there. True, this is something the rabbinical world is divided on at the moment, but I think it's something that the Jewish people should begin to do more."
Asked if she believed calls to increase Jewish visits to the Mount would only inflame tensions, Hotovely said, "It's the opposite.
"The more we back away from the Temple Mount, the more violence will increase. And not only will it increase, it will spread to other parts of Jerusalem, to the Kotel for example."