Temple Mount worshipers attack police with rocks

Police: Tensions have increased due to religious Jews who insist on openly praying there.

Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount 390 (photo credit: Ilan Evyatar)
Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount 390
(photo credit: Ilan Evyatar)
The Temple Mount was the scene of violent clashes Friday, as hundreds of Palestinian worshipers threw rocks at police near Mugrabi Gate following their weekly prayer.
A police official said Saturday that approximately 30,000 Muslims attended the Friday prayer and afterward hundreds of young Palestinians began throwing rocks at police, forcing officers to use stun grenades to disperse the crowd.
Three Palestinians were arrested after the clashes and no officers were seriously harmed, the official said.
Five days earlier, police were forced to close the holy site after two Muslims attacked two Jewish visitors who sang Hanukka songs there. A video uploaded on the Internet purports to capture the fight, which began after the Jewish men, accompanied by a police escort, sang the Hallel prayer and a number of Arabs promptly confronted them.
Two men from the group then assaulted the Jewish visitors, resulting in the arrest of all four, police said.
The area continues to serve as ground zero in the violent religious tug-of-war between Muslims and Jews at the holy site.
Although the Supreme Court has upheld Jewish prayer rights at the Temple Mount – which is overseen by the Wakf Muslim religious trust – the court also allows police to prevent any form of worship there if they believe such activities will incite a “disturbance to the public order.”
This caveat has resulted in a contentious debate among religious Jews and the government, as any form of prayer among Jews there – including simply moving their lips to appear to be praying – is considered a “public disturbance” and has resulted in a plethora of detainments.
Last month, a Knesset Interior Committee meeting to discuss the continued restrictions Jewish visitors face on the Temple Mount degenerated into a shouting match, with Arab politicians threatening a third intifada.
While some rabbis outlaw ascent to the Temple Mount in absolute terms, others insist that Jewish prayer at the site is, within certain limits and with proper preparation, permissible and even laudable.
It is a widely held that Jews are forbidden from going to the site of the Temple because of ritual impurity caused by contact with the dead. The religious establishment, principally the Chief Rabbinate, actively reinforces this notion.
However, at last month’s Knesset meeting, Deputy Religious Services Minister Eli Ben- Dahan (Bayit Yehudi) announced he was seeking to reach an agreement with the Chief Rabbinate to allow Jews to pray there.
Asked what has precipitated the pronounced uptick in violence, Police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said Arabs are growing increasingly incensed by religious Jews who increasingly illegally pray there in an act of civil disobedience.
“The Arabs don’t like Jews coming there to pray, and an extreme group of Jews is going there to provoke them,” he said.