Dozens of demonstrators peacefully gathered at the locked Mugrabi Gate leading
to the Temple Mount early Wednesday to protest unusually stringent police
restrictions against the admission of Jews to the site during the Muslim holy
month of Ramadan.
The site, which is overseen by the Wakf Muslim
religious trust, was initially open to Jews during mornings in the first two
weeks of Ramadan. However, on several occasions, when Jewish visitors were
threatened by Muslim worshipers, police were forced to evacuate
Indeed, last month during Tisha Be’av – considered the saddest day
of the Jewish calendar, when Jews mourn the numerous tragedies that have
befallen them on that date, including the destruction of the temples – officers
barred them from the Temple Mount due to Muslim threats.
Supreme Court has upheld Jewish prayer rights at the site, the court allows
police to prevent any form of worship there if they believe such activities will
incite a “disturbance to the public order.”
During Tisha Be’av, police
spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the decision by police to bar Jews from entering
the Temple Mount had been a preemptive measure after a security assessment
determined there was an imminent threat to their safety.
At 7:30 on
Wednesday morning, demonstrators draped in tallitot and wrapped in tefillin
quietly held a prayer vigil behind the locked Mugrabi Gate while Rabbi Yehuda
Glick, a spokesman for the Joint Committee of Temple Organizations, expressed
“Basically, in the past, during the month of Ramadan,
the Temple Mount was closed for three days to Jews, which we accepted,” said
Glick. “This year they closed it for two weeks of the month – and for the first
10 days they only let us in for two hours instead of three.”
Mount is normally open to non- Muslims for three hours every morning and one
hour in the afternoon – while during Ramadan it has previously been open to Jews
in the morning for the majority of the month.
“We feel that the rights of
Jews at the Temple Mount are getting worse and we’re afraid this process will
escalate,” said Glick. “We’re here to warn that we won’t tolerate this anymore –
and just like they want us to respect Ramadan, they need to respect our
Glick said he blamed government capitulation to Arab threats for
the increasingly prohibitive hours for Jews.
“They don’t have the guts to
make the decision that Jews have rights in Israel,” he said.
Ephraim, a 19-year-old Jerusalem yeshiva student, expressed exasperation regarding
the heightened restrictions.
“Har habayit [the Temple Mount] is the
holiest place on Earth for the Jewish religion,” he said. “The third Temple is
supposed to be built here. This is the only place Jews are commanded to go
Ephraim said his frustrations were compounded by the restrictions
against open Jewish prayer when Jews are granted passage.
caught praying there you are arrested,” he said. “And now, in the past few weeks
because of Ramadan, the only gate we can use has been
Non-Muslims are prevented from praying at the site out of
concern that it could inflame tensions with Muslim worshipers. Indeed, police
have issued numerous bans against individuals found to be praying at the Temple
“We’re here to say we’re fed up!” Ephraim added.
Jews should have the right to pray at the Temple Mount,” said Mordechai
Goldberg, an accountant from Jerusalem.
“Normally Jews are allowed to go
up but not allowed to pray, which is outrageous,” he said.
Ramadan they won’t even let us go up, which is giving in to Arab
Goldberg added that Jews had been denied religious freedom
in a country that promotes pluralism.
“This country prides itself on
religious freedom – except for Jews,” he complained. “They forbid us from
bringing up Jewish ritual objects or even opening our mouths to pray. People
have been arrested just for moving their lips, and not even praying!” Elisha, a
29-year-old tour guide who requested that his last name not be used, said the
present impasse contradicted the Torah.
“The Torah says: ‘From my house
will be a house of prayer for all nations,’” Elisha said.
fulfillment of Jewish expression happens on the other side of this wall,” he
continued, pointing to the Western Wall. “What do God and Jews want for
themselves? It’s on the other side of that wall, and we’re so close.”
Shallev, a 24-year-old engineering student at Bar-Ilan University, said the
restrictive hours had been a source of “pain” for him.
“I’m here because
the situation at the Temple Mount brings me a lot of pain. It’s the most holy
place for the Jewish people and we can barely go there,” he said. “Now, the
situation is that if I want to pray at the Temple Mount, I can’t – if I want to
visit the Temple Mount, I can’t.”
Shallev said he believed that by
closing the gate to Jews, a fearful government was giving in to Arab
“The government is afraid of the response of the Arab world
because they get a lot of pressure.
The point is, Jews are praying at the
[Western] Wall while the center of the Jewish nation is up there,” he said,
indicating the Temple Mount. “Whoever rules the Temple Mount rules the Land of
Israel. It’s not just a sentence, it’s true.”
Shallev contended that Jews
were largely forbidden from entering the Temple Mount because of fear among
Arabs of Jewish sovereignty over the site.
“They know the minute we rule
the Temple Mount we are back to Zion, and they’re scared.
The moment they
see Jews are back after 2,000 years, their whole belief will be shaken because
the essence of their belief is that they replaced the Jews,” he
“You can’t have Zionism without Zion,” he said.
Sattler, who made aliya from New York and resides in Jerusalem, said the
situation made Jews feel like “second class citizens in their own
She echoed sentiments that the incongruity of rights among
Arabs and Jews was based on threats of Arab violence.
“Every time the
Arabs want something they threaten violence and the police capitulate,” Sattler
said. “I think the government is testing us to see how important this is for
She described the situation as a form of overt racism that would not
be tolerated in another nation.
“If this was any other country in the
world there would be screams of anti-Semitism. We want equal rights but we’re
not getting them because we’re Jews,” she said. “The government is bending over
backwards to appease the Arabs to keep things quiet at the expense of Jews who
feel the need to go up to har habayit on a regular basis.”
Richman, international director of the Temple Institute and a participant in the
protest, released a statement shortly after it concluded.
“Today is the
first day of the Jewish month of Elul... a very special time focused on fixing
our relationship with the Almighty. The one place where that relationship is
manifest is the place of the Holy Temple,” Richman said. “Ironically, this is
the one place where Jews are currently prohibited from entering.”
that the primary theme of Elul was repentance, Richman said it would be
appropriate to repent for the “erosion of Jewish sovereignty.”
national level we need to repent for the terrible collective sin of disdain that
we show for the Temple Mount,” he said, “and [for] the erosion of Jewish
sovereignty at our only holy place."