A video of Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount performing the Priestly Blessing ("Birkat Kohanim") was published on social media on Tuesday, sparking outrage from Palestinian movements.
The video, dated Sunday, was posted by the Palestinian al-Qastal news site. The source of the footage is unclear, as is the reason for waiting two days to publish it.
فيديو يوثق صلاة المستوطنين وأدائهم طقوساً تلمودية علانية خلال اقتحامهم المسجد الأقصى الأحد الماضي pic.twitter.com/VTXzuj0llg— القسطل الاخباري | القدس (@AlQastalps) July 18, 2023
In the video, five Jewish visitors, presumably Kohanim, can be seen reciting the Priestly Blessing on the Temple Mount across from the Dome of the Rock.
Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount are informed upon entry that prayer and religious items such as prayer books or prayer shawls are forbidden in the complex, although, since late 2019, Jewish visitors have been able to pray quietly, including the Priestly Blessing, in certain parts of the site, relatively undisturbed.
Since early last year, there have been occasions on which Jewish visitors have succeeded in praying and singing out loud and even managed to raise Israeli flags, although many of these individuals were subsequently arrested.
While the High Court of Justice has ruled in the past that Jews do have the legal right to pray on the Temple Mount, police have cited security concerns to impose a blanket prohibition on Jewish prayer, although they have decreased the enforcement of that prohibition since 2019.
Hamas: 'We will defend al-Aqsa by all available means'
Despite the occurrence of such prayers since 2019, the video sparked outrage among Palestinian political leaders and social media users on Tuesday, with Palestinian media casting the prayer as the first of its kind on the Mount.
The Hamas terrorist movement stated "We warn the occupation and its settlers against their continued desecration of Al-Aqsa, which will remain purely Islamic, and we will defend it by all available means."
The head of international relations for Hamas, Basem Naim, called the footage "provocative."
"The continuation of these provocations and violations of our sanctities is liable to ignite a sweeping religious war in the region, affecting everyone and not stopping at borders," said Naim. "All parties, especially the international community represented by the United Nations, must shoulder their responsibilities to stop this aggression and rein in these extremists.'
Temple Mount closed to Jewish visitors on Wednesday
The Temple Mount will be closed to Jewish visitors on Wednesday due to the Islamic New Year marking the beginning of the new Hijri year. The site will reopen to Jewish visitors on Thursday.
Large numbers of Jewish visitors are expected to visit the site next Thursday to mark Tisha B'Av, the day when the First and Second Temples of Jerusalem were destroyed. On Tuesday night, Jewish activists conducted a march around the gates of the Temple Mount (from the outside) to mark the beginning of the Hebrew month of Av. The march is held at the beginning of every Hebrew month unless their are security concerns as there were during Ramadan this year.
In May, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir stated that the government was making changes on the Temple Mount "slowly and quietly," during a festive meal for Jerusalem Day by the Temple Mount Administration.
"We have the privilege to live in a generation like this. We have the privilege to live in a situation in which ministers, the speaker of the Knesset and MKs arrive [at the Temple Mount]. Who thought it would happen so quickly? And it is happening. It's true there are still more processes [to go through]. There are changes that we are doing as they say slowly, slowly, quietly, quietly," said Ben-Gvir in a video from the event published by the Temple Mount Administration.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly stressed that Israel is acting to maintain the status quo on the Temple Mount.
"Israel is committed to maintaining freedom of worship, free access for all faiths and the status quo on the Temple Mount, and will not allow violent extremists to change this," said Netanyahu in April.