National Union MKs visit Temple Mount gates

Surprise visit carried out discretely, aimed on examining rumors Jews prohibited from walking near the approaches to the Temple Mount.

uri Ariel 248.88 (photo credit: Knesset)
uri Ariel 248.88
(photo credit: Knesset)
For the third time in less than a month, members of the National Union's Knesset faction spent a day of their recess on a field trip to a site likely to anger their left-wing counterparts, holding a surprise visit Thursday to Jerusalem's Old City to inspect the various gates to the Temple Mount. The four-member Knesset faction had applied to police for a permit to carry out the visit last week, but security officials requested that they postpone their visit due to concerns that it could provoke rioting in the overwhelmingly Arab Old City. The MKs acceded to the police request and did not hold their trip last week. Instead, on Thursday, they discretely carried out their visit as would any other Israeli citizen, without police or Knesset Guard escorts, walking through the cobblestone streets led by Rabbi Yitzhak Levi of Alon Shvut, an expert in the historical and archeological heritage of the Temple Mount area. The MKs - Uri Ariel, Arye Eldad and Michael Ben-Ari - said that they were carrying out the walk to clarify the veracity of rumors that Jews had recently been prohibited from walking or gathering near the approaches to the Temple Mount. Party Chairman Ya'acov Katz was supposed to join them on the walk but was injured in a car accident en route to the walk. The faction only issued an announcement regarding their walk hours after it had already drawn to a close. As a result of their field trip, the MKs complained that it was not fair that Jews were blocked by the police from walking in areas where Christians, Moslems and any foreign tourists could enter without undergoing so much as a check. They said that the faction was scheduled to meet with Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich in order to discuss the issue. Thursday's walk ended without incident - an exceptional occurrence among the recent field trips by the faction's MKs. On Sunday, press and MKs alike were pelted with stones when the MKs visited the tomb of Simon the Just in Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. Last month, Ben-Ari, together with his parliamentary aide Itamar Ben-Gvir and a handful of other right-wing activists, visited the Negev Beduin city of Rahat, where they were greeted by protests and stone-throwing.