Temple Mount shut to non-Muslims till after Ramadan

Joint Committee of Temple Organizations say change in policy occurred because Palestinian youth sleep at the site.

Palestinian youth spending the night on Temple Mount 370 (photo credit: Joint Committee of Temple Organizations)
Palestinian youth spending the night on Temple Mount 370
(photo credit: Joint Committee of Temple Organizations)
The Joint Committee of Temple Organizations condemned on Wednesday the closure of the Temple Mount to non- Muslim visitors for the last two weeks of Ramadan.
According to the committee, an association of right-wing groups seeking to assert Jewish prayer rights as well as Israeli sovereignty on the Temple Mount, access to the site during the Muslim holy month has always been granted in previous years, although on a slightly reduced scale compared to the rest of the year.
Outside of Ramadan, the Temple Mount is usually open to non-Muslims for three hours every morning and one hour in the afternoon, while during Ramadan it has previously been open only in the morning.
This year, however, all access to non-Muslim visitors has been prohibited in the two final weeks of Ramadan.
According to Rabbi Yehuda Glick, a spokesman for the committee, in previous years the Temple Mount has been open in the morning to non- Muslims for the entirety of Ramadan.
Glick attributed the change in policy to a new phenomenon in which hundreds of Palestinian youths have slept at the site during this year’s Ramadan.
This year, the site was open in the morning for the first two weeks, although Jewish visitors were harassed and verbally abused, which led the police to evacuate them on several occasions.
In one such incident, Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin visited the Temple Mount but was forced to leave by police due to threats and harassment by Muslims at the site.
The Temple Mount was also closed to non-Muslims for the fast of Tisha Be’av, the day before Elkin’s visit.
Although the site has been open sporadically during the past two weeks, it was closed by police on Thursday.
On Sunday a notice was posted at the entrance to the Mugrabi Gate, the only entrance for non-Muslims to the Temple Mount, saying that visitation for Jews and other tourists was not possible on that day.
The same message was posted for Monday, while the police informed the committee that because of the fact that “thousands of Muslims are staying the night at the site for the last 10 days of Ramadan, the Temple Mount will not be opened tomorrow [Tuesday] for visitors.”
On Tuesday, the police informed the committee that entrance for non-Muslims would not be possible until after Id al-Fitr, the festival ending Ramadan.
The committee issued a statement to the press asking why the police was not willing to preserve public order at the site.
“Is the police not able to protect the [public] order on the Temple Mount? Why does the police not ban the dozens of Muslims responsible for disturbances, just like it permanently bans Jews who pray at the site?” the group asked.
Non-Muslims are prevented by the police from praying at the site, out of concern that it would create tensions with Muslim worshipers.
The police have issued bans against individuals found to be praying at the Temple Mount.
Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, the director of the Temple Institute and a prominent advocate of prayer rights on the Temple Mount, was banned last year from the site, following a visit during which he was videoed praying.
“Why have the police not arrested those causing the disturbances? Why do the police not create Jewish-only prayer times?” the committee asked.
The police did not respond to inquiries about the claim that this is the first year the Temple Mount has not been accessible during Ramadan.