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Last week, during the Jewish Holiday Passover, the Joint Head Quarters of Temple Mount Organizations in Jerusalem sent an urgent letter to Jerusalem District Police Chief Moshe Edri. In the letter, Aviad Visoli, the chairman of the organization, demanded that Edri open the synagogue on the walls of the Temple Mount to Jewish access.
The synagogue is on the grounds of the Mahkama Building, situated adjacent to the Kotel (Western Wall) but extending out over the grounds of the Temple Mount – the holiest site in Judaism.
“The synagogue at the Mahkama Building has a special uniqueness and importance to Jews, in that it is the only synagogue in the world located within the walls of the Temple Mount,” wrote Visoli. “Therefore, this synagogue is the only one in the world where the commandment of prostrating oneself on the Temple Mount can be fulfilled.”
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Visoli’s request was denied by area commander Avi Biton, who explained the synagogue had been turned into a military base.
In response, Visoli wrote, “there is great doubt as to whether a ‘military territory’ order is in effect on the Mahkama area as police commander Biton claims.”
“But even if there is one in effect, the commands of the law for the preservation of holy sites takes precedence over that, in regards to everything related to free access for Jews to their holy place in military territory,” said Visoli. “What’s more, ‘safe passage’ to the synagogue can be defined without harming ‘military territory’ (residences of Border Patrol soldiers).”
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Visiting the Temple Mount during Passover is a religious commandment that stems from the Torah (Jewish Law written in the five Bible books of Moses). Three times a year, Jews were commanded to go up to the Temple Mount, during Passover (Pesach), Shavuot, and Sukkot.
Hundreds of Jews who attempted to fulfill the commandment last Sunday and Monday were forced to wait in line for hours at a time or barred entry altogether due to Arab threats, Tom Nisani, a spokesman for the Students for the Temple Mount, said that Jewish visitors were harassed or refused passage, while large groups of other visitors were granted entry.
Nisani said that last Sunday morning at 7:30, 250 Jews queued up at Mugrabi Gate. They were singled out and told to wait in an isolated area while their non-Jewish counterparts expeditiously ascended to the Temple Mount.
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“We expected the police to do their job and let groups of Jews in, but basically all the Jews with a kippah (yarmulke) were put aside and told to wait, while Christians and other visitors were allowed in directly,” said Nisani. When police did allow Jews to enter, it was limited to between five and ten people at the time. They were told to get out as soon as possible and not to take pictures.
Police told Nisani that Arab violence was the reason for the different treatment of Jews. He was told to choose between a short tour or going home. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that special security arrangements were made for Jewish visitors. He added that due to the security measures, no incidents took place during the visits of non-Muslims.
The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism, but Jews are not allowed to pray there due to Muslim threats. Muslims do not recognize any Jewish connection to the site and claim it has always been a holy site for Muslims–notwithstanding the fact that Judaism existed thousands of years before the invention of Islam. Muslims also ignore the overwhelming archeological evidence of the existence of the Jewish Temple on the spot where two mosques were later built.
The contemporary Muslim refusal to recognize the Jewish history in Jerusalem and the Temple Mount contradicts the history of Islam. At the outset of Islam, Jerusalem didn’t have its current name Al-Quds–but was called Bayt al Maqdis by Muslims. That’s a translation of the Hebrew name for the Temple Bait HaMiqdash (Holy House).
The name Bayt al Maqdis is still used by Islamist groups who want to return to the early days of Islam. One of them is Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, the Al Qaeda offshoot in the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt that recently pledged alliance with Islamic State.
Denying Jewish history in Israel has always been a weapon in the cognitive war Arabs have been waging against Israel since its establishment. The goal of this type of warfare is clear: Israel is a foreign implant in the Middle East and therefore has no right to exist.
The Al-Aksa Mosque on the Temple Mount is in the center of this cognitive war. The Palestinian Authority routinely claims that the mosque is in danger and that Israel plans to destroy it. In October of last year, PA President Mahmoud Abbas claimed that “settlers” (Jewish visitors) were desecrating the mosque and called upon Palestinians to defend Al-Aqsa.
“We must stop them (the settlers) from entering by any means possible. This is our mosque, and they have no right to enter it and defile it,” Abbas said. Earlier, he had called upon Palestinians to start a Ribat for Allah, a religious war in order to “defend” the mosque from the Jews.
Abbas was reacting to increasing pressure on the Israeli government to allow Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount. Of course, no Jew entered the mosque; but it was enough to ignite another round of Muslim violence on the Temple Mount.
At the beginning of March, a Jerusalem Court issued a ruling ostensibly backing claims that Jews be allowed to pray on the Temple Mount.
Rabbi Yehudah Glick had brought a lawsuit against the Israel Police for banning him for two years from visiting the site because of video evidence of him praying there.
Glick, who was seriously wounded in an assassination attempt last year by a Palestinian extremist, was banned from the Temple Mount between 2011 and 2013 after he was seen uttering a Jewish prayer at the site in a Channel 10 broadcast.
Judge Malka Aviv said the police ban on Glick visiting the site was issued “without appropriate consideration, was arbitrary, and only out of concern for the consequences of the broadcast.” The judge insisted that Jews have a right to pray on the Temple Mount.
“The legal authorization of the defendant (the police) is, in accordance with the ruling, to be concerned for Jews being able to pray on the Temple Mount, and to act in a sweeping way in order to prevent Jews from praying on the Temple Mount,” the judge wrote.
The day after the court ruling, a senior police officer made it clear to Jews visiting the holy site that the police would not be adhering to the court decision. The officer told a group of visiting Jews that as far as he and the police force were concerned, “this court ruling doesn’t exist.”
The police’s decision must have been coordinated with the Israeli government. Why? Because upholding the status quo that has existed on the Temple Mount ever since the Six-Day War in 1967 has been the policy of every Israeli government.
In June 1967, a couple of hours after Col. Mordechai Gur, the commander of the IDF forces who captured the Temple Mount, reported to the Israeli nation that “The Temple Mount is (again) in our hands” and unfurled an Israeli flag over it, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan ordered the flag taken down.
Dayan allowed the Waqf (Islamic religious endowment), the Muslim custodians of the Temple Mount, to continue its control over the site and prohibited all Jewish religious activities on the Temple Mount. The reason was that Israel feared a holy war with the Muslim world when it would enforce sovereignty over the site.
This fear continues to determine Israeli policies in the Old City of Jerusalem, as it became apparent again last week. The Palestinians know this and feel free to intimidate or to harass every Jew who enters the Temple Mount or to start organized riots that – in one case – led to a temporary closure of the Mount to Muslims last year.
Below, you can watch footage of the organized riots last year. In most cases, Hamas and Islamic Jihad were organizing the riots.
The Temple Institute in Jerusalem released this footage of a visit by a group of Jews to the Temple Mount last week. Clearly audible are the chants “Khaybar, Khaybar, ya yahud, jaish Muhammad sayud.” The threat of ‘Khaybar’ is the threat of extermination, harkening back to Muhammad’s annihilation of an entire tribe of Jews, the Qurayzah.