(TPS) Despite security tensions with Palestinians on the Temple Mount, “about half a million people” visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem during the week-long holiday of Passover.
“We conclude the holiday with great appreciation for the Israel Police and the security forces who worked day and night to protect the citizens of Israel and those visiting the Western Wall,” said the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which administers the holy site.
“Despite the challenging time, many people from Israel and the world chose to visit the Western Wall and the Western Wall tunnel sites which were full up to the limit on all the days of the holiday.”
The Temple Mount, where the First and Second Temples were built, is the overall holiest site in Judaism. The Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall, is the only remnant of a retaining wall encircling the Temple Mount built by Herod the Great and is the holiest site where Jews can freely pray.
Meanwhile, more than 2,200 Jews visited the Temple Mount during Passover. Political and security officials are now restricting Jewish visits for the rest of the Islamic month of Ramadan. Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the conclusion of Ramadan, ends at sundown on April 21.
Rabbis are increasingly divided over Jews ascending to the Temple Mount. For centuries, the widespread rabbinic consensus was that the laws of ritual purity still apply to the site. But in recent years, a growing number of rabbis have argued that ritual purity laws don’t apply to all sections of the Temple Mount and encourage visits to permitted areas to maintain Jewish connections to the Mount.
In September, the number of Jews visiting the Temple Mount crossed the 50,000 threshold for the first time in modern history, according to Beyadenu, an organization working to advance Jewish ties to the holy site.
The delicate status quo governing the Temple Mount goes back to 1967, when Israel liberated the Old City of Jerusalem from Jordan during the Six Day War. Fearing a religious war, then-defense minister Moshe Dayan agreed to let the Islamic Waqf, a Muslim trusteeship, continue managing the holy site’s day-to-day affairs, while Israel would maintain overall sovereignty and be responsible for security.
According to the status quo, Jews and non-Muslims would be allowed to visit the Temple Mount, but not pray there.
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