(TPS) Jewish visits to the Temple Mount hit a modern record in 2022, with 51,483 going up to the holy site last year, according to Beyadenu, a Jerusalem-based organization which seeks to advance Jewish ties to the Temple Mount.
The previous highest number was 34,651 in 2021.
The surge was attributed to visits from 30 military academies, three schools, as well as brides and grooms marking their wedding day and children celebrating their bar or bat mitzvah, or coming of age. In September, the number of Jews visiting the Temple Mount crossed the 50,000 threshold for the first time in modern history.
Michael Miller, a spokesman for Beyadenu told the Tazpit Press Service that the numbers are “phenomenal and outstanding,” but added, “we need to do more.”
For example, he said, “We’re working on getting the Temple Mount included in the Israeli educational system and in the Ministry of Education’s curriculum for all schools.”
Miller added that social media has made the visits “more mainstream,” as visitors post photos, videos and comments about their experiences on the Temple Mount.
“The police do an amazing job of keeping the order and peace up there. It’s not an easy job,” Miller stressed. “But when they try to stop a Jew from praying, bowing, waving an Israeli flag or doing something they consider provocative, then we film them and try to hold them accountable for their illegal actions.”
Said Miller, “When the Temple Mount is portrayed as a place of violence, terror and chaos, that can deter Jews from visiting. I also want to make clear that not all the Arabs on the Temple Mount are involved in violence and harassment. I don’t have a problem with Arabs praying there. It’s the ones who cause trouble I have an issue with. We’re fighting for Jews, Christians and people of all faiths to be able to visit and freely pray without fear or harassment.”
A Religious Divide
While the Temple Mount is the holiest place in the world for Jews, rabbis are increasingly divided over Jewish visits.
For centuries, the rabbinic consensus was that laws of ritual purity still apply to the site. But in recent years, a growing number of rabbis have argued that the 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 site.
This division was exposed when National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir visited the Temple Mount on Jan. 3 for a brief walkabout.
In addition to the international denunciations of his visit, Ben-Gvir was also criticized by Israel’s Chief Sefardi Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef and by the United Torah Judaism party — Ben-Gvir’s coalition partner.
On the day after the visit, United Torah Judaism party leader Rabbi Moshe Gafni said, “My position is that it is prohibited by halacha [Jewish law] to visit the Temple Mount, and I said this to minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, in the past and today. I think it is not okay. Ascent to the holy of holies is prohibited.”
The Temple Mount, where the First and Second Temples were built, is the holiest site in Judaism. The delicate status quo governing it 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 are allowed to visit the Temple Mount, but not pray there.
Ben-Gvir did not pray during his visit, and has refused to comment on whether he would order police to allow Jewish visitors to do so.
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