Israeli police arrested three Palestinians on Monday for harassing Jews visiting the Temple Mount, as tens of thousands thronged to the Western Wall below to receive the Priestly Blessing.
A police spokesperson said a crowd of Arabs was pushed back at the Chain Gate after confronting Jews visiting their holiest site. The three Palestinians were detained for chanting inciting nationalistic slogans.
The status quo governing the Temple Mount dates back to 1967, when Israel liberated the Old City of Jerusalem from Jordan during the Six-Day War. Then-Defense Minister Moshe Dayan agreed to let the Jordanian-administered 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, non-Muslims are allowed to visit the Temple Mount but not pray there.
“We have identified endless attempts to incite on the internet by distorting reality. Amid the continued incitement on social media, and in contrast to propaganda by terror organizations, there has not been any change to the existing practice on the Temple Mount,” police said in a statement.
“Anyone who incites violence, acts violently, disturbs the peace or attempts to disrupt routine life in Jerusalem, the Old City and the Temple Mount will be dealt with with determination and zero tolerance. We will continue to work at the holy sites to preserve security and order and to allow the freedom of worship for everyone according to the law and the existing practice,” police continued.
On Sunday, Israeli police arrested a Jewish man on his way to sacrifice a lamb on the Temple Mount.
Yair Hanoch, an activist from the Beyadenu—Returning to the Temple Mount organization, was detained at a light rail station near Jerusalem’s Old City.
“There is no more room for Muslim rule on the Temple Mount: The time has come to build a Jewish temple and renew the sacrificial rites,” the organization said after Hanoch’s arrest.
Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the chief rabbi of the Western Wall and the holy places, in April banned the bringing of animals to the Temple Mount to prevent Jews from trying to bring Passover sacrifices on the holy site. At the time, Returning to the Mount leader Rafael Morris was arrested while trying to bring an animal to the holy site as a Paschal offering.
During the times of the First and Second Temples, the week-long festival of Sukkot was marked by sacrifices, water libations and the custom of circling the altar while holding palm fronds.
For centuries, Jews did not visit the hilltop because of a rabbinic consensus that the laws of ritual purity still apply to the Temple Mount. But in recent years, a growing number of rabbis have argued that ritual purity laws do not apply to all sections of the Temple Mount and encourage visits to permitted areas to maintain Jewish connections to the site.
In 2022, 51,483 Jews visited the Temple Mount, up from 34,651 in 2021 and 20,684 in 2020, according to statistics compiled by Beyadeu.
Meanwhile on Monday, tens of thousands of Jews converged on the Western Wall for Sukkot holiday prayers, including the Birkat Kohanim (Priestly Blessing).
The Priestly Blessing at the Western Wall dates back to 1931 and is traditionally held twice a year, during the intermediary days of Passover and Sukkot.
During the prayer, all kohanim present bless the entire congregation of Israel: “May the Lord bless you, and keep you; May the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; May the Lord lift up His face to you, and give you peace.”
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