JERUSALEM – For the first time in decades, Jews ascended the Temple Mount on Monday and prayed without fear of being arrested by Muslim religious authority officials who have kept away from the site in protest over the metal detectors installed after Friday’s terror attack.
Police granted Jewish and other non-Muslim visitors permission to visit the holy site three days after Arab-Israeli gunmen attacked a group of policemen, killing two.
Officials from the Jordanian Islamic Waqf that administers the site and the Al-Aqsa mosque within have refused to ascend the Mount and urged other Muslims to stay away to protest the metal detectors that Israel installed at the entrance since the site’s reopening on Sunday.
Jews took advantage of the lack of Waqf officials and recited the mourner’s Kaddish for the murdered Druze police officers at the site.
Jews are banned from praying at the Temple Mount – Judaism’s holiest site – in accordance with the status quo that was established following Israel’s capture of the site in 1967. In April, Jewish visitors were arrested by Muslim officials for openly praying at the flashpoint site.
Arnon Segal, a reporter for Makor Rishon newspaper and an activist for Jewish rights to the Temple Mount, wrote on his Facebook page, “We’re back, thank God. With more Jews on the Mountain, freedom of worship and service to God, tomorrow our smile will be even more beautiful.”
Despite Israeli assurances that the status quo will remain intact, the Waqf sees the installation of metal detectors and security cameras as an affront. The added security measures, which also work to protect Muslim worshippers, came in direct response to Friday’s deadly terrorist attack in which three Israeli Arab assailants managed to get weapons onto the Mount.
On Sunday, protests erupted outside the site with the Waqf calling on Muslims in the city “to reject and boycott all the Israeli aggression measures, including changing the historical status quo including imposing the metal detectors.”
Education Minister Naftali Bennett said the Muslim reaction to the security measures was “a tempest in a teacup.”
He pointed out to Israel Radio on Monday that all Jewish visitors to the Western Wall and Muslim visitors to the Kaaba in Mecca were made to pass through metal detectors.