TEL AVIV – Jewish visitors were barred from entering the Temple Mount Wednesday morning after several were caught breaking the rules and praying with sacred books, police said.
Jews have permission to visit the Temple Mount during certain hours but are strictly forbidden from praying – even silently – and from bringing any religious items such as prayer shawls and prayer books. Jewish visitors must also be accompanied by Muslim officials from the Jordanian Waqf which administers the site.
Since the site’s reopening on Sunday following Friday’s terror attack, Waqf officials have refused to ascend the Mount and urged other Muslims to stay away in protest over the metal detectors that Israel installed at the entrance. On Saturday night, three Waqf officials were arrested on suspicion of assisting the three gunmen from the Arab Israeli village of Umm al Fahm by stashing their weapons on the Mount days before the attack.
Since Monday, Jews have been taking advantage of the absence of Waqf officials to visit and pray at the holy site, with many posting clips of themselves at prayer. On Monday afternoon, a group of Jewish pilgrims said the mourner’s kaddish prayer for the two slain Druze policemen, Haiel Sitawe, 30 and Kamil Shnaan, 22.
On Wednesday morning, a group of Jewish worshipers were expelled from the site for taking out a holy book. Jerusalem District Commander Yoram Halevy subsequently ordered the temporary closure of the site to Jewish visitors.
“Following an additional violation of the visitation rules for the Temple Mount by a group of Jewish visitors who ascended the Mount, Jerusalem District Commander Yoram Halevy ordered the group removed from the area and Temple Mount closed to Jewish visitors,” a police spokesperson said.
Palestinian Authority leaders and religious clerics urged Muslims to take to the streets and demonstrate in a “Day of Rage” against the new security measures.
On Tuesday evening, violent riots erupted with Muslims throwing Molotov cocktails at security forces near the entrance to the Temple Mount. Renewed clashes broke out between rioters and security forces on Wednesday outside the Lions’ Gate.