Riots erupted on the Temple Mount Sunday, as Muslims celebrating Eid al-Adha attempted to prevent Jews from entering Judaism’s holiest site on Tisha B’Av, with police ultimately deciding to allow entrance to a small group of Jews after quelling the violence.
Hundreds of Jews lined up to gain access to the Temple Mount in the morning of Tisha B’Av, on which Jews mourn the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem as well as a series of calamities which befell the Jewish people throughout history on the same date.
However, some of the 80,000 Muslim worshippers visiting the Temple Mount to celebrate Eid al-Adha (the “Festival of Sacrifice”) confronted Israeli police, causing them to issue a full-day closure of the site to Jews, citing security concerns.
“A special assessment was conducted by the Jerusalem district commander, and eventually it was decided that, given the amount of worshippers and the high friction potential, visits to the Temple Mount would not be possible at this time,” the Jerusalem District Police Spokesperson’s Unit announced in the morning.
Video footage of Arab Israeli Knesset member Ahmad Tibi arriving to join the throngs was spread throughout social media.
Right-wing politicians and influencers responded to the closure in traditional and social media, decrying it as the fault of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and calling on him to reverse it.
United Right Party leader Ayelet Shaked told Army Radio that it is “important on this day for Jews to enter the area,” while former Jerusalem mayor MK Nir Barkat praised police for “appropriate” consideration for Muslim worshippers but said “we must continue to allow Jews to ascent the Temple Mount. Exercise your authority and do not capitulate to violence.”
Senior United Right MK Bezalel Smotrich criticized the move, saying, “The decision to capitulate to Arab terrorism and violence at the holiest place for the Jewish people is the root of the loss off deterrence in other areas.”
“The gate was supposed to open at 7:30 [a.m.] but the police [are] showing weakness and fear, and [have] not yet announced whether to open the gate to Jewish ‘visitors’ for fear of rioting by ‘local’ Muslims,” tweeted Maariv newspaper’s Avishai Grinzaig. “In doing so, the police [show] the world that terrorism pays off and … also [show] who really controls the mount. (Clue to the puzzle: Not us).”
According to Army Radio, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded that he was in favor of allowing access to Jews, but left the decision in the hands of the Israel Police. His office indicated that Netanyahu had issued no closure.
Police responded to the violence by utilizing riot control measures to end the protests. Video circulated of police using stun grenades and dispersing the crowd.
Reports indicate that the head of the Jerusalem Islamic Wakf was injured during the incident, as well as an estimated 14 Muslim worshippers and four police officers.
Police then authorized a small group of a few dozen Jews to enter the Temple Mount for a few minutes. The worshippers were under close police escort and limited to a very small area. Arabs chanted “Allahu Akbar!” and started throwing chairs and other objects at them, after which the Jews were escorted off the site.
A video showed Wakf director Azzam al-Khatib and Mufti of Jerusalem Muhammad Hussein encouraging the crowd, telling them: “In spirit and blood we will redeem you!”
Last year, some 1,400 Jews ascended to the Temple Mount for Tisha B’Av, a record number. However, this year, the holiday intersected with Eid al-Adha. The Temple Mount is typically closed to non-Muslims during Muslim holidays, and Muslim holidays have taken precedence over Jewish ones on the Temple Mount whenever the calendars collide.
Army Radio reported that the Wakf had taken to loudspeakers to urge Muslims to stay on the Temple Mount for as long as possible to ensure Jews were prevented from arriving all day. Reports indicate that they also closed some eastern Jerusalem mosques in order to redirect worshippers to the location.
A massive banner was also erected on the Temple Mount, with a picture of a Hamas terrorist and former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, and bearing the words “No to the ‘Deal of the Century,’” a reference to the U.S. administration’s Middle East peace plan.
The Al-Aqsa mosque was also temporarily closed.