Violence erupted in and around Jerusalem’s Temple Mount yesterday, when thousands of Muslim worshippers sought to forcefully thwart non-Muslim entrance into the ancient compound. Tensions peaked yesterday morning, as Jews observed the Tisha B’Av fast to mark the destruction of the second Biblical Temple while Muslims commemorated the Eid al-Adha “Festival of the Sacrifice,” in tribute of Abraham’s obedience to God’s command to sacrifice his son. It is interest that in contrast to the Bible, and even though the name of Abraham’s son is not mentioned in the Quran, Islamic tradition identifies Ishmael – and not Isaac – as the son meant for sacrifice.
It is also important to note that while Jewish visitors are allowed to enter the Temple Mount each year on Tisha B’Av, they are barred on Eid al-Adha. As both days fell on the same date this year in accordance with the calendars of the respective faiths, the Jerusalem District Police commander decided in light of a security situation assessment and with the backing of the Israeli government, to forbid Jews entry this year. Chief Doron Yadid explained that the presence of over 60,000 Muslim worshipers in al-Aqsa Mosque compound for the morning prayer procession endangered any non-Muslim individuals at the site.
Despite the precaution against Jewish entry, an estimated 2,000 Muslims gathered after prayers at the Mughrabi Gate entrance used by non-Muslims to access the ancient compound. After chanting Islamic slogans of war, the crowd hurled rocks and other objects at Israeli police officers, who responded with regular dispersal means. During the clashes, some twenty Muslim rioters and four Israeli policemen reportedly sustained light injuries.
After the restoration of calm, Chief Yadid then authorized non-Muslim visitation to the Temple Mount under heavy police escort, with 1,729 Jews and 200 tourists participating. The holy site is where both Biblical Temples once stood.
Today, however, the police announced that the Temple Mount will remain closed to non-Muslim visitors, effective immediately until the end Eid al-Adha holiday on Thursday. The decision infuriated the religious-right coalition partners of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Acting Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich, of the Union of the Right Wing Parties, said, “Closing the Temple Mount to Jews on Tisha B’Av is a shame and a disgrace,” adding that, “The decision to capitulate to Arab terrorism and violence at the holiest site to the Jewish people is the root of [Israel’s] loss of deterrence in other sectors as well.” In her own condemnation on Twitter, United Right Chairwoman Ayelet Shaked cited the late, acclaimed Israeli poet and journalist Uri Zvi Greenberg, “Whoever controls the mount controls the land.” The former Justice Minister further underscored that, “When you capitulate to terrorism—terrorism wins.”