Temple Mount prayers end without incident
search

Temple Mount prayers end without incident

Police again allow free access to al-Aqsa Mosque; concrete barriers at entrance to Arab Jerusalem neighborhood removed

Lazar Berman is a former breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Israeli security forces walk near Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount on November 5, 2014. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)
Israeli security forces walk near Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount on November 5, 2014. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)

Friday prayers at the Temple Mount ended without incident as, for the third week in a row, police allowed free access to all Muslim worshipers.

Around 40,000 people took part in the ceremonies, Israel Radio reported.

At the height of the unrest in the capital, security forces had kept young men away from Friday prayers in an attempt to stave off rioting at the holy site.

In addition, police have removed concrete roadblocks at the entrance to the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sur Baher. The move came after local leaders pledged to act against rioters, Israel Radio reported on Thursday.

The barriers were moved to the side of the road, where they remain available should violence again erupt in the neighborhood.

On Wednesday, Israel Police Chief Yohanan Danino said that he would prevent Knesset members from visiting the Temple Mount. He also refused to apologize for remarks he made Tuesday chiding parliamentarians who have visited the contested site and criticizing Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein for allowing them to do so.

Danino “feels it is his duty to repeat and clarify that this behavior [going to the Temple Mount] — even by MKs — can endanger public safety and security and he does not intend to allow it,” a police spokesman said Wednesday.

Earlier Wednesday, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein wrote a letter to Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch complaining about Danino’s remarks.

“These [statements] are grave and inappropriate coming from a police commissioner about elected public officials. It’s unacceptable that a public servant — as senior as the position may be — would question the freedom of movement of Knesset members,” Edelstein wrote in the letter, according to the Israeli news site NRG.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash 90)
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash 90)

Danino’s comments came after weeks of riots and terror attacks in Jerusalem and elsewhere, touched off in part by Palestinian fears that Israeli lawmakers would seek to change the status quo on the compound, called the Haram al-Sharif or al-Aqsa by Muslims.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on several occasions that Israel had no intention of changing the status quo, which permits non-Muslims to visit but not to pray at the site.

Despite his apparent critique of the attorney general, the police commissioner later said that he did not intend to criticize Weinstein.

Responding to the police chief’s remarks, Likud MK Feiglin, a regular visitor to the sensitive site, defended his right to enter the Temple Mount and charged that the police chief had failed to contain the violence in the capital.

“Danino failed to protect Jerusalem and ensure the security of the citizens, and is now trying to find a scapegoat and excuses for his failure,” the Likud MK wrote on his Facebook page.

“I go up to pray on the Temple Mount, in accordance with the law, every month for the past 15 years. This is the legal, moral, national, and religious right of every Jew. I urge Danino to focus on the security of Jerusalem’s residents and Israeli citizens and to spend less time at panels and conferences in an effort to cast off his responsibility,” Feiglin added.

Danino had made his contentious remarks at the Sderot Conference on Tuesday.

Hawkish MK Moshe Feiglin seen at the Western Wall on November 2, 2014, in the old city of Jerusalem.  (photo credit: Sindel/Flash90)
Hawkish MK Moshe Feiglin seen at the Western Wall on November 2, 2014, in the old city of Jerusalem. (photo credit: Sindel/Flash90)

The site — the holiest in Judaism, and the third-holiest in Islam — has been a source of increased tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, which have led to a number of violent clashes, Palestinian acts of terrorism, and the attempted assassination of a Temple Mount activist in just under a month.

Since the attempted assassination on October 30 of activist Yehudah Glick, who agitated for Jewish prayer on the site, at least three right-wing politicians — Likud MKs Feiglin and Tzipi Hotovely and Shuli Moalem-Refaeli of the Jewish Home party — have visited the site, claiming it as their democratic right and denouncing the double standard for Jewish and Muslim worshipers.

Under the terms of the Israel-Jordan peace treaty, the Temple Mount remains under Jordanian custodianship through the Waqf authorities, who maintain administrative charge of the holy site.

read more:
comments