Almost 1,000 Jews visit Temple Mount for Tisha B’Av; some pray, wave Israel flag

About 10 detained by police, removed from flashpoint Jerusalem holy site; 2 Muslims also reportedly detained for chanting derogatory slogans

A Jewish activist waves an Israeli flag at the Temple Mount compound on Tisha B'Av, July 30, 2020. (Screen capture: Twitter)
A Jewish activist waves an Israeli flag at the Temple Mount compound on Tisha B'Av, July 30, 2020. (Screen capture: Twitter)

Nearly 1,000 Jews visited the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on Thursday morning to mark the fast day of Tisha B’Av, which mourns the destruction of the two Jewish Temples that stood at the holy site.

About 10 of them were detained by police and taken out of the compound after praying in defiance of the rules at the site.

The contested compound today houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and Jews are forbidden from praying there and face a host of other restrictions within the compound.

Located in the heart of Jerusalem’s Old City, the compound is revered by both Jews and Muslims, who call it Haram al-Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary. Large numbers of Palestinians often gather at the site, especially for Friday prayers, and it has long been a flashpoint between Israelis and Palestinians.

Some 800 Jews entered the Temple Mount Thursday morning, with police breaking them up into groups of 20, which were admitted every several minutes.

More entered in the afternoon visitation hour between 1:30 and 2:30 p.m., bringing the total count to 978, according to Temple Mount activist groups.

Footage from the Temple Mount showed members of one of the groups bowing on the ground, saying aloud the Jewish prayer “Shema Yisrael,” and being taken away by police. To maintain the status quo, Jews are forbidden from praying at the site.

Two Muslims were also detained after chanting derogatory slogans against the Jews, the Ynet news site reported.

Footage also showed a right-wing activist waving an Israeli flag for several seconds, before a police officer ordered him to fold it and tuck it away.

The Jordanian Foreign Ministry published a statement condemning what it called a violation of Israel’s agreement with the Waqf Islamic trust that manages the Temple Mount, according to Hebrew-language media.

The statement alleged that Jerusalem had given an approval for “hundreds of extremist Jews to break into Al-Aqsa under the protection of the Israel Police.”

It said Israel’s actions were “irresponsible provocations” and “hurt Muslims’ feelings around the world.” It warned of consequences and called on Israel to “honor the status quo” and “respect the mosque and worshipers’ feelings.”

Under an arrangement in place since Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six Day War, Muslims can enter and pray at the Temple Mount, while non-Muslims are allowed to sometimes visit the site but not to pray there. Jews are allowed to enter in small groups during limited hours, but are taken through a predetermined route, are closely watched, and are prohibited from worship or displaying any religious or national symbols. They are also subject to various other restrictions.

Religious Jews marked Tisha B’Av Wednesday evening at the Western Wall under strict coronavirus regulations, which limited attendance to 1,000 worshipers throughout the evening, in fenced off “capsules” of up to 20 people each at the plaza.

Tisha B’Av eve at the Western Wall, Jerusalem, June 29, 2020 (Screenshot)

The fast of Tisha B’Av, which mourns the destruction of the two Jewish Temples in Jerusalem, began on Wednesday evening and lasts for 25 hours.

The Western Wall Heritage Foundation livestreamed Tisha B’Av prayers from the Western Wall to those who were unable to attend.

The chief Ashkenazi rabbi of Israel ruled ahead of the fast that those with the coronavirus should not avoid food and drink.

The ruling applies even if the patient is feeling fine or is in the recovery period of the illness, Rabbi David Lau said in a statement Monday. Those who have recovered from coronavirus and still feel weak also should not fast, he added.

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