The High Court of Justice on Thursday rejected a petition against the planned closure of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem to Jewish visitors on Jerusalem Day, the anniversary of Israel taking control of the compound and the eastern parts of the city during the 1967 Six Day War.
The court ruled that it was up to police to decide on the final arrangements. Police had told the court they had not yet made a final decision on what to do this year, but would act in the interest of public safety.
A closure would mark the first time in 30 years that Jews have been denied access to the Temple Mount on Jerusalem Day.
The flashpoint holy site in Jerusalem’s Old City — the holiest to Jews and third-holiest to Muslims — is always closed to non-Muslims on the last ten days of Ramadan, when large numbers of worshipers are at the site.
This year, those final days coincide with Jerusalem Day, which will be marked on June 1.
The last time the Temple Mount was closed to Jews on Jerusalem Day was in 1988, when it also coincided with the end of Ramadan.
Jewish Temple Mount activists also petitioned against the police decision to prevent Jews and tourists from visiting the compound during the last ten days of Ramadan, and also against restrictions permitting only morning visits during the whole month of Ramadan, both measures police say are in place to prevent clashes with thousands of Muslim worshipers.
The court rejected all clauses of that petition.
In its response to the petition the state had noted earlier this week that under the current status quo the Temple Mount is always closed during at the end of Ramadan and emphasized the sensitive security situation during that period, when tens of thousands of Muslim worshipers visit the compound.
The petitioners had asked the court to rule against the sweeping closure of the site in favor of restricting access only if there was an immediate security risk or danger to Jewish visitors.
Under an arrangement in place since Israel’s victory in the 1967 war, non-Muslims are allowed to visit the Temple Mount but not to pray there. Jews are allowed to enter during limited hours, but are closely watched and prohibited from any religious displays.
Last year, more than 2,000 Jews visited the site on Jerusalem Day, under close police supervision. But with hundreds of thousands of Muslim worshipers expected at the Temple Mount during the weekend of June 1, police on Monday said the decision was made to maintain public order in the Old City.
Each year, tens of thousands of Israelis mark the anniversary of Jerusalem’s reunification in a parade through Jerusalem’s Old City that is frequently marked by tension with local Palestinians.
The so-called Flag March, in which primarily religious teenagers march through the Old City decked in white and blue, has raised tensions over its route through the Muslim Quarter.
Palestinian shopkeepers with stores along the route are forced to shutter their businesses during the parade, and residents of the Muslim Quarter are advised to stay indoors.
In previous years, the march has sparked sporadic incidents of violence between Palestinians and Israeli revelers.
On Sunday, the Haaretz daily reported that police in Jerusalem are considering limiting the scope or route for this year’s march to maintain order on the tense day.
After Israel captured East Jerusalem in the Six Day War, it annexed it and declared the entire city the undivided capital of Israel. However, the move has not been recognized by much of the international community.
Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the capital of their future independent state, and the future status of the city is among the most contentious issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.