Jordan, Saudi Arabia slam Jewish visits to Temple Mount during Rosh Hashanah

Minor disturbances reported around holy site in Jerusalem’s Old City during holiday, but no significant incidents; Jewish visitor said detained after blowing shofar

Police scuffle with Palestinians protesting visits by Jews to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, on September 17, 2023, during the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah. (Jamal Awad/Flash90)
Police scuffle with Palestinians protesting visits by Jews to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, on September 17, 2023, during the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah. (Jamal Awad/Flash90)

Jordan and Saudi Arabia on Sunday railed at Israel for letting Jews visit the Temple Mount over Rosh Hashanah, but the holiday passed without any significant incidents at the flashpoint holy site in Jerusalem’s Old City.

In a statement issued by Jordan’s foreign ministry, the kingdom said it “denounced the storming by extremists of the Al-Aqsa Mosque” and condemned “their provocative practices under the cover of the Israeli police which represent a violation of the historical and legal status quo.”

“We call to protect the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque and holy sites from any harm,” the ministry added.

Israel captured the Temple Mount and Jerusalem’s Old City from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War. However, it allowed the Jordanian Waqf to continue to maintain religious authority atop the Mount. Under their 1994 peace treaty, Israel recognized Amman’s “special role… in Muslim holy shrines in Jerusalem.”

The site is considered the holiest in Judaism, as the location of two biblical temples, while the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Mount is the third-holiest shrine in Islam, making the area a major flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Under the status quo arrangement that has prevailed for decades in cooperation with Jordan, Jews and other non-Muslims are permitted to visit the Temple Mount during certain hours but may not pray there. In recent years, Jewish religious nationalists, including members of the new governing coalition, have increasingly visited the site and demanded equal prayer rights for Jews there, infuriating the Palestinians and Muslims around the world.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry issued a similar statement condemning “the storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque by a group of extremists under the protection of the Israeli occupation forces. The ministry affirms that these practices are considered a blatant violation of all international norms and conventions and a provocation to the feelings of Muslims worldwide.”

“The foreign affairs ministry holds the Israeli occupation forces fully responsible for the repercussions of the continuation of these violations and stresses its call on the international community to assume its responsibilities to end the escalation of the Israeli occupation, provide the necessary protection for civilians and make all efforts to end this conflict,” the Saudi foreign ministry added.

While Riyadh has been engaged in talks with the Biden administration about normalizing ties with Israel, it has arguably been more vocal in its criticism of Jerusalem than ever before, particularly since the formation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hardline government last December.

The Jordanian and Saudi statements came as minor scuffles were reported between police and Palestinians around the Mount as Jewish visitors toured the site, though there were no reports of any serious disturbances.

Palestinian sources quoted by Kan news complained of violence by officers and said a young man was detained on the Temple Mount, and that some Muslim worshipers were prevented from entering the compound through one of its gates.

Police detained three Jews for violating the rules at the site, before later releasing them. One reportedly blew a shofar — a ram’s horn traditionally sounded on Rosh Hashanah. Videos shared on Palestinian social media and drew angry reactions.

As with past years, there have been concerns over tensions at the Mount during Rosh Hashanah and other upcoming holidays, when there is usually a large uptick in Jewish visitors. Last week, Jerusalem police chief Doron Turgeman indicated forces have made the Temple Mount a key part of the force’s efforts to ensure security for Israelis and tourists in the city during the holidays.

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