Likud MK visits Temple Mount on eve of wedding

Tzipi Hotovely says her pilgrimage to Judaism’s holiest site was personal, not political

Tzipi Hotovely in the Knesset. (Abir Sultan/Flash 90)
Tzipi Hotovely in the Knesset. (Abir Sultan/Flash 90)

Deputy Transportation Minister Tzipi Hotovely marked her last day as an unmarried woman with a visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City.

The Likud MK is planning to marry Or Alon on Monday, and she was accompanied by family members on her Sunday visit to Judaism’s most sacred site.

According to Jewish tradition, the Temple Mount was the site where both Jewish temples stood. The First Temple was believed to have been built by King Solomon in about the 10th century BCE, and the Second Temple was rebuilt after Jews returned from the Babylonian exile at the end of the 6th century BCE.

Jews are theoretically allowed to ascend the mount but police have the right to veto any visits and in practice prevent both prayer and high-profile Jewish visits.

Earlier this month, the Knesset Interior Committee debated the longstanding unofficial ban on Jewish prayer at the Temple Mount, while the Religious Affairs Ministry said it was reexamining the possibility of revising the prohibition.

Muslims believe the mount is where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven and embarked on a night journey through the air to Mecca. The day-to-day functioning of the site is in the hands of the Islamic Waqf, as it has been since Israel captured the site in the 1967 Six Day War, and Israeli governments have been stringent about maintaining the status quo.

The iconic dome of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, erected by Muslim Caliph Omar at the end of the seventh century on the southern perimeter of the Temple Mount, has often served as a call to arms against Israel. A visit by then-opposition leader Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount in September 2000 was used as a casus belli to spark the Second Intifada, known in Arabic as the al-Aqsa Intifada.

Hotovely’s visit was coordinated in advance with the police commissioner and passed without incident. She told the Maariv daily that the visit was a personal one rather than political. “Ascending the Temple Mount is very important to me… for my wedding tomorrow,” she said. “Building a home and a family is not just a private activity, but it also carries the dimension ‘rebuilding one of the ruins of Jerusalem.'”

Two weeks ago, police temporarily barred Jews from entering the site a day after minor scuffles broke out when 17 right-wing activists tried to enter.

Two weeks before that, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein supported the police decision to not allow Likud MK Moshe Feiglin to enter the site as well.

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