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Online course teaches Jews how to pose as Muslims and sneak onto Temple Mount

Organizers say they seek to address Israel’s decision to continue long-held policy of barring non-Muslims from visiting holy site in final days of Ramadan

Thousands of Muslim worshipers attend the first Friday prayers of the holy month of Ramadan at the Al Aqsa Mosque Compound on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, on April 8, 2022. (Sliman Khader/Flash90)
Thousands of Muslim worshipers attend the first Friday prayers of the holy month of Ramadan at the Al Aqsa Mosque Compound on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, on April 8, 2022. (Sliman Khader/Flash90)

A group that advocates for Jews to visit the Temple Mount announced Wednesday that it was offering an online course to the public on how to pose as Muslims, so they can sneak into the flashpoint Jerusalem site when it is otherwise closed to them.

“Following the government’s capitulation to terror with its decision to close the Temple Mount to Jewish visitors, we are opening a shortened course on entering the Mount through the remaining open gates by going undercover and blending into a Muslim environment,” the Returning to the Mount group said in a flier it posted on Twitter.

The flier was referring to the government decision to bar non-Muslims from visiting the Temple Mount from last Friday until the end of Ramadan next week. Though it followed weeks of tensions at the flashpoint site known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, the policy is also one that has been instituted for years, given the large number of Muslims visitors during the holy month.

According to the flier, the course will take place next Sunday and Tuesday evenings for an hour and a half.

This is not the first time the ultranationalist activists have offered such a course. Channel 13 did a report on the phenomenon last year.

The segment showed lessons held in a Jerusalem apartment, with Returning to the Mount leaders teaching followers to dress in traditional Muslim garb, and to carry prayer mats, Misbaha prayer beads and even Arabic-language books about the Quran to make their disguise more convincing. In addition, members sometimes dye their hair and beards darker to make themselves appear more like Arabs, the report said.

Last week, a Jewish man was caught trying to enter the Temple Mount from one of the gates reserved for Muslims. He was spotted wearing traditional Emirati garb — a very rare phenomenon at the site. He also took off his shoes well before he arrived at the entrance, which Muslims do not typically do, as their feet would be dirtied before they walked into the site. The man was also photographed holding a kitchen rug, rather than a traditional prayer rug. Moreover, such rugs are typically held over the shoulder, not wrapped around one’s arm as the Jewish man was doing when caught.

Under the fragile status quo at the site, Muslims are allowed to visit and pray, while non-Muslims can only visit during limited time slots. The latter group is only allowed in via the Mughrabi Gate, while Muslims can use any of the 12 others.

Over five days of Passover last week, 4,625 Jews visited the Temple Mount, almost double the figure from three years ago, according to the Temple Mount Heritage Foundation, another Jewish group that encourages such excursions. In 2014, just 650 Jews visited the site considered the holiest place in Judaism. The site is the third holiest in Islam, and also a central symbol of Palestinian nationalism.

Palestinians say the uptick in visitors surmounts to a violation of the status quo. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid dismissed the claim, saying Israel does not view unwritten policy to include a cap on Jewish visitors. However, he insisted that the government is committed to the status quo under which Jews may not pray.

כבר כמה ימים שלא שומעים על הר הבית / אל אקצא. איך זה קורה? הרי עדיין חודש רמדאן והפלסטינים אותם פלסטינים והים אותו הים,…

Posted by Shir Aharon on Tuesday, April 26, 2022

However, for at least the past several years, journalists have regularly documented instances of prayer conducted quietly by Jewish visitors on their own and in groups, as Israeli police and even officials from the Jordan-backed Islamic Waqf look on.

Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai was the first Israeli minister to publicly acknowledge the change, which Palestinians say gives credence to their fears of an effort to gradually remove them from the site.

The “Returning to the Mount” extremist group, which advocates the construction of a third Jewish temple on the site that once housed the two biblical temples, circulated a flyer earlier this month offering a cash prize to anyone who managed to offer a living Passover sacrifice on the Temple Mount, and to anyone arrested trying to do so.

Six Jews in their 20s were arrested on April 14, the day before Passover eve, after police suspected they were planning to sacrifice a goat at the Mount.

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