The Israel Police said Wednesday that eight Jewish worshipers were removed from the Temple Mount for “violating the terms of the visit,” in an apparent reference to praying at the holy site, which is forbidden for non-Muslim visitors.
Police said some 1,115 people visited the Temple Mount, where the two ancient Jewish temples stood, on Wednesday. Of that number, 275 were Jews.
Police also said that tens of thousands attended the traditional biannual Priestly Blessing at the Western Wall, which abuts the Temple Mount, on Wednesday morning.
The ceremony sees male descendants of the Kohanic priestly caste gathering to recite a benediction. It is performed daily by devout Jews at synagogues throughout Israel, while mass blessings at the Western Wall take place on Passover in the spring and the current festival of Sukkot.
The Western Wall is the closest spot to the Temple Mount where Jews can pray.
Jewish visits to the Mount, today occupied by the Al Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock, often spark tensions, and the Priestly Blessing ceremony took place amid tight security.
Police arrested one Jewish teenager Wednesday morning who suspected of prostrating himself while ascending to the Temple Mount.
The country’s two chief rabbis and the rabbi of the Western Wall received crowds at a large sukkah — a temporary structure erected for the duration of the festival in allusion to the booths that the Bible says the Israelites erected during the Exodus from Egypt.
On Sunday, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas) called on all Israeli Jews to converge on the Western Wall for the Priestly Blessing to counter a controversial resolution passed by UNESCO’s member states that omitted Jewish ties to the Temple Mount and Western Wall.
“This year, we’ll come, in our masses, to Jerusalem, to the Western Wall, to the Priestly Blessing. This Wednesday… we’ll all be there. We’ll send a clear message — nobody will separate us from our holy places,” wrote Deri in a Facebook post.
The UNESCO resolution, proposed by Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar and Sudan, was adopted last week at the committee stage and ratified on Tuesday. It used only Muslim names for the holy sites of Jerusalem’s Old City and was harshly critical of Israel for what it termed “provocative abuses that violate the sanctity and integrity” of the area. The resolution drew angry condemnation from Israeli politicians from across the political spectrum.