Record number of Jews reported to visit Temple Mount over High Holiday season
Advocacy group says over 6,000 Jewish visitors have gone up to flashpoint holy site in a new monthly high, amid Hamas threats of violence
More than 6,000 Jews visited the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City since the start of the High Holidays — a new record for monthly visits, according to an advocacy group.
Yaraeh, which promotes Jewish visits to the flashpoint holy site, reported the figure on Friday, the 19th day of Tishrei, with the number expected to further grow over the last 11 days of the Jewish month.
During the same month last year, the group said a record 5,981 Jews ascended to the Temple Mount.
Veteran Temple Mount activist Israel Medad noted the increased size of the Jewish groups since he first started visiting. Previously “no more than seven Jews would ascend at one time,” but now groups of 100-150 people go up together, he said in a statement from Yaraeh.
Jewish visits to the Temple Mount have long been a source of tension with Palestinians, leading to minor scuffles with police over Rosh Hashanah last month, after Palestinian youths barricaded themselves inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque in anticipation of the Jewish visitors.
Police have geared up for potential tensions at the Temple Mount during the ongoing Sukkot holiday, following several nights of rioting in East Jerusalem and continued unrest in the West Bank.
However, no clashes were reported at the Jerusalem holy site on Friday, when large numbers of Muslim worshippers typically attend afternoon prayers.
The presence of Jewish visitors on the Temple Mount is opposed by Palestinians and Hamas has warned of violent “repercussions” over visits during the High Holidays, when the number of Jews who tour the site typically rises.
The Gaza-ruling terror group regularly describes itself as the primary force defending the Temple Mount, which houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque, against Israel.
The hilltop compound has long been the focus of tensions, but Palestinians have voiced increasing anger at the rising number of visits by Jews, which according to an activist group nearly doubled to a record high of over 50,000 during the past year.
The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism and is revered as the location of both ancient Jewish temples. The compound is Islam’s third holiest site and is managed by Jordan — whom Israel captured the Old City and the rest of East Jerusalem from in the 1967 Six Day War — as part of a delicate arrangement with the Jewish state.
Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report