For the first time in years, Jews went up onto the Temple Mount on Monday without the accompaniment of Muslim religious authority officials, as police allowed non-Muslim visitors back onto the powder-keg holy site for the first time since a Friday terror attack in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Many members of the Waqf — the Islamic trust that administers the site — have objected to the metal detectors Israel installed at entrances to the holy site and have refused to ascend to the compound, urging other Muslims to stay away as well in protest.
Waqf officials normally keep a close eye on non-Muslim visitors to the site, where a delicate status quo allowing only Muslim prayer is in place.
The Temple Mount was closed Friday after three Arab Israeli terrorists emerged from the compound and opened fire at a group of police officers just outside, killing two of them, using guns that had apparently been stashed earlier on the site.
On Sunday, the site was opened to Muslims only, and on Monday, it was opened to non-Muslim visitors as well.
Israel Radio reported that 10 people were injured and three were arrested for throwing stones in overnight scuffles with security forces close to the Old City’s Lion’s Gate, near one of the Temple Mount’s nine entrances.
On Monday morning, the area was reportedly quiet, with security forces at the ready for any change in the situation.
A Twitter feed belonging to Israeli rescue service Hatzolah published a picture of what it said were a group of Jews taking advantage of the lack of Waqf officials and reciting Kaddish (the Mourners Prayer) for the two police officers — both Druze — who were killed in the attack.
Under the status quo, established after Israel captured the site in 1967, the site is managed by an Islamic foundation under the auspices of Jordan — the Waqf — and Israel controls access.
Jews are allowed to visit, but not pray, at the site — the holiest place in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam.
Waqf officials and others see the metal detectors and other planned security measures, such as cameras outside the gates, as breaking the status quo — despite Israeli assurances that it will remain in place.
Before Sunday, only the Mughrabi Gate, where non-Muslim visitors enter, had a metal detector.
Naftali Bennett, education minister and head of the right-wing Jewish Home party, called the Muslim reaction to the security measures “a tempest in a teacup.”
He told Israel Radio on Monday that Jewish visitors to the Western Wall and Muslim visitors to the Kaaba in Mecca had to pass through metal detectors as well.
21 יהודים ראשונים בהר הבית מאז הפיגוע ביום שישי pic.twitter.com/n9dwjIfGCq
— yehudah glick (@YehudahGlick) July 17, 2017
Yehudah Glick, a lawmaker from Netanyahu’s Likud party and an activist for the right to Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, posted a video clip on Twitter, to announce the ascent of “the first 21 Jews on the Temple Mount” since Friday’s attack.
Arnon Segal, an activist in the Jewish campaign to rebuild a third Jewish temple on the Mount, told the radio station that the site was empty early Monday and that it was a relief not to see Waqf staff who, he charged, shouted at Jewish visitors at any hint of prayer, including a mother shushing a crying baby.
Sheikh Safwat Freij, head of the Al Aqsa Association and deputy leader of the southern branch of the Islamic Movement, charged that the security cameras would “only increase friction” between Muslim worshipers and security forces.
“The mosque is just for prayer,” he said. “We are against violence and against politics at the mosque.”
Appearing to belittle the idea that two Jewish temples stood on the Mount before the mosque was built, he said Jews should not be allowed on the site in the numbers permitted today.
On Sunday, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan told Channel 2 TV that additional security checks at the site, known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary), were now nonnegotiable. “Live fire from inside the Temple Mount crosses every red line,” he said.