Waqf urges Muslims to boycott Temple Mount over metal detectors
Light clashes break out as worshipers block Old City road, obeying call to stay away from Jerusalem holy site in protest of new security measures
The Muslim religious authority charged with managing the Temple Mount joined with other Islamic groups on Monday to call on Muslims “to reject and boycott all the Israeli aggression measures, including changing the historical status quo including imposing the metal detectors.”
The call followed Israel’s installation of metal detectors at the entrance gates to the Mount, following Friday’s deadly shooting attack by three Israeli Arabs which killed two Israeli police officers. The gunmen emerged from the compound and opened fire at a group of police officers just outside, killing two of them, using weapons that had apparently been stashed earlier on the site.
In its statement, the Waqf called on the faithful not to enter the mosque by passing through the metal detectors, adding, “If the metal detectors continue to be imposed, we call upon the people to pray in front of the gates of the mosque and in the streets of Jerusalem.”
Under the status quo, established after Israel captured the site in 1967, the site is managed by the Waqf, an Islamic foundation under the auspices of Jordan, and Israel controls access.
Israel closed the site after the attack, the first time in decades it was closed on a Friday, reopening it to Muslims on Sunday and to non-Muslims on Monday.
Muslims have held prayers outside the metal detectors to protest their placement at the gates.
On Monday afternoon, light clashes broke out in the Old City when police ordered a group of Muslim protesters off a road which they were trying to block with a prayer session.
Police said a Muslim teenager was arrested after throwing a bottle at police.
Scuffles also broke out on Sunday, but police said hundreds of Muslims visited the site nonetheless.
Jews revere the site, where the two Jewish temples stood in biblical times, as the Temple Mount. It is the holiest site in Judaism and the nearby Western Wall, a remnant of one of the temples, is the holiest place where Jews can pray.
Muslims regard the same hilltop compound as the Noble Sanctuary. Home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock, it is Islam’s third-holiest site after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.
The fate of the compound is an emotional issue and forms the centerpiece of rival Israeli and Palestinian national narratives. Any perceived changes to the delicate arrangements at the site can spark tensions. Its closure after Friday’s attack prompted condemnations from the Arab world.
Jerusalem police commissioner Yoram Halevi said the metal detectors were necessary for the site to reopen.
“I assume that with time they will understand that this is not terrible,” he told Army Radio. He said that security measures of this kind are commonplace in the world.
“When I go shopping on Friday I pass through a detector at the mall,” Halevi said. “We see them everywhere. They have become a part of our lives.”