JERUSALEM (Oct. 20)
Defense Minister Moshe Dayan visited the Temple Mount compound in East Jerusalem this morning following its re-opening to Jewish visitors for the first time since the El Aksa Mosque fire last Aug. 21. The Cabinet decided yesterday to lift the ban on Jewish access to the area held sacred by both Jews and Moslems. The ban was originally imposed to avoid possible clashes between Jewish visitors and Arabs who were incensed by the mosque fire.
The Cabinet’s decision however affected only one access, the Moor’s Gate, which has always been guarded by Israeli military police and has been used by Jewish worshipers and tourists going to and from the West Wall. The other nine gates under control of the Waqf, the Moslem religious council, remain closed to all but Moslem worshipers.
Gen. Dayan was accompanied by the chief of the Moslem guards employed by the Waqf. They are responsible for security of the El Aksa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock (Mosque of Omar). But Israeli authorities are responsible for security along the approaches to the area.
The ban on Jewish access to the Temple Mount irritated some Israelis, especially after an Australian Christian, Denis Michael William Rohan, admitted setting fire to the El Aksa Mosque. Some Israelis still insist that Israeli police should control all of the gates. The matter has become an issue in the Oct. 28 national election.