Controversial Old City Tunnel Among Stops for Sukkot Visitors

Thousands of Israelis and tourists made the traditional pilgrimage this week to Jerusalem for the holiday of Sukkot, some walking through the archaeological tunnel near the Temple Mount that was the focus of last week’s violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The Israeli government’s decision to open the northern entrance to the tunnel had sparked the violence. By Tuesday, after another Israeli and two Palestinians died of their injuries, the death toll had risen to 15 Israelis and 57 Palestinians.

The government closed the entrance for Shabbat, then opened it again without any major incident, because security was beefed up around the Old City and in the Western Wall plaza in particular. Some stone-throwing incidents were reported in eastern Jerusalem, but no one was hurt.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the Palestinians of using the tunnel “as an excuse” for last week’s violence and said he would refuse to negotiate closing it down.

This week, visitors were able to pass through the tunnel, from the southern entrance in the Western Wall plaza to the new entrance in the Christian Quarter.

Tens of thousands of people came Monday to the Western Wall to receive the traditional priestly blessing from Kohanim.

Members of the Temple Mount Faithful, a group that seeks to rebuild the ancient Jewish Temple, attempted to enter the Temple Mount complex, where the Al-Aksa Mosque is located.

But police blocked their way, saying that their presence on the Temple Mount could endanger public security.

Elsewhere in Jerusalem, President Ezer Weizman held an open house to greet visitors in the sukkah erected at his official residence.

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