(JTA) — Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon has made it illegal to fund or join two Muslim groups that harass Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount.
Yaalon announced the decision on Wednesday with a statement issued by the Defense Ministry saying the Islamic Movement groups — Murabitat and Murabitun — were “a main factor in creating the tension and violence at the site.”
Murabitat, a women’s group, and Murabitun, a men’s group, had increased their verbal and physical attacks on religious Jews visiting the site last month.
In Jerusalem’s Old City, the Temple Mount — where the First and Second Temples once stood — is perhaps the world’s most contested religious site. It is the holiest site for Jews and the third-holiest site for Muslims, who believe the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven from there.
“The activity of Murabitun and Murabitat is a central cause of tension and violence on Temple Mount specifically and in Jerusalem more generally,” the statement said. “It is inflammatory and dangerous activity against tourists, visitors and worshippers at the site, leading to violence and potentially causing loss of life.”
Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib, who heads the Islamic Waqf that runs the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount, said the decision was “totally unacceptable,” according to the French news agency AFP.
Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, the former mufti of Jerusalem, called the decision “illegal, illegitimate and inhumane.”
“This is an assault on Al-Aqsa because these women defend Al-Aqsa,” the Muslim cleric told the Times of Israel. “It shows that the Jews covet Al-Aqsa mosque and want to drive all Muslims out of it.”
However, Rabbi Yehudah Glick, an advocate for Jewish worship on the Temple Mount, praised the decision.
“Thank God, better late than never,” Glick told the Times of Israel. “I have appealed to the police since this whole thing began in 2012. It took a while, but the state made the right decision.”
Glick accused Israeli authorities of remaining silent on increasingly harsh anti-Israeli incitement by the Islamic groups, which he said led to his shooting in October last year. Glick was shot four times at point-blank range by an assailant who was later killed by police.
Non-Muslims are allowed to visit the Temple Mount, but Jews are forbidden from praying or displaying national symbols for fear of triggering tensions with Muslim worshippers. Israel’s Chief Rabbinate has ruled that Jews should not visit the site for fear of stepping into an area forbidden by Jewish law.