(JTA) — Citing “security reasons,” Israeli police announced that Knesset members and government ministers are banned from visiting the Temple Mount during the eight-day Passover holiday, which begins Friday night.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld announced the rule Friday, the Times of Israel reported. Rosenfeld said that “the visits of tourists and Jewish visitors can continue normally.”
The Temple Mount, which is holy to Jews and Muslims, is adjacent to the Western Wall and is the one-time location of Judaism’s first and second temples. The site has witnessed numerous clashes between Jews and Palestinians in recent years, particularly during holidays.
Rumors that Israel planned to change the status quo that allows Muslims control on the Mount and prohibits Jewish prayer there sparked a surge of Palestinian violence that began in October. Israel has repeatedly affirmed its commitment to the status quo; however, a growing number of Israeli Jews who advocate for greater Jewish access to the site have in recent years visited the Temple Mount, which includes the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. Their visits, along with those by right-wing Israeli lawmakers, are viewed by Muslims and Palestinians as a provocation and threat to the status quo.
Rosenfeld said that 3,500 police will be on patrol in Jerusalem during Passover, an increase above the usual number. He declined to say how large an increase it represented, however.
“These forces are patrolling in all public places, bus stations, shopping malls, tram stations,” he said.
During Passover tens of thousands of Jews visit Jerusalem’s Old City.
Israel has also closed off all crossing points from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip for Friday and Saturday, fearing a wave of violence during the start of the holiday.