Police close Temple Mount to Jewish visitors


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Police closed the Temple Mount to Jewish visitors after a group of Jews began praying at the site in violation of the rules there.

Jerusalem District Commander Yoram Halevy ordered the closure on Wednesday over the Jewish group’s “violating the rules of conduct that apply to the holy site,” according to Israel Police.

The Jewish visitors brought prayer books to the site, Haaretz reported. One was warned not to use the book, and after a second took out one, the group was expelled, according to Haaretz.

Police had closed the Temple Mount on Friday in the wake of an attack that killed two Israel Police officers.

Both Jewish visitors and tourists were allowed back on the holy site Monday, a day after two of the nine entrances reopened to Muslim worshippers with metal detectors and security cameras installed. The Mughrabi Gate entrance for Jews and tourists already had metal detectors in place.

The return to the site marks the first time that Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount are not under scrutiny by guards for the Muslim Waqf, the Islamic trust that oversees the holy site, since Muslims are boycotting the site over the presence of the metal detectors. The Waqf guards usually watch to make sure Jewish visitors do not pray or perform any religious rituals at the site, which is a violation of the so-called status quo.

Also Wednesday, the Waqf announced that all mosques in Jerusalem would be closed Friday in order to bring worshippers to pray at the gates of the Temple Mount in a protest move against the new security measures.

The announcement comes after Muslim protesters clashed with police outside of the Temple Mount for a second night in a row. The clashes Tuesday night came after the protesters held a prayer service at the gates of the site. Police responded when protesters threw rocks and bottles at the officers.

Arab-Israeli lawmakers joined the protesters and called for the metal detectors at the site to be removed. Protesters yelled “we will sacrifice our lives for Al-Aqsa,” “we’ll die as martyrs,” “there will be an intifada,” and “there’s nothing like killing soldiers,” Ynet reported.

Dozens of protesters were injured in the clashes, three seriously, the Palestinian Maan news agency reported.

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