Temple Mount saw record number of Israeli visitors, despite tensions


(JTA) — July saw the largest number of Jewish Israelis visiting the Temple Mount  in any single month since it came under Israeli control in 1967.

Some 3,200 people visited the site, which is holy to both Jews and to Muslims, who refer to the compound as Haram al Sharif, Army Radio reported Friday.

This was slightly higher than the total number of visits recorded during the High Holy Days last year – the busiest period of the year in terms of traffic by Israelis. In previous years, approximately 11,000 Israelis visited the site annually.

The surge coincided with tensions and a deterioration in the security situation around the Temple Mount – which was the site of both of Judaism’s ancient temples and houses the al Aqsa mosque — following the slaying of two police officers by three Arab-Israeli terrorists outside the compound.

Israel placed metal detectors at all the entrances to the Temple Mount in reaction to the attack, triggering rioting amid further acts of terrorism by Palestinians.

To protest the measure, which Israel reversed earlier this month in an apparent bid to defuse the situation, the Muslim custodians of the Temple Mount refused to enter it until the metal detectors were removed.

The custodians, belonging to the Waqf Muslim religious authority under Jordanian control, have jurisdiction to administer worship at the site. They allow Jews and others to visit, but prevent Jewish worship or religious activity at the site.

Because the precise site of the Temples’ “Holy of Holies” has not been identified, religious Jews were often hesitant to visit mount and inadvertently step on hallowed ground. In recent years, some prominent Orthodox rabbis have relaxed their objections to Jews visiting the site, and a growing movement of Jewish Temple Mount activists have encouraged visits on religious and nationalist grounds.

During the protest strike of the Waqf custodians, many Israeli Jews came to the Temple Mount to pray there.

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