JERUSALEM — Police here decided today to ban a grass-roots Jewish organization from bringing 10,000 Jews to the heavily restricted Temple Mount to spark Israeli dialogue about reclaiming the holy site from its Islamic custodians, while the city police department told WorldNetDaily the Israeli government would allow a similar group of Muslims.
“We will not let so many Jews up at once. This is not the usual habits on the Temple Mount. We have to ensure that every Jewish group is going up in safety and will go up quietly,” Shmulik Ben Ruby, Jerusalem police spokesman, told WorldNetDaily.
Revava, a group with the stated mission of “restoring self-esteem to the state of Israel by restoring national pride and values” had planned to bring 10,000 Jews to the Temple Mount April 10.
Ben Ruby said the current police restrictions of only allowing small groups of about 30 to 50 non-Muslims to ascend the Temple Mount, the holiest site for Jews, will apply on the day of the scheduled gathering. The Jewish ascent, first reported by WorldNetDaily, would be the largest Jewish presence at the Temple Mount since the Ancient Temple period according to Revava.
But Ben Ruby said the Israeli police would allow a similar group of Muslims.
“We would and we do allow 10,000 Palestinians to go up,” he said. “They are going up there to pray in their mosques.”
He recognized Jews cannot pray on the Mount: “Yes, those are the restrictions.”
The Temple Mount, the area directly behind the Western Wall in Jerusalem, was opened to the general public until September 2000, when the Palestinians started their intifada by throwing stones at Jewish worshipers after then-candidate for prime minister
Ariel Sharon visited the area. Following the onset of violence, the new Sharon government closed the Mount to non-Muslims, using checkpoints to control all pedestrian traffic for fear of further clashes with the Palestinians.
The Temple Mount was reopened to non-Muslims in August 2003. It is still open but only Sundays through Thursdays, 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., and not on any Christian, Jewish or Muslim holidays or other days considered “sensitive” by the Waqf, the Muslim custodians of the Temple Mount.
During “open” days, Jews and Christian are allowed to ascend the Mount, usually through organized tours and only if they conform first to a strict set of guidelines, which includes demands that they not pray or bring any “holy objects” to the site. Visitors are banned from entering any of the mosques without direct Waqf permission. Rules are enforced by Waqf agents, who watch tours closely and alert nearby Israeli police to any breaking of their guidelines.
David Ha’ivri, director of Revava, told WorldNetDaily his group’s visit will go ahead as planned in spite of police statements to the contrary.
We are still in negotiations with the police, asking them to open up the Mount to more people for longer periods of time,” he said. “We advertised our trip all over the country and have been getting an enormous response. We will exercise our rights as Jews to go to our holiest site.”
Ha’ivri says Israel doesn’t have a law forbidding large numbers of Jews from ascending the Mount. ‘
‘They talk about only letting up small groups,” he said. “Show me the law. Show me what legally bars us from going up? There is no law. It’s all rhetoric.”
Yisroel Meir Cohen, Revava executive director, said the group would follow Israeli police guidelines if they are in effect the day of the mass visit.
“We are willing to have 10,000 Jews line up outside the Temple Mount check point area and go up 50 at a time if necessary,” he said. “This gathering will take place one way or another … we told people they may need to wait in line.”
Cohen said he views the Israeli police response as a “positive development. The Sharon government is not religious. They don’t care that the Temple Mount is Judaism’s holiest site, and they have proven many times they are willing to give into Wafq pressure. So at least they are not closing the Mount completely. At least some Jews can get up.”
Several Israeli press reports have depicted the Revava visit as a protest against Sharon’s controversial plan to withdraw Jewish settlements from Gaza and parts of the West Bank this summer.
Ha’ivri said “those are completely inaccurate accounts. I have no idea where they came up with that. Our visit has nothing to do with the withdrawal or even with politics, and we’ve never advertised it as such. We are going up peacefully to change the talk and drive home to the government that they need to reopen the area and allow Jews to pray there. … Hopefully the trip will spark more Jews to come on a daily basis.”
WorldNetDaily has learned Palestinians have plastered mosques throughout the Temple Mount area with signs warning of Revava’s gathering. The signs read, “The Jews, who have no historic claim to the [Temple Mount], are planning to storm our holy site on April 10. We must not allow this to happen.”
The signs, which have been repeatedly removed by Israeli police, do not detail what specific measures Palestinians should take against the Jewish event.
Ha’ivri, whose photo is featured prominently on most of the posters, said, “The Palestinians will have to become used to the situation that this is a Jewish State and we have a right to visit the Temple Mount.”
The Mount is the site of Judaism’s first and second temples, the primary area of worship for the Jewish faith and the location in which Gods “shekhina,” or presence, is thought by Jews to reside. The area is about the size of 15 football stadiums.
Christianity considers the area historically important. The book of Luke records that Jesus, raised a devout Jew, was dedicated in the Second Temple in accordance with the Laws of Moses, and describes Jesus’ boyhood visit to the Temple, which, it is written in John, he cleansed at Passover and during the last week of his life. Jesus once referred to the Temple as his “Father’s house.”
Although not mentioned by name in the Quran, the Temple Mount also is commonly identified by Muslims as the “furthermost sanctuary,” the site from which Muhammad, accompanied by the angel Gabriel, made the Night Journey to the Throne of God.
“The current situation is just miserable,” said Ha’ivri, “The Temple Mount is the only holy place in the world, aside from Mecca, where Jews are explicitly forbidden to pray … and here the restrictions are coming from a Jewish government.”
Several rabbinic authorities have issued orders barring Jews from entering certain parts of the Temple Mount, saying the areas are considered too holy to visit until the third Temple is rebuilt upon the arrival of the Jewish messiah. Some have restricted the entire Mount area.
Ha’ivri stressed his visit will be “spiritually pure. We will not be going to the specific areas that most agree are religiously forbidden. We are also telling all participants they have to go to a mikveh (Jewish ritual cleansing bath) the morning of our gathering.”
WorldNetDaily was given a tour last month of the Temple Mount along with several Christian archeologists. The small group was warned in advance not to bring Bibles and once on the Mount, not to whisper or make bowing movements for fear the Wafq might think a non-Muslim is praying in the area.
The tour guide, Nachman Kupietsky, an Orthodox Jew who covers his head with a baseball cap while in the area and not his usual yarmulke, for fear of being arrested, said, “These rules are very serious. They were made by the Waqf and agreed to by the Sharon government, which is not very religious and just doesn’t want any more clashes on the Temple Mount.”
Kupietsky told WND of instances in the past few months in which members of his tour group were arrested for breaking various rules.
He said a Jewish woman was detained last summer for putting her head down while sitting on a bench.
“It was a hot day and she just wanted to rest for a few minutes. The Wafq started screaming and the police arrested her.
She told me she was held for six hours and had to sign documents stating she would never again return to the Temple Mount.
“You also can’t bring anything with Hebrew letters, even secular Hebrew books,” he said. “The Wafq confiscated many of my tour books. One time I brought a guy who pulled out the Hebrew edition of the [Jerusalem] Post, and they took that from him.”
Kupietsky said Orthodox guests who decide to wear yarmulkes are routinely delayed by Israeli police at the entrance to the Temple Mount for up to 30 minutes while they are interrogated about the purpose of their visit.