JERUSALEM — A plan by a grass-roots Jewish organization to bring 10,000 Jews to the Temple Mount has prompted an Islamic group allegedly connected to Hamas to instruct followers to disrupt the visit, a high-ranking Jerusalem police official told WND.
Revava, a group with the stated mission of ”restoring self-esteem to the state of Israel by restoring national pride and values,” has planned the April 10 event at the heavily restricted Temple Mount to spark Israeli dialogue about reclaiming the holy site from its Islamic custodians.
Shmulik Ben Ruby, a police spokesman, said the current government restrictions of allowing only 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.
”We will not let so many Jews up at once. This is not the usual habits on the Temple Mount,” Ben Ruby said. “We have to ensure that every Jewish group is going up in safety and will go up quietly.”
David Ha’ivri, executive director of Revava, told WND his group is forging ahead with its visit in spite of the police restrictions.
“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.”
But a high-ranking Jerusalem police official said Israel has received intelligence the Islamic Movement, an Islamic fundamentalist group it accuses of being linked to Hamas, has activated a cell in northern Israel to draw plans to foil the Revava visit.
The official said the Movement, which stresses Arab sovereignty over the Temple Mount, has instructed its followers to sleep in mosques starting April 8 to prevent Jews from ascending the Mount.
Israel is concerned the Jewish visit will prompt a major confrontation with the Palestinians, the official said, and police are worried “Jewish extremists” will use the visit to carry out an attack on the Temple Mount in hopes of disrupting Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s plan to withdrawa Jewish settlements from Gaza and parts of the West Bank this summer.
“This visit cannot happen. It will cause violence on the Temple Mount and will result in a deterioration of the security situation in Israel,” the official said. “It is just an excuse by Jewish extremists to start a conflict and try to stop [the Gaza withdrawal].”
The official confirmed Palestinians have plastered mosques throughout the Temple Mount area with signs warning of the mass Jewish ascent, a story first reported by WND. 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, do not detail what specific measures Palestinians should take against the Jewish event.
The Islamic Movement has been accused by Israel of urging its members to join Hamas, and was blamed for participation in several terror attacks, including a car bombing in September 1999. Many Movement members allegedly recruited by Hamas in the West Bank have been arrested in recent years.
The Movement recently split into two splinter groups. The southern faction, headed by Sheikh Abdullah Darwish, says it is involved only with political activities, and has had several members elected to Israel’s Knesset. The Movement’s northern faction, the group allegedly planning a response to Revava, is led by Sheikh Raed Salah, accused by Israel of involvement in terrorism and barred from traveling abroad.
Salah has been campaigning for Islamic control of holy sites in Israel and was involved in the Muslim takeover of Solomon’s Stables, a large area below the Al Aqsa Mosque that recently was excavated and built into a new mosque.
Ha’ivri said he is not concerned by Islamic Movement threats.
”The Palestinians just need to come to terms with the fact that we live in a Jewish state, and Jews have a right to pray on the Temple Mount unimpeded,” Ha’ivri said.
He also accused the Israeli police of using “intimidation tactics” to deter him from forging ahead with the Temple Mount visit.
“A senior police officer came to me yesterday and threatened to put me in administrative detention if I don’t cancel the event,” Ha’ivri said. “The government is very afraid of what we are doing.”
A police official denied any threat was made.
Ha’ivri said his group is not planning any violence and is not involved with protesting the Gaza withdrawal.
“Our visit has nothing to do with the withdrawal or even with politics, and we’ve never advertised it as such,” he said. “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.”
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 still is 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.
Ben Ruby told WND although Jews are barred from the Mount in large groups, the Israeli police would allow thousands of Muslims to ascend.
”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.”