The Jerusalem police blocked off access to the Temple Mount this morning, deploying thousands of officers around the walled sections of the city to thwart plans to bring 10,000 Jews, including several Knesset members, to the Temple Mount Sunday.
More than 3,500 officers have set up shop around the Old City, the walled portion of Jerusalem that houses the Temple Mount, the Al Aqsa Moqsue and the ancient quarters from the Temple Period.
Police blocking off Temple Mount entrance April 8, 2005.
Police reinforcements have been sent to Jerusalem from all over the country. Check points have been erected at entrances to the city, and a large police contingency is already stationed at the Western Wall, with the Jewish entrance to the Temple Mount completely blocked off.
Police hope to halt a plan by Revava, a Jewish organization with the stated mission of ”restoring self-esteem to the state of Israel by restoring national pride and values,” to bring 10,000 Jews to the heavily restricted Temple Mount Sunday to spark Israeli dialogue about reclaiming the holy site from its Islamic custodians.
“They told us to look for settlers,” one officer at the Mount entrance told WND this morning. “The government doesn’t want any Jews around here who might start something with the Palestinians.”
Several thousand Muslims in Egypt and Gaza protested last weekend against the planned Jewish ascent of the Mount, and senior police officials told WND they received intelligence Palestinian groups are planning violent confrontations with Jews who try to storm onto the Temple Mount this weekend.
The Islamic Movement, a group Israel accuses of recruiting suicide bombers for Hamas, is planning to bring several hundred members to the Al Aqsa mosque later today to “protect it” from Jews.
Dr. Hasan Sanallah, a member of the Islamic Movement, told WND in an exclusive interview last week, “We called upon our followers to show up in the Aqsa Mosque not for sleeping but to protect it from any kind of aggression that might be planned.”
Palestinians have plastered mosques throughout the Temple Mount area with signs warning of the mass Jewish ascent. The signs, some of which were obtained by WND, 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.
Police announced the Mount will be completely closed off to Jews Sunday. Police say they are more worried about the Palestinians than Jews.
Police at Temple Mount plaza April 8, 2005. Photo: WND
“The movements that are organizing this rally do not have any intentions to perpetrate [any] attack, but rather express the central theme the site has to the Jewish people. The Muslims were the ones that took it to an extreme, mistakenly thinking that these groups would want to stage an attack,” said Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra.
Meanwhile several Israeli Knesset members announced yesterday they will join Revava Sunday and demand they be allowed onto the Temple Mount. Members Yechiel Chazan, Uri Ariel, Arye Eldad, and Michael Ratzon have threatened to try to get onto the Mount in protest against the police decision to forbid Jews from entering the holy site.
Revava Executive Director Yisroel Meir Cohen told WND, “We are pleased the Knesset members are joining us. We will demand together that the Temple Mount be opened to large numbers of Jews, and we will make clear this is a Jewish State and Jews have every right to pray at the Mount if we want to.”
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 Christians 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 violation of their guidelines.
Jerusalem police spokesman Shmulik Ben Ruby told WND although Revava is barred from bringing 10,000 Jews to the Mount, Israel 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.”