With entrances to the Old City and Western Wall plaza under tight guard, Jerusalem police this morning arrested the two organizers of today’s Temple Mount demonstration in hopes of halting a plan in which a large number of Jews were to ascend the Mount.
Yisroel Meir Cohen, executive director of Revava, a group that planned to bring 10,000 Jews to the heavily restricted Temple Mount today, was detained for questioning early this morning. He had quietly entered the Temple Mount plaza about 3 a.m., several hours before the demonstration was to begin. At 6 a.m. Cohen was surrounded by about fifty officers and was placed under arrest.
“They kept me at the police station for a few hours knowing I wouldn’t be able to get to the demonstration to lead protests,” said Cohen, who was released moments ago on condition he stay outside the Old City, the walled section of Jerusalem that houses the Temple Mount. “They couldn’t even charge me with anything. It’s clear they wanted to keep me from the Temple Mount for fear I might start clashes.”
Cohen said he will abide by police restrictions and not attempt to go near the Mount.
“Anyway they have my picture, and will not let me near there,” said Cohen.
Arrested several hours later was Revava director and senior event leader David Ha’ivri, who was on his way to the Temple Mount when he was picked up by police and escorted to a nearby station.
“I completely expected to get arrested,” Ha’ivri told WorldNetDaily as he was being led away. “I even already told the people with me where to meet me afterwards.”
As of noon, only a few hundred protesters amassed near the Temple Mount, a trickle of the 10,000 Revava had hoped for. Demonstrators sang songs and danced, and chanted slogans about reclaiming the Mount for Jewish worship. Several Israeli Knesset members delivered speeches about the importance of the Temple Mount to Jewish tradition.
“It’s very hard to get in,” said Cohen. “With all the entrances to the Old City restricted, and police picking who to let into the Western Wall plaza, so many people are being told they can’t get in.”
More than 3,500 officers have been deployed around the Old City, with most entrances to the city completely blocked off. Police reinforcements have been sent to Jerusalem from all over the country. A large police contingency has been stationed at the Western Wall since Friday.
Police have been restricting access to the Mount area this morning, with officers turning away anyone deemed “suspicious.”
“The situation could get explosive if we let any of these crazies in and they try to storm the Temple Mount,” an officer stationed at a Western Wall check point told WorldNetDaily.
Settlers turned away from Temple Mount plaza
The officer then barred a group of Jewish settlers from entering. “You can always spot a settler,” he said. “They have large yalkmukas, side locks and look like they need a good shave.”
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.
Revava had hoped to bring thousands of Jews to the Temple Mount today to spark Israeli dialogue about reclaiming the holy site from its Islamic custodians.
“This is a Jewish state, and its about time Jews are allowed to their holiest site to pray,” said Ha’ivri.