JERUSALEM, Israel - More than 1,500 Jewish pilgrims visited the Temple Mount on Sunday to mark Tisha B'av, an annual day of fasting and mourning that commemorates the destruction of both the First and Second Temples.
The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism and while Jews are permitted to visit it, non-Muslims are forbidden from praying there, according to longstanding Israeli policy. The Temple Mount is the third-holiest site in Islam and Al-Aqsa Mosque is located there.
Earlier in the day, Muslim worshippers clashed with Israeli police on the Temple Mount and some of them briefly chanted: "With spirit, with blood, we will redeem Al-Aqsa."
Israeli police said Muslim youth hurled rocks at security forces, who quickly brought the situation under control.
The Islamic Waqf, which administers the site, said Israeli police used heavy-handed tactics to control the crowd and accused Israel of “violating the sanctity” of al-Aqsa Mosque by allowing “Jewish extremists to storm the mosque, make provocative tours and perform public prayers and rituals.”
It said the site “is a purely Islamic mosque that will not accept division or partnership.”
Muslims visit and pray on the Temple Mount every single day; the Temple Mount is sovereign Israeli territory. Jews are the only people restricted in any way. But it's somehow provocative for Jews to visit and pray. https://t.co/LuHfRDIwi0
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) July 19, 2021
Jordan, which oversees Muslim sites in Jerusalem, said it sent a letter to Israel urging it to respect the status quo.
“The Israeli actions against the mosque are rejected and condemned,” said Daifallah al-Fayez, spokesman for Jordan’s Foreign Ministry.
Earlier this year, heavy clashes on the Temple Mount helped spark an 11-day war between Israel and terrorist groups in Gaza Strip.
Amid the heightened tensions, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett asserted that both Muslims and Jews have "freedom to worship" at the site and praised Israeli police.
Bennett's statement sparked speculation that Israel would allow Jews to pray at the Temple Mount, which would mark a major shift in Israeli policy. In 2015, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu assured Jordan that Israel will not allow Jewish prayer at the site.
"Israel will continue to enforce its longstanding policy: Muslims pray on the Temple Mount; non-Muslims visit the Temple Mount,” he said in a statement.
On Monday, the Prime Minister's Office clarified Bennett's earlier comments, saying he misspoke and meant to say that both Jews and Muslims have "freedom of visitation rights" at the holy site. The PMO also said the status quo on the Temple Mount barring non-Jews from prayer there will remain the same.
However, just days earlier, Channel 12 reported that groups of Jews have been quietly ascending the Temple Mount for months and praying there without interruption by police. They do not bring prayer books or any symbols of prayer to avoid attracting attention from Muslim worshippers on the site. The Islamic Waqf is aware of the situation, but has not taken action against the Jewish worshippers, the report said.
In the past, attempts by non-Muslims to pray at the Temple Mount resulted in expulsion from the site and violence.
Why does Judaism matter and how is it connected to Christianity? Learn more here.