Last week, the Waqf, the Muslim authority which oversees operations on the Temple Mount on behalf of Jordan and in cooperatin with Israel, announced that the buildings reserved for exclusive Muslim use on the Temple Mount would be closed until further notice due to the coronavirus. As a result, Jews who visited their holiest site were openly praying while very few Muslim-Arabs were seen at the site. A marked increase in Jewish attendance was recorded.

On Friday, crowds of Muslims entered the Temple Mount Compound to pray, in contravention of the Health Ministry regulations.  On Sunday, after the Israelii government and Jordan held talks regarding the situation at the holy site, the Waqf ordered the entire site closed to Muslims. 

Officials in the Waqf and Jordan told the Israeli authorities it would be much easier to enforce the restriction if the Mughrabi Gate was also closed. It should be noted that there are eleven gates used to access the Temple Mount. Ten gates are used exclusively by Muslms while the Mughrabi Gate (also known as the Hallel Gate) is the only gate used by Jews and tourists. Muslims do not use the Hallel Gate.

As per the Waqf’ request, the Israeli police closed the Hallel Gate to Jews and tourists.

On Sunday, Temple Mount activist Michael Miller posted a video on Facebook showing Muslims passing through a police checkpoint and entering the Temple Mount.

“More than one hundred Arabs are inside, praying, while no Jews are being allowed in,” Miller reported. He claimed that there were no police or Israeli security forces inside the compound. “The only reason for this is that they wanted to see our holy site empty of Jews.”

On Monday, Temple Mount activists organized a protest but the event was severely hampered by Health Ministry restrictions.

The situation was shown to be as Miller claimed in a video posted by Suleiman Maswadah.

Miller noted that the Western Wall was open as was the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, albeit limited to groups of 30. 

“This is a huge lie,” Miller said. “Who knows if and when it will open to Jews? The Muslim authorities may see this as an opportunity to exclude Jews. There is no justification for this situation as it stands.”

Rabbi Yehudah Glick, a former Likud Member of Knesset and long-time Temple Mount activist, stated the situation simply.

“The Health Ministry established clear and reasonable guidelines,” Rabbi Glick told Breaking Israel News. “The Jews adhered to the guidelines and the Muslims did not. In order to get the Muslims to observe the coronavirus restrictions, the government prohibited Jews from entering the Temple Mount but the Muslims are still not adhering to the guidelines to prevent the pandemic from spreading.”

Even though the Temple Mount appears to be a local issue during a global crisis, Rabbi Glick emphasized the importance.

“Prayer at the Temple Mount is essential at this time,” Rabbi Glick said. In fact, Rabbi Glick has bee live-streaming prayers from the Temple Mount.

“Does anyone have any idea what will be after the days of the coronavirus?” Rabbi Glick said. “We are undeniably going through something very special from Shamayim (heaven). No one s a prophet who can say what will be but one thing I can promise is that I will be there to make sure there will be a House of Prayer for all Nations.”

Assaf Fried, spokesman for the Temple Mount movements, acknowledged that the enforcement of a racist policy excluding Jews while permitting Muslim-Arabs to enter but Fried noted that this was not cause for too much concern. 

“The police closed the Temple Mount to everyone; Jews, Muslims, and tourists. But they allowed some workers of the Waqf to enter and while they were there, they prayed out in the open. Though this looks bad, it is not a Muslim ‘victory.’ All religious sites are closed. This may have come about because Jordan, who has a custodial role over the Temple Mount, closed all of its holy sites, so they demanded Israel close the Temple Mount as a way of expressing this custodial role.”

“There were several incremental, though significant, victories. This is the first time in the last 50 years that the Israeli government closed the Temple Mount to Muslims.”

Fried referred to the period in July 2017 when Israel installed metal detectors at the entrances to the Temple Mount in the wake of a deadly attack in which terrorists exited the Muslims sites armed with guns. The Waqf’s inexplicable response to the metal detectors was to call for the Muslims to refuse to enter the site. As a result, Jews were alone on their holiest site for one week.

“This was also the first time that Jews were allowed on the site when it was a Muslim holiday,” Fried said, noting that Sunday was Lailat al Miraj. Ironically, the holiday commemorates the Night Journey that, according to Islam, the Islamic prophet Muhammad took during a single night around the year 621. Despite the Koran specifically stating that Muhammad never left Saudi Arabia, some sects of Islam have developed a myth that claims Muhammad flew to Jerusalem on a winged beast in order to pray at the site of the Jewish Temples. 

“So, on the day they were supposed to be commemorating Muhammad’s visit to the Temple Mount, the Muslims did not pray at the Temple Mount and Jews did,” Fried noted. 

When Fried ascended to the Temple Mount last week, he described the Muslim-free prayer environment as “the Garden of Eden.” He regretted not being able to pray in that manner today however he did not consider it a “Muslim victory.” 

“All the museums and parks are closed. After the coronavirus passes, we will return to business-as-usual, which, insofar as the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount, was definitely on the rise. Having a small window of Jews-only prayer improved our situation and what we gained, we won’t give up.”

Source: Israel in the News