The seventh day of Passover falls on Friday this year, a day on which the Temple Mount is closed to Jews, holiday or not. And so Thursday was the last day of pilgrimage this holiday – which increased significantly Jewish ascendance to our holiest site at the last possible moment, Temple Mount News reported.
More than 200 people were waiting at the Mughrabi gate before the opening of the mountaintop compound, eager to enter the courtyards of the House of God during the days of the pilgrimage (the three pilgrimage holidays in biblical times were Shavuot, Sukkot and Pesach).
According to the Temple Organization Headquarters, almost 2,000 Jews have flocked to the Temple Mount on Chol Ha’Moed – the intermediary days between the first and last holidays of Passover.
As of 10:30 AM, Thursday appeared to be a record-breaking day in terms of the numbers of visitors. Temple Mount News also reported that many of the pilgrims used to be frequent visitors on the Temple Mount, but had stayed away because of harsh admonishment from various sources against ascending to the holiest place to Jews.
According to author Rivka Gonen (Contested Holiness: Jewish, Muslim, and Christian Perspective on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem), a few days after the Six-Day War, on June 17, 1967, a meeting was held at the al-Aqsa mosque between Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and Muslim religious authorities in Jerusalem to reformulate the status quo of the Temple Mount. Jews were given the right to visit the Temple Mount unobstructed and free of charge if they respected Muslims’ religious feelings and acted decently, but they were not allowed to pray.
The Muslims objected to Dayan’s offer, as they completely rejected the Israeli conquest of Jerusalem and the Mount. Some Jews, led by Shlomo Goren, then the military chief rabbi, had objected as well, claiming the decision meant handing over the compound to the Muslims.
The President of the High Court of Justice, Aharon Barak, in response to an appeal in 1976 against police interference with an individual’s putative right to prayer on the Temple Mount, expressed the view that, while Jews had a right to pray there, it was not absolute but subject to the public interest and the rights of other groups.
Barak wrote: “The basic principle is that every Jew has the right to enter the Temple Mount, to pray there, and to have communion with his maker. This is part of the religious freedom of worship, it is part of the freedom of expression. However, as with every human right, it is not absolute, but a relative right… Indeed, in a case where there is near certainty that injury may be caused to the public interest if a person’s rights of religious worship and freedom of expression would be realized, it is possible to limit the rights of the person in order to uphold the public interest.”
Naturally, no such deprivation of human rights was considered by Barak regarding the Muslims on the Temple Mount.