The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court has ordered the continued closure – albeit temporary – of the Golden Gate building known as “Bab al-Raheem” on the Temple Mount while legal arguments over its status are in process. The Islamic Waqf Authority which monitors and administers the site has been given 60 days to respond.
The order came in the wake of a violent riot by an Arab mob that literally ripped the doors off the building and raised the Palestinian Authority flag atop the roof following Friday prayers.
The Golden Gate – also known as the Gate of Mercy – was sealed by Israeli authorities in 2003 because a group with links to Hamas began to use the site for meetings, rather than faith. In addition, there were concerns over illegal construction work that had been carried out in the past by the Waqf, that had already caused irreparable harm to ancient artifacts dating back to the Jewish Holy Temple periods. The Israel government believes the work carried out by the Waqf destroyed archaeological artifacts that prove the Jewish presence on the site thousands of years ago.
Periodically the Waqf nevertheless attempts to reopen the site, staging protests and convening prayer gatherings in the area which usually lead to clashes with Israeli police.
In February the Waqf once again began provocations, this time actually reopening the site and launching it as a mosque, with Muslim worshipers praying within the building.
Israeli police have removed the prayer rugs and other items from the building and re-locked the gate.
A number of clashes have since erupted between Muslim worshipers and Israeli police.
The most violent and serious attack took place last Thursday when a terrorist set the Israel Police station afire by throwing a firebomb at a police officer (who sustained minor injuries) within the Temple Mount compound. The entire Temple Mount compound was sealed off after the incident, which was followed by more violent clashes with Muslim worshipers.
Israeli and Jordanian officials have been meeting for days in an effort to find some way to end the violence.
The problem is that most of those who are igniting the violence have far more invested in its escalation than they do in reaching peace with Israel.