Some 200 Jewish activists are expected to join a Chanukah march in Jerusalem’s Old City on Thursday evening, the first night of the festival of lights, to protest against the Jordanian Waqf’s control over Judaism’s holiest site, according to organizers and the Israel Police.
In an invite shared to social media, Beyadenu—Returning to the Temple Mount, one of the nine organizations behind the event, said, “This is not just another march, not just another protest! Kick out the [Jordanian Islamic] Waqf and restore full Jewish control over the Temple Mount!”
“We won’t win this war only in Gaza,” Beyadenu wrote in the invite, calling on the Israeli government to expel “the Nazis and their friends in the Waqf” from the Mount.
Dubbed the “Maccabee March” after the Jewish heroes who led the revolt against the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire that culminated in a military victory and the rededication of the Temple almost 2,200 years ago, Thursday’s procession is scheduled to depart at 7.30 p.m. from Tzahal Square in downtown Jerusalem.
A police spokesperson told the Tazpit Press Service that participants will pass through the Damascus Gate into the Muslim Quarter of the Old City. The official route ends at the Western Wall Plaza. Marchers will not be allowed to ascend to the flashpoint Temple Mount, the police emphasized.
Muslim prayers will continue to be held as usual during all eight days of Chanukah, and “any attempt to violate public order … will be dealt with decisively,” the spokesperson added.
Ahead of the march, Gaza’s ruling Hamas terror group issued a statement calling on “the Arab and Islamic nations and the brothers in the Kingdom of Jordan” to take action against what it described as an “attempt to impose Zionist control over the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque.”
“Our people will not allow it—no matter the cost,” Hamas threatened on Wednesday. “We call on our Palestinian people in the West Bank, Jerusalem and the occupied interior [Israel] to mobilize.”
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority called for an “urgent international and American intervention” to stop the march, falsely claiming that the marchers plan to enter the Temple Mount and Al Aqsa Mosque on Thursday.
A spokesperson for the Jordanian Foreign Ministry said Jerusalem’s decision to allow the march to go ahead was an “unacceptable and provocative step worthy of condemnation.”
Amman holds “the Israeli occupation fully responsible for the consequences of this dangerous escalation that coincides with the Israeli aggression against the Gaza Strip,” spokesman Sufian al-Qudah stated on Wednesday.
Joining those voices was Opposition leader MK Yair Lapid who tweeted [translated], “The march in Jerusalem tonight is a blatant Kahanist attempt to set fire to more arenas and cause more destruction and death. As prime minister I approved marches in Jerusalem, but not violent provocations. If there really was a cabinet in Israel, he would not allow this.”
הצעדה בירושלים הערב היא נסיון כהניסטי בוטה להצית אש בזירות נוספות ולגרום לעוד הרס ומוות. כראש ממשלה אישרתי צעדות בירושלים, אבל לא פרובוקציות אלימות. אם היה באמת קבינט בישראל, הוא לא היה מרשה את זה.
— יאיר לפיד – Yair Lapid (@yairlapid) December 7, 2023
Jordanian oversight over the Islamic Waqf, which administers the Temple Mount’s daily affairs, is enshrined in the Israel-Jordan peace treaty of 1994.
The Temple Mount, where the First and Second Jewish Temples were built, is the overall holiest site in Judaism. The Western Wall is the only remnant of a retaining wall encircling the Temple Mount built by Herod the Great in the first century and is the holiest site where Jews can freely pray.
Despite the tensions, 500,000 people visited the Western Wall and 2,200 Jews visited the Temple Mount during Passover. In the middle of the week-long holiday, authorities banned Jews from visiting the Temple Mount for the remainder of Ramadan, which overlapped with Passover.
In September, the number of Jews visiting the Temple Mount crossed the 50,000 threshold for the first time in modern history, according to Beyadenu,
The so-called “status quo” governing the Temple Mount goes back to 1967, when Israel liberated the Old City of Jerusalem from Jordan during the Six Day War. Fearing a religious war and full Jewish sovereignty, then-defense minister Moshe Dayan agreed to let the Islamic Waqf, a Muslim trusteeship, continue managing the holy site’s day-to-day affairs, while Israel would maintain overall sovereignty and be responsible for security.
According to the status quo, Jews and non-Muslims would be allowed to visit the Temple Mount, but not pray there, but the Muslims try to prevent even that.
Update: The march took place as planned.
Content from JewishPress.com News Desk was used in this report.