The Knesset Public Security Committee convened Monday to discuss the measures taken by the police to contend with Muslim disturbances at the Temple Mount during the Muslim month of Ramadan and the protection of Jews’ rights at the holy site.
Committee Chair Member of Knesset (MK) Merav Ben Ari noted that the news coverage of the police’s handling of the disturbances, mainly by foreign media outlets, was “distorted. As much as we explain ourselves in the world, we will always be under attack.”
“The holiest place has become the most explosive and dangerous place. There were disturbances at the Temple Mount despite the fact that there were no Jews there. Tens of thousands of worshippers come to pray there, and there are inciting elements that are making the situation at the site intolerable,” she noted.
The Jews were banned from visiting the Temple Mount during the last 14 days of Ramadan. Apparently succumbing to the Muslims’ violence, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett ordered the closure of the Temple Mount to Jews.
During the session, police officials screened a video documenting the disturbances at the Temple Mount.
Commander Nathan Gur, head of Jerusalem Police’s David Sub-District, noted that the police made 781 arrests, including 425 in one day. He said 223 people have been banned from the Temple Mount for a period of six months.
“We are continuing to gather evidence, and I assume more arrests will be made. These are not the final figures,” Gur told the Committee. However, he admitted that the police have no way of enforcing or identifying those banned from the Temple Mount.
Adv. Galit Shoham, of the State Attorney’s Office, said 120 cases have been opened and more than 25 indictments have been filed against 35 people who were arrested for disorderly conduct, rioting, and assault during Ramadan. In addition, dozens of administrative arrests were made across the country to prevent further violence at the Temple Mount, and in most of the cases, the State Attorney’s Office is asking for active prison sentences.
MK Shlomo Karhi opposed the state’s conduct and asked “why is our goal to enable Muslims to pray while we are risking the lives of our police officers? This is all because Mansour Abbas [head of the Islamist Ra’am party] and the King of Jordan are holding the coalition together. We have no complaints against the police, but rather against the political echelon.”
MK Yomtob Kalfon, who visited the Temple Mount on Israel’s Independence Day on Thursday, said that “the notion that it is a provocation when a Member of Knesset ascends the Temple Mount is intolerable. Anyone, including Members of Knesset, may ascend the Temple Mount for personal or religious reasons. The Temple Mount is under our sovereignty.”
Tom Nissani, CEO of “Beyadenu for the Temple Mount, told the committee that “this Ramadan expressed and sharpened our lack of sovereignty over the Temple Mount. While more and more Jewish visitors visited the mountain, during Ramadan the PLO flag was hoisted for 10 days at the top of the Dome of the Rock, alongside antiquities thrown along the side of the road [to block the Jews’ path]. These are sights that must be prevented in a self-respecting sovereign state. ”
Ben Ari concluded by saying that “it is clear that there is incitement emanating from the West Bank and Gaza that fans the flames at the Temple Mount. The Public Security Committee will hold deliberations with the purpose of presenting a proper outline for the ascension of Jews to the Temple Mount, because it is the Jews who are in the minority when it comes to the issue of visits [to the Temple Mount].”
Jews’ visits to the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site, are limited in time, space, as well as the number of visitors at any given time. While Jews’ rights to worship at the site have improved in recent years, much remains wanting, and the full freedom of worship has yet to be granted by the State of Israel to Jews visiting the Temple Mount.
On several occasions, Jews have been banned from the Temple Mount following Muslim agitation, or following fears that a Jewish presence at the site would agitate the Muslims.
While Muslims enter the holy site freely, Jews are screened by metal detectors, undergo security searches, and are banned from bringing Jewish religious objects to the site.