Senior Israeli officials discussed the widespread social distancing violations at Al Aqsa Mosque, where Friday prayers last week drew a staggering 18,000 worshippers.
By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News
Israel’s coronavirus czar Nachman Ash has said the Jewish state cannot enforce coronavirus restrictions on the Temple Mount, according to secret recordings leaked to Kan News.
During a closed door meeting, senior Israeli officials discussed the widespread social distancing violations at Al Aqsa Mosque, where Friday prayers last week drew a staggering 18,000 worshippers.
“There is no solution, and we can’t do anything about it,” Ash told Brigadier General Ben-Zvi Eliassy, commander of the East Jerusalem Home Front Command.
When Eliassy told Ash that the National Security Council was working on solving the issue, Ash replied, “What does that mean, the National Security Council is ‘on it’? The NSC says they have nothing to do with it.”
Another official reassured Ash that the Waqf, the Jordanian guardian of the site, was trying to enforce and maintain social distancing guidelines for worshippers.
“How can they, if there are 18,000 people?” Ash shot back.
Ash also mentioned his concern over rising morbidity rates in Palestinian areas, where residents, who may be infected with the virus, regularly commute to work in Israel.
Large weddings, parties, and other social events are taking place in violation of the health guidelines, Ash said.
“The only one who can stop it is the Palestinian Authority,” said Eliassy.
The Temple Mount has long been a flashpoint site in Israel, venerated as holy by both Jews and Muslims. The compound, officially controlled by the Jordan Waqf, includes the holiest site in Judaism, the grounds of the former biblical temples. It contains the third holiest shrine in Islam, Al Aqsa Mosque.
The Temple Mount was closed for several weeks during the March 2020 lockdown, but did not close during the second lockdown in September 2020.
Israeli activity on the Temple Mount, such as closing the site for repairs, is usually viewed as an intrusion or violation of the status quo by Palestinians and has often resulted in violent clashes.