Jerusalem on high alert as 100,000 expected for Ramadan prayers

This Friday marks return to dramatically expanded access for Palestinian Muslims to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Some 100,000 Muslims, comprised of both Israeli citizens and those from Palestinian Authority-controlled areas in Judea and Samaria, are expected to visit the Temple Mount for the first Friday prayer of the month-long Ramadan Islamic holiday, according to police estimates.

It will be the first time in two years that Muslim men over the age of 50 and boys under 12 will have unfettered access to the site, which was closed in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Permits for non-Israeli visitors were also required due to tensions just ahead of the 2021 Israel-Gaza clash Operation Guardian of the Walls.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz has eased restrictions on Palestinian entry to Israel as well as to the Temple Mount. Women of all ages may travel to the site without a permit, and widespread entry permits were given to Palestinians who have first-degree relatives in Israel.

The expected massive influx of visitors has caused Israel’s authorities to raise security preparedness to the highest possible level for Jerusalem.

“The central threat is that of hostile terrorist activity,” deputy police commissioner Sami Marciano told Israel Hayom. “We are preparing for scenarios involving a lone wolf terrorist, and vigilance is extremely high.”

Marciano said the police will focus on stopping and removing troublemakers early on, based on their experience last year.

Part of the strategy, he said, is to avoid engaging in extended battles with rioters, which creates negative publicity for the authorities and stirs up resentment among Arabs.

“We see the majority of the public wanting to celebrate, as opposed to a minority looking to confront the police,” Jerusalem District Commander Superintendent Doron Turgeman told Israel Hayom.

“We focus on those who are hurting the public, [those] who come to [harm] the holiday experience, and we take care of them via arrests, and more. We are prepared for any scenario and any threat.”