Minister, MKs, among hundreds of Jews visiting Temple Mount on Jerusalem Day

“It is the right of Jews to go up to this place and celebrate its liberation,” says National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Hundreds of Jews flocked to the Temple Mount Thursday morning in honor of Jerusalem Day, including a minister and several MKs.

Minister for the Development of the Periphery, the Negev and the Galilee Yitzhak Wasserlauf (Otzma Yehudit) went to Judaism’s holiest site early in the morning. He was followed around 9:30 by three junior Likud parliamentarians, Ariel Kallner, Dan Illouz and Amit Halevy.

National Security Minister and Otzma Yehudit party head Itamar Ben-Gvir did not visit as yet, and may not at all, as his wife was seen alone there at 9:00 a.m. When he marked the new government’s ascension to power by walking on the Mount for only a few minutes in early January as a show of sovereignty in the face of Hamas threats of violence, it sparked a wave of condemnations from the Arab world and a meeting of the UN Security Council.

In a statement, Ben-Gvir said he was “happy to see the many thousands coming up to celebrate on the Temple Mount and all those coming to Jerusalem. The Temple Mount that was liberated on Jerusalem Day 56 years ago is the holiest place for Jews, it is the right of Jews to go up to this place and celebrate its liberation.”

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The Temple Mount, along with all of eastern Jerusalem, was taken back from its Jordanian occupiers in 1967’s Six Day War. The traditional Flag March through the city that celebrates the Hebrew date of Israel’s capital being reunited will take place in the evening with tens of thousands of expected participants, but its route ends at the adjacent Western Wall.

The minister said he had instructed that visitors should enjoy smooth entry to the site, without the long waiting times that are normal on other days. The holy site was also reinforced with hundreds of extra police officers to ensure their safety, and thousands of security personnel have been deployed to the capital to protect the day’s festivities.

Palestinian terror organizations have warned as in years past that they would aggressively counter the “storming of Al-Aqsa,” which is how they typically describe any visits of Jewish tourists to the Mount.

Israel has also reportedly warned Hamas that it would retaliate powerfully to any rocket fire emanating from the Gaza Strip during the day’s festivities. In 2021, the terror group launched several rockets at the capital on Jerusalem Day, setting off the 11-day Operation Guardian of the Walls, in which the IDF destroyed a large portion of the terrorist infrastructure in the coastal enclave.

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An internal controversy arose in the Likud after Finance Committee chairman MK David Bitan told Army Radio following his colleagues’ visit that “it’s inappropriate for MKs from the Likud to go up to the Temple Mount, this is not what should be done. People have become extremists.”

Illouz caustically responded to Bitan’s charge, saying, “It’s impossible to accept a claim that the presence of Jews in a particular place, and certainly the holiest site of the Jewish people, is an act of extremism.”

A right-wing faction within the party, Dror B’Likud, pointed out that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had called the Temple Mount “the bedrock of our existence” and had boasted of the fact that under his tenure, the number of Jews ascending the Mount had doubled and even tripled.

The group said Bitan was shifting to the Left “in an attempt to get out of the legal noose” around his neck. Bitan is currently standing trial after being indicted on charges of bribery, fraud, breach of trust, money laundering and tax offenses.