Record number of Jews visit Temple Mount, clashes ensue

A record number of Jews visited their holiest site Sunday morning in celebration of Jerusalem Day, but police removed some as clashes developed between Arabs and Jews.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

As the Israeli capital was filled with celebration on Sunday for Yom Yerushalayim – Jerusalem Day, the 51st anniversary of the reunification of the city in the Six Day War – a record number of Jews ascended the Temple Mount, according to both Jewish groups and the Arab Waqf in charge of the site.

Approximately 1,620 Jewish visitors to their holiest site came through the entrance gates before noon, with many more on the way.

One ugly clash was reported, with conflicting views as to what set it off. According to a reporter’s eyewitness account in Israel Hayom, dozens of visitors began singing and bowing (a sign of prayer) in the compound, and the Arab guards reacted by shouting and beginning a disturbance. The police then arrested some from each group.

Another report said the Arabs began shouting at the visitors first, prompting Jewish youths to chant prayers in reaction, including bowing as part of the liturgical songs. A video of the scene shows the police determinedly moving a group of singing youths back through the green doors of the Mount while their colleagues are ushering shouting Arabs in the opposite direction.

Although Israel’s High Court has nominally upheld the right of Jews to visit — and even pray — at the holy site, police maintain the right to take them off the Mount if they believe it will cause a provacation. In this case, police said they removed the visitors because they “broke the rules of conduct,” adding that they will be identified and the circumstances investigated.

In a separate incident, three minors waved a Jewish flag on the Mount and were immediately removed from the site. One of them was the son of Member of Knesset Betzalel Smotrich, one of the most right-wing members of the national religious Bayit Yehudi party. When interviewed on Israeli radio soon afterward, Smotrich said that he was proud of his son.

Despite the morning’s clash, the police did not close the Temple Mount to visitors.