The Temple Mount, where the First and Second Temples were built, is the holiest site in Judaism. Israel liberated the Old City of Jerusalem from Jordan during the Six Day War.
Israel’s Minister of National Security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, visited Jerusalem’s Temple Mount on Tuesday morning despite Palestinian threats of violence.
Following the brief walk around the holy site with a security escort, Ben-Gvir said, “Our government will not surrender to threats from Hamas.”
He added, “The Temple Mount is the most important place for the people of Israel. We maintain the freedom of movement for Muslims and Christians, but Jews also go up to the site, and those who make threats must be dealt with with an iron fist.”
Ben-Gvir’s office said in a statement that the visit was preceded by a security assessment with the heads of the National Security Agency (Shin Bet) and Israeli police who “determined there was no obstacle” for the minister’s visit.
Hours after being installed in his new position on Sunday, Ben-Gvir vowed to visit the holy site. “No one will threaten us or tell us anything. The Temple Mount is the holiest place for the people of Israel,” Ben-Gvir said. “The Mount is sacred to Muslims and all sorts of religions, I don’t doubt it or their right to ascend to the site.”
Former Prime Minister and current leader of the opposition, Yair Lapid, called upon Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “stop Ben-Gvir from visiting the Temple Mount, because people will die.”
Prior to the visit, a Hamas official told the Tazpit Press Service: “If Ben-Gvir goes up to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, it will look like he was Ariel Sharon in 2000, after he went up to the mosques and caused a total explosion.” Palestinians refer to the Second Intifada as the Al-Aqsa Intifada, after Sharon’s visit. But in the years since, Palestinian leaders have confirmed that the Second Intifada was planned in advance.
“Ben-Gvir is whistling war,” the Hamas source added.
Lebanon’s Al Mayadeen network, which is close to Hezbollah, reported on Monday that Hamas was sending clear and firm messages through the United Nations and Egypt that it would not stand idly by if Ben-Gvir visits the holy site.
Nasser Laham, a reporter working for Al Mayadeen in the Palestinian Authority, told TPS that “Ben-Gvir visit is possible because [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu has given a free hand to the extremists in his government regarding east Jerusalem and the Palestinians, while he keeps foreign affairs with the Arab world to himself.”
According to Laham, “This could start a religious war.”
Tensions grew in eastern Jerusalem in anticipation of Ben-Gvir’s plans. Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, head of the Supreme Muslim Council and one of the most important clerics in the east of the city, said “Ben-Gvir’s visit expresses Israel’s new strategy designed to change the status quo on the Temple Mount.”
Sabri warned against what he said was a list of demands which he claimed “extremist synagogue groups” had already submitted to the police. He claimed that these demands included the building of a synagogue on the Temple Mount. Sabri called on Arab and Islamic countries to recognize Israel’s threats to “impose its sovereignty over the mosques.”
The Temple Mount, where the First and Second Temples were built, is the holiest site in Judaism. The delicate status quo governing it goes back to 1967, when Israel liberated the Old City of Jerusalem from Jordan during the Six Day War.
Fearing a religious war, then-defense minister Moshe Dayan agreed to let the Islamic Waqf, a Muslim trusteeship, continue managing the holy site’s day-to-day affairs, while Israel would maintain overall sovereignty and be responsible for security. According to the status quo, Jews and non-Muslims would be allowed to visit the Temple Mount, but not pray there.
In September, the number of Jews visiting the Temple Mount crossed the 50,000 threshold for the first time in modern history, according to Beyadenu, an organization working to advance Jewish ties to the holy site.
While Temple Mount is the holiest place in the world for Jews, rabbis are increasingly divided over Jews ascending to the Temple Mount. For centuries, the widespread rabbinic consensus was that the laws of ritual purity still apply to the site. But in recent years, a growing number of rabbis have argued that ritual purity laws don’t apply to all sections of the Temple Mount and encourage visits to permitted areas to maintain Jewish connections to the Mount.
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