Sliman Khader/Flash90
Temple Mount

After a two-month closure due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Temple Mount reopened on Sunday.

By Ezra Stone, United with Israel

On Sunday morning, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem once again welcomed visitors after lockdown shuttered the site for over two months.

The location, Judaism’s holiest site, is where both Jewish Temples stood. The First Temple stood for 410 years until its destruction by the Babylonians. Seventy years later, the Second Temple was built and stood for 420 years until its destruction by the Romans in 70 AD.

While Israel legally controls the Temple Mount, it is administered by the Islamic Waqf. This Jordanian entity oversees the mosques Muslims built on the site and demands that all non-Muslims be banned from praying anywhere on the Temple Mount, a discriminatory prohibition that is frequently referred to as the “status quo.”

Notwithstanding the ban on Jewish prayer, hundreds of Israelis visited the Temple Mount on Sunday morning, while thousands of Muslims filled the site’s mosques for communal prayers.

When the gates were opened on Sunday, Muslims were filmed rushing in, shouting “with blood and spirit we will redeem the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” TPS reported. Eight Muslims were arrested for incitement.

Jewish activists reportedly prayed during the visit to protest the ban on non-Muslim prayers.

During the 70-day coronavirus closure, the Islamic Waqf carried out “illegal excavations” on the Temple Mount, a strategy used to destroy antiquities that provide evidence of the Holy Temples, TPS reported.

In 2018, the Waqf spent the last few days of the Ramadan festival removing massive amounts of dirt from the Temple Mount during a window in which Jews were banned from the site to avoid “antagonizing” Muslim worshipers by merely being present there. The Waqf exploited this opportunity to remove dirt in violation of specific court orders.

At that time, 400 trucks removed dirt cleared by the Waqf in 1999 to build a new mosque on the Temple Mount. The trucks discarded the soil in dumps in the nearby Kidron Valley.

Israeli archaeologists recovered precious artifacts from the soil but speculate that countless antiquities were destroyed and lost.