Temple organizations say Jerusalem Police arrested more than 10 people for praying throughout Sukkot. Police vow to take 'firm hand' against provocations
by Kobi Nahshoni
Jewish organizations focusing on the Temple Mount are accusing the Jerusalem Police of harassing Jews who visited the religious site during the holiday of Sukkot.
According to the organizations' activists, their visiting hours to the Mount were restricted and the police threatened them with false arrests and administrative restraining orders in numbers which had yet to be seen.
Jews are legally allowed to visit the Temple Mount and pray at the site, but the police have determined that visitors must avoid praying for fear of sparking riots, which could endanger the public.
The organizations encouraging Jews to visit the Mount claimed that more than 10 Jews had been arrested during the three intermediate days of Sukkot, compared to a monthly average of several detainees on regular days.
In addition, three activists were arrested Thursday morning while trying to enter the Temple Mount compound after it was closed.
According to the Temple activists, in the past the police only arrested worshippers arriving in groups, but that now that policy has changed and the treatment of all Jewish visitors to the site has been toughened.
The organizations stressed that contrary to the police's stand, the court had released all detainees – proving that the procedure was unnecessary and justified.
Jerusalem Magistrate's Court Judge Malka Aviv even commented that "the argument that the Muslims do not look favorably upon Jews praying on the Temple Mount cannot in itself prevent a Jew from implementing the religious command and praying on the Temple Mount."
The activists also complained that the police shut the Temple Mount gates to Jewish visitors earlier than usual, allowing each person to visit the place for just a few minutes – and in small groups.
Moshe Fischer, a Jerusalem resident who tried to visit the Temple Mount one afternoon during the hours Jews are permitted to enter, claimed he was blocked and that the police used violent measures against the Jewish visitors – including children – in order to keep them away from the entrance gate.
As a person who visits the site from time to time, he said, he had not encountered such conduct in the past. "It's very unusual," he noted.
Following the high tensions, the joint staff of the Temple movements demanded that Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin convene an urgent recess session in light of what they referred to as "the Israel Police's outrageous collaboration with the Muslim Waqf against Jews at the Temple Mount throughout the holiday of Sukkot."
The Jerusalem Police rejected the claim and offered the following in response: "The Temple Mount was open to visitors at regular hours, despite the provocations on both sides.
"The police will take a firm hand against any provocation from any source, and will continue carrying out arrests and keeping suspects away in order to maintain order and security on the Temple Mount."