By Paul Shindman, World Israel News
Israeli authorities on Sunday ended the recent ban on Jewish visits to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City, allowing a group of visitors to the holy site for the first time since May 3.
Under heavy police guard, several dozen Jews ascended to the area adjacent to the Al Aqsa Mosque that had been limited to Muslim worshipers during the month of Ramadan.
The decision to reopen the site to Jews was made by security officials, who allowed the group to visit the site, although they are not allowed to pray there.
Israel liberated the Old City of Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War, however, under an agreement with the Hashemite Kingdom, the Temple Mount is administered by the Jordanian Islamic Waqf
The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism and the third-holiest for Muslims. However, Israeli security forces prefer to avoid any actions that may trigger Muslim violence.
“This is a very important morning that saves some of the national honor of the people of Israel,” the head of the Temple Mount Heritage Foundation, Tom Nissani, told Ynet.
“We call on the government to remove all the administrative powers over the Temple Mount from the Jordanian Waqf, to open it to the entry of Jews around the clock and from all its gates with full freedom of movement and worship, and to stop surrendering to Hamas threats that only lead to more terror,” Nissani said.
The Hamas terror group in Gaza claimed that one of the reasons it had fired rockets at Jerusalem earlier this month, sparking 11 days of violence, was that it was helping to protect the Muslim holy site from a Jewish invasion.
The decision to allow Jews up to the Temple Mount came despite a call by the leader of the United Torah Judaism party, Knesset member Moshe Gafni, to maintain the ban on Jews from the site.
Many ultra-Orthodox factions as well as the chief rabbis of Israel have ruled that Jews should not enter the site due to its holiness and for fear that the proper ritual purification required to enter the sacred areas of the Temple courtyard would not be maintained.
“Because of our sins, the Temple was destroyed and there is divine punishment by death for ascent to the Temple Mount,” Gafni said in a message to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, adding that while Jews pray all the time for a return to the Holy Temple, access to Jews should currently be banned.
“The non-ascent to the Mount is the deepest proof of our belonging to this holy place to which we are directed in our prayers from all over the world. I ask you to keep the Temple Mount closed to Jews,” Gafni said.
Right-wing Knesset member Itamar Ben-Gvir condemned Gafni’s comments, saying the head of UTJ was pushing Netanyahu to capitulate and surrender control of the Mount to “terrorists.”