Temple Mount Reopens to Jews After 19-Day Closure
The Temple Mount in Jerusalem reopened to Jewish visitors on Sunday morning after being closed for 19 days due to the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, violent clashes between Muslims and the Israeli police at the site, and the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas. The Temple Mount, where the first and second Jewish temples stood in biblical times, is considered Judaism’s holiest site. It has since the seventh century CE been the site of the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque and is considered the third holiest site to Muslims.
The Temple Mount was first closed to Jews on May 4 to avoid clashes with the large numbers of Muslims who were expected for the final days of Ramadan. It remained closed to Jewish visitors as tensions between Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem heated up, culminating on May 10 in riots on the mount and the outbreak of war, including the shooting by Hamas of rockets from the Gaza Strip toward Jerusalem.
On Sunday morning, around 100 Jews visited the site, including some who said they prayed the morning service there, a practice that is formally banned by regulations at the site.
On Saturday night, MK Moshe Gafni, chairman of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party, asked Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to keep the site closed to Jews, in accordance with an interpretation of Jewish religious law that makes some parts of the mount, in practice, off-limits to Jews today, due to issues of ritual impurity. Netanyahu did not accede to Gafni’s request. While many religious Jews refrain from visiting the site altogether, others say that by keeping the relevant laws of purity and avoiding forbidden areas, they can visit the holy site without fear of violating religious prohibitions.