Today, in an unprecedented move, Israel allowed Jews to enter the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif on the first day of the holiest Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, which coincided this year with Tisha B’Av, the Jewish day of mourning the destruction of the two temples. Temple Movement activists and right-wing politicians seized the opportunity to exert pressure on Israeli authorities to grant Jewish access to the Mount on Tisha B’Av.
Contrary to previous years, Israel this year refrained from officially declaring restrictions for non-Muslims to enter the Holy Compound during this period, placing the decision in the hands of the police and per security conditions at the time.
In response, the Waqf called upon Muslim worshippers to attend prayers at Al Aqsa in larger numbers than usual with over 100,000 worshippers turning out for morning prayers. Directly following the prayers, tensions escalated leading to Israeli security authorities employing the use of force and stun grenades against tens of thousands of Palestinian worshippers in the Holy Esplanade. Rather than acting to diffuse the friction and restore calm, the Israel Police immediately began allowing Jews to go in while prohibiting Muslims from entering the compound.
Barring Muslim entry while granting Jewish access to the Holy Compound recalls the collective restrictions Israel imposed extensively on Muslim worshippers in 2014 and 2015, a policy proven to exacerbate hostilities and inflame tensions.
Likewise, Muslim prayers at Al Aqsa followed directly by Jewish entry can be perceived by the Temple Movements’ as yet another step closer to achieving their longstanding goal of division of worship space and time between Jews and Muslims on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif.
Not only does this underscore an acute disregard by the Israeli authorities for the sanctity of Muslim holy days and exclusive Muslim worship rights to Al Aqsa, but it further signals capitulation to Temple Movement demands and constitutes a flagrant breach of the status quo, which affirms only Muslims hold worship rights and Jews are visitors. According to what is implied by the status quo, in such a coalescence of events, the exclusive worship rights of Muslims to the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif take precedence over the visiting arrangements afforded to non-Muslims.
This move echoes similar measures taken by the Israeli government earlier this year when Jews were granted entry to the compound on Jerusalem Day despite the fact it coincided with the final days of Ramadan, the most sacred period of the Muslim month of fasting.