Several Muslim worshippers were removed from the Temple Mount complex and one held for questioning on Sunday after clashing with police and with Jews visiting the holy site on Tisha B’Av.
Police dispersed the Muslim protesters after they started crowding around a group of Jewish visitors, calling “Allahu Akbar” and shouting insults at them.
After the confrontation, the site was closed for visitors. While police say the Temple Mount was closed at a scheduled time, right-wing activists claim it was closed earlier than planned and demanded to extend Jewish visitation hours for the day.
“Terrorism must be defeated on the Temple Mount just like anywhere else, and the site should be open for Jews at all hours of the day—particularly during the Tisha B’Av fast, ” the Joint Forum of Temple Mount Organizations said in a statement.
In addition, police arrested two Jews who broke the rules of visiting the site and detained for questioning 10 others. Police said 983 people visited the Temple Mount on Sunday morning, 400 of them Jews.
According to the Ir Amim NGO, which seeks to render Jerusalem a more equitable and sustainable city for the Israelis and Palestinians who share it, Muslim worshippers began shouting and threatening the Jewish visitors after the latter tried to pray on the Temple Mount—something that is forbidden to Jews.
The NGO went on to say that when police officers tried to arrest one of the Muslim worshippers who were threatening the Jewish group, dozens of Muslims gathered around them, trying to disrupt the arrest.
“This morning’s events show that the roots of the conflict remain on the Temple Mount, ” the NGO said. “Muslim worshippers are barely tolerating the fact Temple Mount activists visit the site. Meanwhile, it is not enough for the Temple Mount activists to just visit the site and they take advantage of their visit to challenge the police and the status quo. A month and a half before the High Holy Days, what happened today should serve as a warning.”
According to Jewish belief, both the First and Second Temples were destroyed and the people of Israel exiled from their home after the destruction of the Second Temple 2000 years ago. The Jewish people remember the death, destruction and devastation every year with a fast on Tisha B’Av (9th of the Jewish month of Av).
Starting Saturday night and continuing throughout the day Sunday, worshippers at the Western Wall have been reading from the Book of Lamentations, as well as lamentations written following the destruction of the Temple. Because studying Torah is considered a joyous activity, it is not permitted on Tisha B’Av.
According to custom, worshipers sit on low chairs or on the floor—with some even sleeping on the floor—to signify the suffering of the mourning. At the synagogue, the Book of Lamentations is read in low lighting, and at times even by candle light.
Tisha B’Av is considered the most difficult of the several fasts which are dotted on the Jewish calendar because it begins the previous night and is set in the summertime. It is the second most important fast of the year—second only to Yom Kippur. In addition to the fasting, it is customary to avoid bathing, wearing leather shoes, or having relations.
Since Tisha B’Av coincides with Shabbat this year, the fast was postponed to Sunday, as mourning is strictly prohibited on Shabbat.