Temple Mount reopened with metal detectors and protests

Muslim worshipers perform Friday prayers in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Wadi el Joz, outside Jerusalem's Old City on July 21, 2017. Israeli police left the newly put metal detectors in place by the entrances to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, despite Muslim leaders' calls for mass protests against the new security arrangements. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Thousands of Muslims from across the country arrived in Jerusalem on Friday to pray at the Temple Mount as a show of force against Israel’s decision to install metal detectors at the complex after a terrorist attack in which two police officers were killed.

While most of the protesters departed peacefully after prayers just after 1 p.m. on Friday, rioting broke out in few areas outside Jerusalem’s Old City. Three Palestinians were killed and 17 arrested in the ensuing violence.

The temporary closure of the Temple Mount after the attacks and then the installation of metal detectors had sparked fury in the Arab world and Palestinians called for Friday to be a “day of rage.”

Israel announced that only women and men over the age of 50 would be allowed to visit the Temple Mount on Friday. As they were barred from entering the Old City, thousands of worshippers converged on the streets behind security barriers and set up their prayer rugs opposite Israeli police, border patrol officers and soldiers.

Because the weapons used in the July 14 attack had been carried by the terrorists onto the Temple Mount, Israel set up metal detectors and cameras at the entrances to the site last week.

Knesset Member Tzachi Hanegbi defended Israel’s decision, noting that there have been metal detectors at the Western Wall as well for years.

“There are metal detectors at the Vatican,” he said. “Nobody gets upset about it.”

Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin responded to Arab anger at the time of the attack.

“We aren’t happy to have to take action on the Temple Mount, but when we have to, we will,” he told reporters last week. “The fact that terrorists are using the Temple Mount starts from incitement. In the past, there were many disruptions of order, which stopped thanks to efforts by security forces and the public security minister.”

The Jordanian government issued a statement saying it “opposes any harm against Muslims in carrying out their religious worship in their holy places, freely and with no obstacles.”

Moreover, the Jordanians warned Israel not to “alter the legal and historical status quo in Jerusalem.” This status quo involves severe restrictions on Jewish worshipers being able to walk around the area or to pray there.

Although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quick to assert the status quo on the Temple Mount would be maintained, the Times of Israel reported that “his assurances fell on deaf ears in the Muslim world where widespread condemnation of the closure continued to come in, often with little or no mention of the actual attack.”

The Temple Mount, which had not been closed since 1969, was reopened to Muslims on July 16 some 48 hour after the closure, and to other visitors on July 17. However, on Wednesday this week, the site was again briefly closed to Jewish and other non-Muslim visitors because, according to Israeli media, a Jewish group had brought in a prayer book that was against the rules.

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said this closure in the first place was a mistake.

“There are days in which we should strengthen our sovereignty in the Temple Mount, and make it clear that we are not intimidated by threats,” she asserted. “It is impossible that in the holiest place for Jews, they should feel that their class is lower than tourists.”

The United States issued a statement in Israel’s defense.

“The people of the United States strongly condemn the terror attack. The attack forced the government of Israel to temporarily close the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif to conduct its investigation,” a statement from the White House said.

KNI staff contributed to this article.