20 Rabi uth Thani 1439 – 08 January 2018
The number of visits by religious Jewish settlers to Masjid al-Aqsa increased by 75% in 2017, compared to 2016, according to the Yera’eh organization, which encourages Jewish ‘ascent’ to Masjid al Aqsa.
In the past year there have been 25 628 religious Jews’ visits to al-Aqsa compared with 14 626 last year, 11 001 visits in 2015, 11 754 in 2014, and only 5 658 visits by religious Jews in 2009.
Religious Jews are counted separately from the other visitors, and are not allowed by Israeli authorities to enter the al-Aqsa compound without police escort – a tacit acknowledgement of the provocative nature of their visits.
Assaf Fried, spokesman for the Temple Organizations Headquarters, who promote such visits, attributes the increase in visitation to the fact that, other than the armed incident at al-Aqsa in July 2017, security in Jerusalem and on al-Aqsa is perceived by the Israeli public as being relatively calm.
“Three years ago when you came to the mountain, you knew you were coming to a battlefield,” Fried said. “You’d know they’d yell you. Today a Jew who goes up to the mountain feels that he is welcome,” Fried said.
Here are the stats issued by Year’eh at the conclusion of the civil year 2017:
Religious Jews were allowed to be on al-Aqsa for 11% of the year, or 1,023 hours out of 8,760.
Religious Jews were allowed to go to al-Aqsa on 63% of the days of 2017, or 232 days out of 365.
86 Jews were arrested or detained on the al-Aqsa suspicion of “Jewish behavior” in 2017. This behavior ranged from saying a blessing on an apple, through closing one’s eyes and whispering, to crying, “Sh’ma Israel,” to bowing and prostrating.
In a statement, Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib, the director-general of the Waqf agency (mandated with overseeing Jerusalem’s Islamic sites), said incursions into the holy site by “Jewish extremists” had reached its “highest number ever” with 25,630 recorded last year alone.
He went on to describe the increasingly frequent incursions as “clear violations of the sanctity of the mosque”.
“The number of settlers storming the mosque has increased due to incitement by Jewish rabbis and the Israeli government’s support for such acts,” al-Khatib said.
In recent years, the Israeli authorities have allowed Jewish settlers into the mosque complex — usually through the Maghariba Gate — in steadily increasing numbers.
The Palestinian Authority and the Jordanian government have repeatedly called on the Israeli authorities to prohibit the practice — calls Israel has largely failed to heed.
In 2016, there were more than 15,000 settler incursions into the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, according to Palestinian figures.