23 March 2018

Some 12 000 Jewish settlers visited al-Aqsa over the last six months, an increase of almost 50% from last year’s figures, according to the Yeraeh Temple organization.

In the same six-month period last year, 8229 Jews visited the site in comparison to 12 135 this year, said the organization, which promotes provocative Jewish visits to al-Aqsa to assert Israeli soveriegnity.

In the Hebrew year 5777 (last year), there were more than 22000 Jewish visitors in total, which itself was a record year and represented a massive increase over the 14000 the year before.

Yeraeh is expecting many visitors during Passover, which begins next week.

Elishama Sandman, the organizations’ spokesman, attributed the increase to three factors. First, he said that the attitude of the police to Jewish visitors has changed significantly over the last two or three years.

Police used to be skeptical of Jewish visitors to al-Aqsa in the past, but they have opened up recently.

In addition, he cited the removal of Murabitat Muslim groups from al-Aqsa that protest the Jewish visits, as having made the experience “much more positive” for Jewish visitors.

Sandman added that there has also been increased support from communal rabbis around the country, which has also led to an increase in the number of people willing to visit the site.

According to Jewish law, there are parts of al-Aqsa that may not be entered unless one is in a ritually pure state which is impossible to achieve in current times.

It is the position of the Chief Rabbinate and many rabbis from across the religious spectrum that it is forbidden, therefore, to go anywhere at al-Aqsa in present times. In recent years, however, several rabbinical heavyweights have ruled that visiting certain parts of the site is permitted provided certain religious measures are taken beforehand, such as immersion in a mikve ritual bath.

Sandman rejected claims that Jewish visitation to al-Aqsa is a provocative step that could inflame tensions with the Palestinians and the Muslim world. “Nothing we do is done to antagonize the Palestinians. But as we have seen with this week’s terrorist attack, there will always be excuses for terrorism.”

He also claimed that the security situation on al-Aqsa is very secure, and praised the police for their efforts in maintaining order at the site.

Temple Organisations have pinpointed a continuous growth over the past few years in the number of Jews undertaking provocaive visits to al-Aqsa. A record was set this past Tisha B’Av—a memorial day said by Jews to commemorate the destruction of the two Temples—when for the first time more than a thousand people visited the site in the same day, totaling 1 264. The monthly record was also broken in Av, comparable to July-August, with 4 369 Jews visiting al-Aqsa.

Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi has previously condemned “extremists’ storming into the courtyard of al-Aqsa”.

Safadi also called on Israel to “uproot the sources of tension”, to allow the creation of a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders whose capital is Jerusalem and to refrain from altering the historical and juridical status quo in the al-Aqsa Mosque—or else it would itself be opening the door to the next crisis with both Jordan and the Palestinians.

SOURCE: Jerusalem Post, Ynet