Har Habayis Compound Reopens With Tense Standoff Over Security Checks

By Andrew Friedman/TPS/JewishTidbits

About 200 people entered the Har Habayis compound for afternoon prayers Sunday after a two-day closure following Friday’s terror attack after installing metal detectors at two entrances to the compound.

Police said they met with Muslim Waqf officials prior to opening the Mount, but they refused to submit to a security check before entering the compound. The officials then led a group prayer service outside the compound.

At the same time, police prevented a small group of Israeli Jews from entering the compound. One person, Temple Mount activist Itamar Sassover, said police told the group they would not be allowed to visit the site following threats by Waqf officials that allowing Jews into the site would lead to riots.

The temporary closure of the Mount prompted a flurry of anti-Semitic cartoons in Arabic-language media around the Middle East. Saudi-based al-Watan showed a devil-horned Star of David devouring the Dome of the Rock; other outlets around the region in Jordan, Qatar and as far away as London featured images of a bleeding Dome of the Rock, an Israeli soldier locking the gates of the Har Habayis  and the Mount barricaded behind yellow crime scene tape emblazoned with Stars of David with a sign reading “No Entry.”

As of this writing, no clashes at the site have been reported. But a Hebrew University professor says the site always has the potential to explode into violence.

“You’ve got to understand, Palestinian nationalism was ‘born’ around the issue of the Har Habayis,” said Dr. Hillel Cohen, a senior lecturer in the Dept. of Islam and Middle East Studies. “Even during the proto-nationalist period, during the Ottoman Empire, the Palestinian experience was created mainly around the need to ‘protect’ al-Aqsa Mosque against Western crusaders, and later Jewish colonialists.”

Cohen added that while in other areas of Yehudah and Shomron Israel has an interest to preserve the status quo, while the Palestinians have an interest to change it, the situation at Har Habayis is reversed: The Palestinians very much want to preserve the status quo limiting Jewish rights, and some Israeli groups want to change it.

“Of course, it’s hard to predict how anybody is going to act. But it’s clear that the political establishments on either side of the line- the Netanyahu government and Abu Mazen’s cabinet – want to prevent escalation. But on both sides, you’ve got other elements that want to change things, including pro-Temple movements on one side, radical Islamic and nationalist opponents of Abu Mazen on the Palestinian side,” he said.

Writing on Twitter, police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said patrols in the Old City have been bolstered and closed-circuit TV cameras installed, in keeping with instructions from Prime Minister Netanyahu and security officials, but had not confirmed whether the cameras had been installed in the area of the Har Habayis compound.

In 2015, Israel and Jordan agreed under the auspices of then United States Secretary of State John Kerry to install security cameras on the Mount, but Jordan, which administers the Muslim holy sites in the Old City, pulled out of the deal in the face of Palestinian opposition.

It should be noted that leading poskim have ruled many times that for reasons of ritual purity no Jews should enter the site.


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