Jerusalem: fear at the Temple Mount

How perversely ironic. Last Wednesday, Aug. 2, was Tisha b'Av, the Jewish holiday commemorating the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 CE, as well as several other calamities in Jewish history. Yet this year, Tisha b'Av came as Jews were inflicting a calamity on their Lebanese neighbors, and Israel's chief rabbis issued a decree officially exempting soliders fighting on the front from having to fast for the holy day. (YNet, Aug. 1) Meanwhile, the paradox of Tisha b'Av falling in the middle of the assault on Lebanon (and the near-forgotten Gaza Strip) has jacked up the always-high level of paranoia at the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif. From YNet, Aug. 2:

Police boost alert around Temple Mount for Tisha B'Av
Police learn that thousands of Muslims plan to reach Jerusalem site holy to both Jews, Muslims, 'to protect it from Jewish pilgrims' on Tisha B'Av. Entry restricted to Muslim worshippers over 45

District Police underwent special preparations in advance of Tisha B'Av, the day of fasting in commemoration of the destruction of the first and second temples in Jerusalem. The fast begins at sundown Wednesday.

On the former site of the temples currently stands the Muslim holy sites the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

On Wednesday the entry of Muslim worshippers to the Temple Mount will be restricted, and Thursday the site will be closed to visitors. Until then, only Muslim men above 45 years of age in possession of blue IDs [signifying Israeli residency] will be permitted access. There will be no restrictions on the entry of women.

Jerusalem Police held an assessment of the situation Wednesday afternoon, during which Police Chief Ilan Franco decided to restrict entry to the site out of concern that extremist elements might try to disturb the peace.

Tuesday the High Court ruled that members of extreme-Right Orthodox Jewish group the Temple Mount Faithful, who wish for the reconstruction of the temple, could visit the site during normal guest hours.

Police received information that thousands of Muslims intend to reach the site in order to "protect it from Jews who plan to make pilgrimages there for Tisha B'Av."

From the early morning hours, large police forces will be stationed across east Jerusalem, the Old City, and the lanes and gates of the Temple Mount to prevent any attempts from either side to disrupt the peace, and to secure special Tisha B'Av prayer services at the Western Wall.

Police and Border Guard forces will be posted at routes leading to the Old City and especially the Western Wall.

Jerusalem Police said restrictions on Temple Mount access would be lifted depending on further evaluations by the district command. Police noted they would act with determination against any attempt by any side to cause disturbances.

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