Nearly 5,000 Jewish visitors at Temple Mount over holiday season

The number of Jews visiting the Temple Mount continues to break records on a regular basis, according to Temple Mount rights organizations, with close to 4,972 visitors over the holiday season, a jump of 25% over last year’s numbers.

The figure includes the number of Jews who visited the site from the week before Rosh Hashanah to Simhat Torah, which ended on Monday night.

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From the beginning of Rosh Hashanah to Simhat Torah, 4,228 Jews visited the holy site, including leading rabbis such as Kiryat Shmona Chief Rabbi Tzafaniah Drori and Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, the head of the Temple Institute.

There are several organizations that encourage Jewish visitation and prayer rights at the Temple Mount, and most are also in favor of the immediate construction of a new Temple, despite the presence of the Islamic Dome of the Rock shrine and al-Aqsa Mosque at the site.

“Everyone who goes up [to the Temple Mount] establishes the fact that the State of Israel controls the Temple Mount, and so everyone who goes up knows that he is fulfilling the mitzvah of protecting the Temple, and opening the possibility to building it [the Temple] soon in our days,” said Drori.

Rabbi Gur Galun, the head of the Har Bracha Yeshiva, visited the with more than 300 members of the Har Bracha settlement community. “Going up to the Temple Mount was done in the name of the entire Jewish people,” he said, “and this is a great service of God: to bring close the building of the Temple and to bring close the return of the Divine presence, in its completeness, to Jerusalem.”

A spokesman for the Joint Committee of Temple Organizations, representing some 34 groups, said that the visiting groups routinely held discreet prayer services with a minyan, or quorum, and even with Torah “readings” – done by heart, without a scroll – over the recent holiday season at the site.

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The police, backed by the courts and the government, have implemented a strict policy of refusing to grant prayer and worship rights to non-Muslims since the recapture of the site in 1967 for fear that it would incite severe violence and public unrest, as well as possible war with Israel’s Arab neighbors.

According to the spokesman, individual and group prayer done in a non-demonstrative manner has been a regular feature of the organized visits to the site over the last two years by the Temple Mount organizations, saying that almost no visit goes by without some form of quiet prayer, be it individual or in a quorum.

Although Jewish visitation is still strictly controlled and allowed only at precise times in the morning and afternoon, the police have become less suspicious and hostile to the groups organizing tours of the site in recent years.

The banning of the Islamist Murabitat groups from the Temple Mount – who used to shout, heckle and harass Jewish visitors – has also improved the atmosphere at the site and helped spur the numbers of the Jews visiting the site.

“We have merited to ascend to the Temple Mount in a situation that reminds us that we are obligated [to give] great thanks that we have merited to be in the generation of the redemption,” said Bayit Yehudi MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli, who visited the site on Sunday.

“We are seeing the numbers [of Jewish visitors] continue to grow, which is large part due to the wonderful people in the police who accompany us, who have changed their entire perspective in relation to the ascent of Jews to the Temple Mount,” she added.

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