Israeli Police prevented Aug. 7 outbursts of violence in Jerusalem, when a record number of Jews ascended the Temple Mount. Over the past few years, a growing number of Israeli Jews has been visiting the area on Tisha B’Av, a day of fasting that marks the destruction of the two Jerusalem temples. With close to 2,200 Jewish visitors, this year's Tisha B'Av was one of the busiest days since the 1967 Six-Day War, when Israel regained control of the area. The current record for most visitors in a single day was registered in May this year, on Jerusalem Day, which marks the reunification of the city, when some 2,600 Jews went up to the Temple Mount. Last year, 1,600 Jews visited on Tisha B’Av.
Status quo regulations enable Jews to ascend the site on specific hours and under specific conditions; visitors are not allowed to pray there or to bring with them any religious books or artifacts. The majority of ultra-Orthodox religious leadership and many national-religious rabbis object to ascending the site, claiming Jews today are not pure to reach the holy place. Still, in the past decade, an increasing number of religious and secular Jews have gone up.
Over the years, right-wing politicians and Temple Mount activists generated several incidents by insisting to visit and trying to pray at the site. In September 2000, then-opposition leader Ariel Sharon visited the site, instigating confrontations between security forces and Palestinians on the site, and later on also in Jerusalem’s Old City. Former Knesset member Yehuda Glick is one of the figures most identified with the campaign to enable Jewish ascent to the Temple Mount.
Israeli security forces were especially apprehensive Aug. 7, as Israel entered its third day of fire exchange with Gaza-based Islamic Jihad. In May 2021, incidents near the Temple Mount and in East Jerusalem spread into violent confrontations between Jews and Arabs in Israeli mixed cities and prompted Hamas and Islamic Jihad to attack Israel’s south with unprecedented salvos of rockets.
Much to Israel’s relief, it remained relatively calm this year, with only a small number of incidents recorded at the entrance to the Temple Mount, where Jews and Palestinians shouted at each other. A few people were arrested, but overall the situation remained under control despite the long queues. Also, no major incidents were registered in Jerusalem’s Old City.
In view of the large number of visitors, the police allowed groups of 40-50 people to enter at a time. Apart from fasting, Jews are also prohibited from wearing leather shoes on Tisha B’Av, so many entered barefoot. Each group was accompanied by police officers.
At least three Jews were detained for violating the prohibition against Jewish prayer on the site, as they prostrated themselves and loudly prayed. Unnamed police sources told the press that the police had “no intention to allow any provocations or disturbances in Jerusalem at the site.” Police said that a number of Muslim worshippers near Al-Aqsa Mosque were also detained Aug. 7 for “disturbing the peace, being provocative … [and] making inciteful remarks.”
One incident was registered when ultra-nationalist Knesset member Itamar Ben-Gvir arrived at the site. After his arrival, police reportedly violently arrested a Palestinian press photographer who was taking pictures of Ben-Gvir.
Tens of thousands of Jews visited the Western Wall below the Temple Mount between the evening hours of Aug. 6 and the night of Aug. 7, the beginning and ending of Tisha B’Av.
Tensions have been growing over the past two months at the Western Wall esplanade between ultra-Orthodox and progressive Jews. On June 30, ultra-Orthodox extremists violently disrupted a progressive bar mitzvah celebration at the egalitarian prayer space near Jerusalem's Western Wall. Police feared similar clashes might erupt on Tisha B’Av, but that did not happen.