While Jews around the world fasted in mourning for the destruction of both Jewish Temples, an astounding 1,440 Jews ascended to the Temple Mount on Sunday, setting records that display a mounting desire to rebuild the Temple.
Last year nearly 1,300 visited the site, approximately 400 visited in 2016, and 300 Jews ascended the Temple Mount in 2015. Until four years ago, Jews were prohibited from visiting the site on Tisha B’Av. Tisha B’Av, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av, is a fast day commemorating the destruction of both Jewish Temples. This year, it fell on Saturday but since it is forbidden to fast on the Sabbath, the fast was held in Sunday, the tenth day of Av.
This reflects a general trend of rising Jewish connection to their holiest site. Earlier this month, Jewish visits to the site during this Hebrew year of 5778 passed 22,566, surpassing last year’s total. Elishama Sandman, spokesman for Yera’eh, an organization that tracks the number of Jews ascending to the Temple Mount, reported that that the number is currently approaching 25,000.
“Seeing so many Jews on the Temple Mount made me forget that the fast day was supposed to be sad,” Sandman told Breaking Israel News. “In the morning, there were more Jews on the Mount than at the Kotel. That was the first time I ever saw that.”
It is undeniable that there is an awakening among the Jews towards geula (redemption),” Sandman said.
At least 15 Jews were arrested at the site. The JPost reported that ten Jews were removed for prostrating themselves at the site, a mitzvah (Biblical commandment), three for singing the liturgical lamentations read on Tisha B’Av, one for shouting out the Shema Yisrael prayer, and one for not listening to police instructions regarding the allowed route for Jewish visitors.
Though Israeli law protects equality of religion and the rights of every religion to worship, the Israeli police prevent non-Muslims from praying inside the Temple Mount compound citing security concerns of Muslim riots.
Palestinian and Jordanian officials condemned the Jewish visits with Ma’an News, a Palestinian news site, reporting it under the headline, “Over thousand of Israeli settlers storm Al-Aqsa Mosque.” Ma’an also reported that Jordanian Minister of State for Media Affairs, Jumana Ghneimat, decried “those condemned and rejected…practices that violate the sanctity of this holy place.” The Jordanian embassy in Tel Aviv presented a diplomatic petition to the Israeli Foreign Ministry on Sunday morning expressing the Hashemite Kingdom’s strong condemnation over those violations, and called on their immediate halt.