The Israeli government is currently banning all non-Muslims from ascending the Temple Mount, considered the holiest site in Judaism.
“It seems freedom of religion in Israel is only for Muslims and not for Christians and Jews,” Danny Danon, deputy speaker of the Knesset, told KleinOnline, referring to the new restrictions.
Jerusalem Police spokesman Shmulik Ben Ruby confirmed to KleinOnline that Jews and Christians are entirely restricted from entering the mount due to safety concerns over the main access gate for non-Muslims, known as the Mughrabi Bridge.
The Mughrabi BridgeYesterday, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat officially ordered the bridge to be indefinitely closed due to petitions from the city’s Antiquities Authority citing fears the weakened wooden structure may collapse or catch fire.
There are 15 gates leading into the Temple Mount compound, 10 of which are in use but for Muslims only.
The Mughrabi Gate, located at the Western Wall plaza, is the only access for non-Muslims to enter the site, meaning its closure now prevents Jews, Christians and any tourists from visiting until a replacement structure is built.
Ben Ruby said there are no immediate plans for any of the 10 entrances to the Mount to be opened for non-Muslims, citing security concerns.
A replacement bridge could take several months to build. Arab countries are already warning any construction in the sensitive area could lead to violence, claiming the Jewish state is using the bridge renovation to threaten the al-Aqsa Mosque, located on the mount.
“This is a serious step that shows the Zionist scheme of aggression again the Al Aqsa mosque,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum told AFP today.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said the Israeli government received warning messages over the bridge reconstruction from the Egyptian and Jordanian governments.
“The Muslim Brotherhood is exerting pressure on them,” he said of Egypt.
Jordan’s foreign minister, Nasser Judeh, similarly weighed in, telling the Arabic-language Al-Rai network, “Jordan rejects any Israeli attempt to influence the holy sites in Jerusalem and the character and heritage of the city.”
The Mughrabi bridge is in serious need of repair. It was scheduled to be demolished and replaced with a sturdier structure, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed the Jerusalem municipality two weeks ago to postpone the demolition due to the sensitivity of the issue and warnings from Egypt and Jordan.
Danon, from Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party, told KleinOnline he spoke with the prime minister today about finding a solution to accommodate Jewish and Christian visits.
“I believe we will see in the near future non-Muslims will be allowed to go back on the Temple Mount,” he said.
Meanwhile, nationalist politicians and Temple Mount activist groups here are strongly protesting the new restrictions.
Knesset Member Uri Ariel said, “The closing of the Mughrabi bridge cannot be an excuse for why Jews going to the Temple Mount will be delayed for even one minute.”
“However, there is a vital need to build a replacement bridge,” he added.
Yehuda Glick, Chairman of the Temple Mount Heritage Foundation, told KleinOnline of the new restrictions:
“The Israeli government doesn’t know how to assert its own independence. When it comes to the Temple Mount, they are afraid of their own shadow.”
Rabbi Chaim Richman, the International Director of the Temple Institute, told KleinOnline, “This is another indication of the political, moral and spiritual bankruptcy of the Israeli government. The issue is not simply a bridge. It’s about what direction we are going in as a people. Do we care about our heritage?”
Richman also blasted the international news media for “only reporting about the Hamas threats over the bridge. The big story here is the barring of the non-Muslims by a Jewish government.”
By Aaron Klein