The Islamic custodian of the Temple Mount has called on Muslim worshipers to attend a mass service at the Jerusalem complex on Eid al-Adha on Sunday, in protest of a possible police decision to allow Jews commemorating Tisha B'Av access to the holy site on the same day.
The Jerusalem Waqf also announced on Friday that all mosques in the city would be closed on Sunday, excluding the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The Eid al-Adha prayers will be held early Sunday, while Jews will mark the day of fasting and mourning commemorating the destruction of both temples and the exile of the Jewish people.
Jewish activists have resented the fact that police have yet to announce their decision on allowing Jews to visit the compound, which is regularly closed to Jews and tourists during Muslim holidays. This year, the activists hope they would be allowed to enter Temple Mount since Eid al-Adha overlaps with Tisha B'Av.
In a letter sent by attorney Aviad Visouly to Police Jerusalem District commander Doron Yedid on behalf of the Center of the Land of Israel, he wrote that "No one disagrees that the decision to restrict Jews from entering Temple Mount, the holiest place on Earth for every Jew, is one that severely harms the Jewish public, let alone on Tisha B'Av.
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"The Supreme Court ruled many times that according to the principle of natural justice, those who are harmed by administrative decisions should be given the right to present their claims before a decision is made," Visouly wrote. The police said a final decision on the matter would be released on Sunday morning.
Social media posts called on Muslim worshipers to demonstrate presence at the complex on Sunday, while some posts called to postpone the prayers to a later hour in order to get as many worshipers into the compound as possible. The Waqf Council called on imams to convey the message to Friday's worshipers across Jerusalem and its surroundings and explained that the decision to shut down all the mosques in Jerusalem is an appropriate response to Israel's attempt to downgrade their status.
Tens of thousands of worshipers throughout Israel filled the mosques with prayers on Friday. However, religious officials said that Friday's compliance was unusual and topics related to avoid violence in the Arab community topped the agenda.
Sheikh Mohammad al-Quran, the imam of Kuseife mosque, said that it is a particularly holy Friday given its proximity to one of the main holidays in Islam. People come to pray in droves and to listen to the sermon that speaks of giving alms to the needy, he said. A large part of the prayers deal with the phenomenon of violence in the Arab community, he added.
Despite the tensions following Thursday's fatal stabbing of Israeli soldier Dvir Sorek near the settlement bloc of Gush Etzion, the content of the service brings a message of peace and fraternity. According to al-Quran, "Gathering in a religious space is not meant to cause escalation, much the opposite, we stress that we all must live in peace," he said.
Ahmad Abdullah, the imam at the mosque in Ein Naqquba said that Friday's prayers are mainly spiritual preparation for the upcoming fast on Saturday. "The topics brought up in the mosque are at the discretion of the imam. People feel a need to arrive before special events, and tomorrow there will be a fast."
Sheikh Amar Walid, imam at the mosque in Kfar Qassem said that the aim of the Eid al-Adha holiday is to bring unity between peoples and to deter violence. He stressed that the notion of violence in the Arab community is at the top of the agenda every Friday during prayers. In reference to Thursday's stabbing, he said that "We are tired of the conflict, we need to end it already, the idea behind slaughtering an animal for the Feast of the Sacrifice is that it is upon us to avoid bloodshed among people."
Similar tensions erupted at the beginning of June, when Jews marked Jerusalem Day that fell on the last three days of Ramadan. The police have closed the Mount — the holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam — to Jews every year for the last 10 days of Ramadan, but this time Jews were allowed Jews access to the compound.
Police said hundreds of Palestinians were protesting as a result, hurling stones and chairs at security forces, which responded with riot-dispersal measures, including rubber-tipped bullets.