Waqf Guards Barred From Temple Mount by Israel Call for Mass Protest

The guards, employed by the Temple Mount's Islamic custodian, call on Muslims to participate in Friday's prayers at the entrance to the complex

Protest prayers outside an entrance to the Temple Mount in 2017.
Olivier Fitoussi

Security guards employed by the Waqf, the Islamic custodian of the Temple Mount, called on Muslims in Jerusalem to refrain from entering the complex and pray with them at the entrance this coming Friday.

The guards were issued restraining orders by the Israel Police for opening Bab al-Rahma, a building in the Golden Gate on the eastern side of the Temple Mount that was closed by police in 2003.

The call to join the guards in prayer at the gates could draw hundreds and cause renewed violence and discontent in Jerusalem during Friday prayers, said Waqf officials.

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A similar protest was held a year and a half ago when the police installed metal detectors at the entrances to the Temple Mount after the murder of two Druze police officers by terrorists near the entrance to the Mount.

Temple Mount complex

The police issued restraining orders to senior Waqf officials on Sunday amid a crisis surrounding Bab al-Rahma. The building was closed by Israeli authorities after Israel claimed the site was operated by an association affiliated with Hamas and the Islamic Movement. In recent years, the Waqf has repeatedly tried to recover the building and reverse the closure order. According to the Waqf, the association in question has long since been disbanded and all of its members are in prison.

Three weeks ago, Waqf officials reopened the building. The police have since attempted to close it again, but Muslim protestors have reopened it and have used it as a mosque.

Last week, a number of Waqf officials were questioned by the police about the opening of the building and on Sunday the restraining orders were issued to senior officials. In the past few days, 14 Waqf guards were barred from entering the Temple Mount along with dozens of other Muslim activists from East Jerusalem. The restraining orders are for two weeks to four months.

Among those arrested were the head of the Waqf, Sheikh Abdel-Azeem Salhab, and his deputy. Salhab, who is considered one of Jerusalem's leading religious figures, was taken from his home in the early morning. The council's deputy head, Sheikh Najeh Bkeirat, was also arrested for allowing Palestinian worshipers into the Temple Mount building.

Jewish Temple Mount activists also held a protest rally on Sunday and called for protests against the government for allowing the building in the Golden Gate, also known as the Gate of Mercy, to remain open and in use. The Temple Mount activists held an emergency conference on Sunday calling for an end to the “terrible desecration of God’s name at the Gate of Mercy.”

The umbrella group of Temple Mount activists works to encourage Jews to visit the Temple Mount and promote the reconstruction of the Jewish Temple on the site. Baruch Marzel, a candidate for the Knesset for the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, demanded the building be used as a synagogue.

MK Yehudah Glick (Likud) responded to the matter, saying: “What really happened here? A violation of the status quo? It’s very good that they violated the status quo, for 15 years I’ve been fighting the status quo. We must not let them dictate to us the fight, but they want to drag us into war and I’m for peace.”

At the end of the conference it was decided to visit the Temple Mount en masse and demonstrate and march from City Hall in Safra Square to the Golden Gate.