Fifty Israelis Visit Temple Mount With Family of Slain Settler Teen

It is the largest group of Jewish visitors permitted to enter the tense holy site in the past year. Some of those in attendance uttered prayers in violation of previous policy.

Dozens of Israelis gather at a short distance from a gate to the Temple Mount area on July 12, 2016.
Nir Hasson

The largest group of Jews permitted to visit the Temple Mount in the past year entered the compound on Tuesday under heavy police guard, with the family of slain Kiryat Arba teenager, Hallel Yaffa Ariel.

At least 50 people were among those police permitted to walk up to the plaza revered as the site of two ancient Jewish temples, and home to Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam's third holiest site.

In departure from previous policy barring Jewish worship at the site, visitors guarded by dozens of police officers uttered blessings and were answered by calls of "Amen."

Angry Muslim worshipers shouted at the Jewish visitors "Allahu akbar," Arabic for "God is Great."

Police prevented at least four right-wing Israeli politicians, including Minister Uri Ariel, from entering the site, in keeping with regulations enforced in recent weeks when violence has erupted, including stone-throwing attacks on police and at worshippers at the Western Wall.

About 200 Israelis in all waited at the foot of a ramp leading up to the Mughrabi Gate, answering calls from Ariel's family to join them in remembering the 13-year-old girl who a Palestinian youth stabbed to death in her bed after infiltrating the family home on June 30.

Rina Ariel, the girl's mother, said: "We haven't come here to weep, we have cried enough. We came to give strength and be strengthened, to strengthen our hearts."

Ariel also asked to name of the Moghrabi Gate, the entrance to the site closest to the Western Wall, after her daughter and call it the Hallel Gate. 

Police had earlier rejected Ariel family appeals in recent days to be more flexible about rules permitting Jewish visits to the mount only in small groups and barring any Jewish worship at the site.

During Ramadan, the month long Muslim fast holiday which ended last week, violence erupted at the site, and a Jewish worshipper was wounded by stones thrown at the Western Wall area.

Palestinians protested Israel's revision of a previous rule that kept Jewish visitors away from the Temple Mount during the last two weeks of Ramadan.