Who broke into Al-Aqsa Mosque?
Nobody. Contrary to reports that started in the Arab press – no Jews stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque nor were any Jews removed from the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Not on Jerusalem Day and not any day in recent memory.
So why would the Arab press condemn, “the Israeli occupation authorities for allowing Jewish extremists and settlers to break into Al Aqsa Mosque/Al Haram Al Sharif, which violated the sanctity of the mosque?”
By using terms such as “Al Aqsa Mosque/Al Haram Al Sharif“* or “Al-Aqsa Mosque compound” when describing a Jewish presence on the Temple Mount – or by claiming outright that Jews forcibly entered or prayed in a Muslim mosque – Muslims (in particular Palestinians and Jordanians) are deliberately blurring the lines between the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Temple Mount. By falsely claiming the sanctity of the Al-Aqsa Mosque has been violated they are inciting the Arab street. This same lie has been used in the past to start intifadas and incite numerous terrorist attacks against non-Muslims. Additionally equating Al Aqsa with the entire Temple Mount is just one more attempt to erase Jewish history and trample basic human rights of non-Muslim visitors.
*(In Arabic the Temple Mount is known as the Al Haram Al Sharif which means Noble Sanctuary).
In fact, the Al Aqsa Mosque (often confused with the Golden Dome of the Dome of the Rock) is just one 50,000 square foot building  in the Southwest corner of the 37 acre Temple Mount  covering just 3.1% of the total Temple Mount area. While more and more Jews are visiting the Temple Mount, the holiest place in the world for Judaism, none of the reports of Jews violating the Al-Aqsa Mosque are based on fact. Had the Palestinians or Jordanians actually agreed to former Secretary of State John Kerry’s plan of installing video cameras on the Temple Mount and inside Al Aqsa Mosque, they would have shown that the Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount do not approach the entrance to Al-Aqsa Mosque nor do they make any attempts to enter it let alone violate its sanctity.
Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount ascend a wooden bridge to Hallel Gate (formerly Mugrabi) and solemnly walk a circular route around the Temple Mount until exiting via the Chain Gate. Due to Israeli police restrictions, and in violation of their basic human rights and Israeli Supreme Court decisions, Jewish visitors may not openly pray, bow, or do anything overtly religious in nature. In addition, during their entire visit they are escorted by Israeli police as well as representatives of the Jordanian Waqf who observe, record, and report their every movement. If a single Jewish visitor ever made any attempt to enter Al-Aqsa Mosque let alone “storm” or “violate” it there would not simply be false accusations in the Arab press but there would be immediate video evidence.
Earlier this week Haaretz reported the Jordanian Waqf made Israel a “rare offer to diffuse Temple Mount tensions”. The head of the Al-Aqsa Waqf Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib al-Tamimi called for a return to the situation prior to 2000 where the Waqf had more control over who can ascend to the Temple Mount and what their visit can consist of. This is believed to be a response to the continually increasing numbers of Jews ascending the Temple Mount and calls for assuring Jewish rights to freely worship there. Unfortunately, the English version of the Haaretz article did not translate what Sheikh al-Tamimi actually said [Hebrew]:
“All 144 dunam [36 acre] of Haram al-Sharif [the Temple Mount] are a mosque.”
“Everyone must understand they are visiting a mosque where Jews are forbidden to worship.”
So, while according to most expert Jewish opinions the Al-Aqsa Mosque is not within the confines of the sanctified area of the two Jewish temples, according to Sheikh al-Tamimi, the entire Temple Mount (and not just the Al-Aqsa Mosque) is considered to be a mosque where Jews cannot pray. There is some historical precedent for claiming the entire area is sanctified for Muslims. The 1925 Supreme Moslim Council Guide to Al-Haram Al-Sharif states on the very first page, “Visitors should bear in mind that the whole of the Haram Area, and not only its edifices, is sacred to Moslems ; and that they will be expected to pay due regard to its sanctity.”
But nowhere does the guide say the Haram area is a Mosque nor does it say that visitors may not pray. It says visitors, “must abstain from smoking anywhere in the Area, and from bringing dogs with them.” The 1925 Moslim Council guide also says regarding the Temple Mount (Haram), “Its identity with the site of Solomon’s temple is beyond dispute.” It should be noted that the Palestinian Authority and their supporters currently dispute this basic historic fact and many in the UN do the same.
While that guide states the entire area is sacred to Muslims, the historic record of how the area was maintained during Muslim rule would seemingly prove otherwise. In fact, an abundance of photographic evidence of tall weeds sprouting from between the floor stones and a lack of Muslim visitors for decades would seemingly indicate a lack of importance. In addition recent evidence of Arab soccer games, picnics, and worse taking place on the holy site show the space is used by many Arabs as a park rather than a sacred area let alone a mosque. Further, for years the Waqf did nothing to prevent or dissuade the Arab antagonizers that screamed at and harassed peaceful Jewish visitors. Indeed, those that claim the Temple Mount compound (with the exception of Al-Aqsa mosque) is not holy to Muslims seem to have firm ground on which to stand.
Thanks to the increase in Jewish visitors and interest, the Israeli police led by Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan have increased law and order on the Temple Mount and enhanced the sanctity of this holy space to the benefit of all who visit. One can only hope that the time when all visitors can freely worship in their sacred places is quickly approaching.
This basic right is actually part of Article 9 of the 1994 Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty which obligates that, “The Parties will act together to promote interfaith relations among the three monotheistic religions, with the aim of working towards religious understanding, moral commitment, freedom of religious worship, and tolerance and peace.”
Under Jewish rule, besides for specific security concerns, Muslims have always had freedom of religious worship in their sacred places whereas under Muslim control Jews have never been given that basic right and if the Jordanian Waqf has anything to do with it, they apparently never will. The historic injustice of banning Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount should be rescinded immediately. It is in the hands of the Israeli police and the Israeli government to do so. A continually increasing number of Jewish visitors ascending the Temple Mount increases the likelihood that sometime soon Jews will be granted similar freedoms to those already provided to Muslims: the ability to freely pray to the G-d of Abraham in this holiest of places.