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Temple Mount entry restrictions

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The entry restrictions for tourists, showing opening times and a Rabbinic warning.
A view of Temple Mount from south side
Israeli Police guard an entrance to the Temple Mount

Temple Mount entry restrictions are restrictions on entering the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem, which is a holy place for Muslims, Jews and Christians. [1][2] While it has formally recognized that the responsibility for the site, an Islamic religious endowment, lies under the management of the Jordanian government through the Waqf in Amman,[3][4] the Israeli government imposes entry limits to the Temple Mount for political and security reasons. In addition, Jewish law imposes restrictions on entering Temple Mount.

Restrictions during the Ottoman Empire

For centuries an absolute ban on non-Muslim access to the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount existed. The situation was relatively free of tensions as Jews acquiesced in the exercise of Muslim authority over the site.[5] In 1839, following the Tanzimat reforms in the Ottoman establishment and legislation, non-Muslims were permitted to enter Temple Mount, but in order to do so they had to obtain special permit from the governor.[6] Jews who managed to obtain permission to visit the site at that time, such as Moses Montefiore and Baron Rothschild, had themselves carried across the site by Muslims, in order not to violate the rabbinic prohibition against Jews setting foot on the holy ground of the area.[2]

Under the British Mandate and Jordanian rule

Article 13 of the Mandatory Charter conferred on Britain by the League of Nations explicitly denied its governing body the right to either interfere with the site or the administration of purely Muslim holy places.[5] Jewish requests for access to their holy places during the period of British rule of Palestine were focused on the Western Wall, not on the Temple Mount, which was, in any case, off-limits according to the Jewish prohibition against entering the latter. The struggle between Muslims and Jews was concentrated on the latter's desire to secure regulated access to the wall on the mount's western side.[5] As early as 1920, rabbi Avraham Yitzhak ha-Kohen Kook stated that though in other hands, the Temple Mount would eventually come into Jewish possession, a declaration which was interpreted by the mufti Amin al-Husseini as evidence of a political plot to wrest control of the Haram itself. In the ensuing period, the Temple Mount became something of a "state within a state" which the British authorities would not enter even when it became the centre for the Arab Revolt, until the mufti fled the site.[5] The King's Order-in-Council issued by the government authorities of Mandatory Palestine in 1934 regulated the legal situation of the site by confirming the religious status quo regarding sovereignty reigning from Ottoman times.[7]

At the conclusion of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount lay behind the lines held by the Jordanian Legion. From that date until Israel captured the site in 1967 during the Six-Day War, Israeli Muslims were unable to enter East Jerusalem and access the Haram al-Sharif.[8] This restriction was sometimes imposed by the Israeli government.[9]

1967 to the present

With the Israeli capture of the Old City in 1967, a wave of passionate feelings, expressing long repressed frustrations over both the humiliating conditions imposed on prior worship at the remnant of the Temple which was the Western Wall, and a certain desire for revenge, according to Meron Benvenisti, was unleashed.[5]

Accounts were immediately settled by demolishing an entire Muslim quarter adjacent to the Temple Mount.[10]

The Israeli government took several measures regarding the Temple Mount designed to reassure the world that it had no intention of making the issue of where the Temple Mount's sovereignty lay until this could be determined in final status negotiations. Among these was a directive prohibiting an Israeli flag to be raised over the site, and the decision to refrain from extending a number of Israeli laws, including that governing Holy Places, to the Haram ash-Sharif, and the assignment of administrative authority to the Islamic waqf.[7]

Uzi Narkis described the arrangements at the time as follows:[11]

The IDF will clear the Temple Mount platform and will redeploy outside it.The Israeli administration will be responsible for general security, but will not interfere with the internal guarding and the internal inspection of the running of the Mount

Currently eleven gates are open to the Muslim public. Non-Muslims are only permitted to enter through the Mughrabi gate.[12][13][14]

Halakhic restrictions

Sign on behalf of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, warning of the halakhic prohibition to enter the Temple Mount, with some ambiguity whether gentiles are supposed to obey this rule too.

After Israel captured the site 1967, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel announced that entering the Temple Mount was forbidden to Jews, in accordance with a halakhic prohibition against temei ha'met (Impurity by contacting the dead, cemeteries etc.). The ancient ban on Jews, other than a high priest, entering the zone of the Holy of Holies was confirmed, with the consideration also that, since the exact location of the Second Temple was unknown, any Jew walking through the site would be at grave risk of inadvertently treading on the ground of the Holy of Holies in error.

According to Maimonides, all must still show the same respect (fear) for the Temple which it commanded before its destruction. He added that, "(n)o one may enter it except the places that one is permitted to enter." [15]There is an ongoing ideological and halakhic debate whether it is permissible or forbidden to enter the Temple Mount. On one side stand those (mainly Haredi) who prohibit the entry to all persons in all areas of the Mount, in fear that a visitor might enter the Temple location. On the other side, there are those who do not see, based on the same halakha, any wrongdoing in Jews entering the Temple Mount while observing the halakhic purity laws, and getting only to certain areas of the Mount. Additionally there are others (mainly Religious Zionists) who even see visiting the site as a Mitzvah, meaning prayer there should be considered a religious duty.[16]

Israeli restriction policy

Jewish prayer on Temple Mount is completely forbidden. Jews may enter only to visit the place, and only at limited times. Muslims are free to pray on Temple Mount, however, Christians and Jews may only visit the site as tourists. They are forbidden from singing, praying, or making any kind of "religious displays".[17] During times of political tension and fear of riots, on Fridays and some Jewish or Muslim Holy Days entry to the Haram area is restricted to Muslim men over a certain age, which varies according to decisions taken by security officials. The restrictions do not concern Muslim women, who can enter regardless of their age.[18]

See also

  • Status quo (Holy Land sites) - decrees "freezing" denominational rights to Holy Sites in the Holy Land as they were in 1757 and 1853
  • HaLiba - "The project for Jewish freedom on the Temple Mount", an Israeli umbrella organisation dealing with the right of Jews to pray on the Temple Mount


  1. ^ Trudy Ring, Robert M. Salkin, Sharon La Boda (eds.),International Dictionary of Historic Places: Middle East and Africa, Taylor & Francis, Volume 4, 1994 p.379.
  2. ^ a b Abraham Ezra Millgram, Jerusalem Curiosities, Jewish Publication Society, 1990 p.60.
  3. ^ Michael Dumper,The Politics of Sacred Space: The Old City of Jerusalem in the Middle East Conflict, Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2002 p.33.
  4. ^ Wendy Pullan, Maximilian Sternberg, Lefkos Kyriacou, Craig Larkin, Michael Dumper (eds.),The Struggle for Jerusalem's Holy Places, Routledge, 2013 p.133.
  5. ^ a b c d e Meron Benvenisti,City of Stone:The Hidden History of Jerusalem, University of Caliufornia Press 1996 pp.77-82 p.77.
  6. ^ יהושע בן-אריה, גידולה של ירושלים במאה ה-19 - השפעות דתיות וחברתיות, בתוך: יואל רפל (עורך), תולדות ארץ ישראל, כרך ב', שער עשירי - "התקופה העות'מאנית", עמ' 544.
  7. ^ a b Moshe Amirav, Jerusalem Syndrome: The Palestinian-Israeli Battle for the Holy City, Sussex Academic press 2009 p.179.
  8. ^ Yitzhak Reiter (2008). Jerusalem and its Role in Islamic Solidarity. Palgrave. p. 130. In June 1967, Israel’s Muslim citizens were able to access al-Haram al-Sharif after a 19-year period of exclusion during Jordanian rule in East Jerusalem.
  9. ^ A. R. Peled (1994). "The Crystallization of an Israeli Policy towards Muslim and Christian Holy Places, 1948-1955". The Muslim World. 84: 95–121.
  10. ^ Benvenisti p.82
  11. ^ Yitzhak Reiter (7 April 2017). Contested Holy Places in Israel–Palestine: Sharing and Conflict Resolution. Taylor & Francis. p. 23. ISBN 978-1-351-99885-7.
  12. ^ "Tourism Min. plan to widen Jewish access to Temple Mount angers Palestinians". Haaretz. 7 October 2014. Retrieved 5 November 2014.
  13. ^ "Israel issues tender for new settlement units". Al Jazeera. 18 December 2011. Retrieved 5 November 2014.
  14. ^ Elaine McArdle, "How to visit Temple Mount as a tourist: Old City, Jerusalem, Israel," The Whole World is a Playground, January 1, 2015
  15. ^ Meir Loewenberg, 'Did Maimonides really pray on the Temple Mount?,' Jewish Magazine, October/November 2012. citing Maimonides,Hilkhot Bet HaBechira, 7.7. An alternative translation is:'Even though, the Temple is now in ruin because of our sins,36 a person must hold its [site] in awe, as one would regard it when it was standing.[Therefore,] one should only enter a region which he is permitted to enter. He should not sit in [the area of] the Temple Courtyard, nor should he act frivolously when standing before [the place of] the eastern gate, as [implied by Leviticus 19:30]: "You shall observe My Sabbaths and you shall revere My Sanctuary." [Explaining the analogy between the two commands, the Sages comment: "Just as the observance of the Sabbath [applies] for eternity, so too, the reverence for the Temple must be eternal. Even though it is in ruin, it remains holy".'
  16. ^ Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, Part I - Rabbi Goren and the Temple Mount; Part II - Inheriting the Land of Israel on the Temple Mount - on Arutz Sheva 618-619.
  17. ^ Booth, William. "Israel blocks Jersusalem holy site amid rising tensions after activist shot". Washington Post. Retrieved 30 October 2014.
  18. ^ "Riots erupt in capital as thousands mourn slain terrorist". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 27 April 2016.