Temple Mount to Be Reopened to Visitors Next Week

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Israel's Internal Security Minister Tzhai Hanegbi said on August 11 that Jerusalem's Temple Mount would be reopened to Jewish and Christian visitors by next week with or without the agreement of the Islamic Wakf (Religious Administration).

"This was the last week that we are waiting for an agreement. We hope by week's end there will be an agreement, but if not, we will not wait any longer," Hanegbi said at a special Knesset committee meeting dealing with the ongoing closure of the Temple Mount to non-Muslim visitors.

The mount, which had been closed to Jewish and Christian visitors for nearly three years now, was briefly opened in June, only to be closed again last month amidst concerns over renewed Palestinian violence at the site.

Hanegbi said that he is hopeful that officials from the Islamic Wakf, which administers the site, will agree to the reentry of all visitors to the contested holy site, but if not, Israel would unilaterally open the site and restore the status quo that has been in place for nearly three decades until the outbreak of violence in September 2000.

"We are going back to the situation that existed (pre-September 2000) with or without agreement," Hanegbi said. The Knesset discussion came in the wake of police refusal to allow legislators to ascend the Mount last week on Tisha B'av, the day marking the destruction of the two ancient Jewish temples at the site.

At the discussion Jerusalem Police Chief Mickey Levy said that had Knesset legislators entered the Mount that day "there was an almost certain danger" that violence would break out at the site, which he said might possibly have spread to other regions in Israel.

Fearing renewed Palestinian violence, police had barred non-Muslims from entering the Temple Mount since Ariel Sharon's visit in September 2000. With the exception of the recent reopening in June, the 34 months since is the longest time the site has been off limits to non-Muslims since the 1967 Six Day War.

(By Edgar Lefkivits, The Jerusalem Post, August 11, 2003)

PRAYER FOCUS: God Almighty has called the Temple Mount His dwelling place. He has claimed it as His everlasting dwelling place. Is it any wonder, that His enemies have seized His possession and try to claim ownership? Pray that God will defend this holy place.

"Then you will know that I, the Lord your God, dwell in Zion, My holy hill, Jerusalem will be holy; never again will foreigners invade her" (Joel 3:17).