This is considered the holiest place in Judaism, yet it has been largely off-limits to Jewish worshipers because of concerns that range from violating Jewish law to provoking riots.
But in recent years, religious Jews are increasingly asserting their right to be here and are pushing for Israel to claim sovereignty over the Temple Mount. Their effort is testing the resolve of the Israeli government and the patience of 1.6 billion Muslims around the world. At stake are freedom of worship and the future of the most contested sacred space in the world. And the effort could potentially inflame the Israeli-Arab conflict, which is increasingly taking on a religious tone.
“I’m pretty left-wing Orthodox and even I think there’s no reason Jews shouldn’t be allowed up here,” says Mark Shayne, a financial consultant from New York who visited last week on the eve of Sukkot, one of hundreds of Jews who have visited the Temple Mount during the Jewish holidays this month. “If you can’t share a holy place, there will never be peace.”
The Islamic waqf, which governs the Haram al-Sharif, endorses the idea of Jerusalem as a “jewel of peace” for Muslim, Christians, and Jews, and are happy to welcome Jews as tourists to the Noble Sanctuary, but they are pressuring Israeli police to prevent access to the area for Jews with religious or political motivations.