Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir visited the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on Thursday in observance of Tisha B’Av.
The annual fast day commemorates tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people, with a focus on the destruction of the First and Second Temples that stood on the Mount.
“This is the most important place for the people of Israel where we have to go back and show our rule,” the Otzma Yehudit Party leader said.
Ben-Gvir informed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in advance of his intention to go up to the Temple Mount, his third visit to Judaism’s holiest site this year.
“On this day, in this place, it is always important to remember: We are all brothers. Right, left, religious, secular. We are all the same people,” Ben-Gvir said.
“And when a terrorist looks through the window, he does not differentiate between us and separate us. Unity is important, love of Israel is important,” he added, in an apparent reference to sharp divisions in Israeli society.
The American embassy in Jerusalem criticized Ben-Gvir’s visit, saying that the United States “stands firmly for the preservation of the historic status quo with respect to the holy sites in Jerusalem. Any unilateral action or rhetoric that jeopardizes the status quo is unacceptable.”
Jordan’s Foreign Ministry also slammed the minister’s move, calling it a violation of the status quo that “threatens to escalate the situation into more rounds of violence.”
The Palestinian Authority’s Foreign Ministry claimed that the visit to Temple Mount was “an official Israeli cover for the ongoing invasions and the plans to Judaize the Al-Aqsa mosque and to impose forced changes on the existing historical and legal reality, as an inseparable part of the Judaization of Jerusalem.”
Hamas issued a statement calling Ben-Gvir’s ascension a “dangerous escalation” and vowing to “defend the identity of the blessed Al-Aqsa mosque and protect its Islamic and Arab character at all costs.”
Minister of the Negev, Galilee and National Resilience Yitzhak Wasserlauf and Likud MK Amit Halevi also visited the Temple Mount along with more than a thousand other Jews on Thursday morning.
Police said that 16 visitors to the Temple Mount were arrested for violating regulations and not complying with police instructions. Additionally, two suspects who attempted to disrupt the visitations were arrested.
Non-Muslims are not allowed to pray on the Temple Mount, among other restrictions.
Despite the restrictions on Jewish worship, an increasing number of Jews are ascending the holy site. A report published in February revealed that some 20,329 Jews had visited the Temple Mount since the start of the Jewish year on Sept. 25, 2022, a 16% increase compared to the same time last year, with an average of 140 Jews ascending the holy site daily.
“We are at Tisha B’Av on the Temple Mount, the holiest place for the people of Israel. All Jews for two thousand years of exile prayed and begged to reach this place, to go up to the Temple Mount. With God’s help we will be blessed with the building of the Temple,” said Wasserlauf.