Jews regularly pray at the Western Wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Recently, however, some Jews have begun to climb atop the Temple Mount to pray on the ruins of the First and Second Temples of Jerusalem.
According to the New York Times, “Small groups of Jews are increasingly ascending the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City, a sacred site controlled for centuries by Muslims, who see the visits as a provocation that could undermine the fragile peace talks started this summer.” Many of the Jews who are claiming the right to pray on the Temple Mount are visitors to Israel who see the site as particularly holy and feel that they have a religious duty to pray there.
The Temple Mount is a highly contested religious site that houses not only the ruins of the First and Second Temples, but also the Al Aksa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock–key sites in the Islamic faith.
The New York Times reports that “Palestinian leaders say the new activity has created the worst tension in memory around the landmark Al Aksa Mosque and Dome of the Rock, and have called on Muslims to defend the site from ‘incursions.’ A spate of stone-throwing clashes erupted this month: on Wednesday, three Muslims were arrested and an Israeli police officer wounded in the face. And on Friday thousands of Arab citizens of Israel rallied in the north, warning that Al Aksa is in danger.”
Meanwhile, Israeli security forces are attempting to control the escalating tensions at the Temple Mount.
The New York Times provides a detailed report on the latest developments at the Temple Mount. Historians who study religious violence will recognize the difficulties of shared sacred spaces and the dynamics of competitions to control access to sacred sites.