Rosh Hashanah, one of the holiest days on the Jewish calendar, began with Arabs attacking Israeli police on the Temple Mount with rocks and firebombs. The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism, and is cited as the location of the first and second temples mentioned in the Bible. Observant Jews also believe that it will be the place of a third temple in the future, according to their belief in Biblical prophecies. Today, the location is the site of the Islamic al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Dome of the Rock shrine.
As tens of thousands of Jewish worshipers flocked to the Western Wall below the Temple Mount for Rosh Hashanah prayers this morning, Arab rioters began their attacks on police forces stationed on the mountaintop. The Arabs attacked while positioned inside the al-Aqsa Mosque, which Israeli police are reluctant to enter, in deference to religious sensitivities.
Israel police responded swiftly with stun grenades and tear gas aimed directly at the perpetrators at the entrance to the mosque. Although Jerusalem Police Chief Moshe Edri described the event as “severe,” there were no reported injuries and no arrests have been made.
The morning attack occurred just hours before the start of the Rosh Hashanah holiday, which begins at sundown this evening. In a statement to the press, Jerusalem Police Chief Edri explained the duty of the police presence on the Temple Mount.
“The police make every effort to permit freedom of worship for all religions and denominations in Jerusalem, but will continue to show zero tolerances to any attempt to disrupt the order and harm the status quo in the Temple Mount.”
Police removed the terrorists’ barricade and free access for Muslims to enter the mosque was restored. Pipe bombs found at the scene were also removed by police. The Temple Mount itself is accessible to residents and tourists from any religion, and this is often a source of anger among Muslims. To maintain what authorities refer to as “the status quo,” non-Muslims are not allowed to pray on the Temple Mount.
Tensions always run high during Jewish holidays in Jerusalem, and throughout Israel. Because of a history of terrorist attacks on these days, which are also national holidays in Israel, access from areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority is restricted. The Rosh Hashanah holiday is observed from sundown on Sunday, September 13, through sundown on Tuesday evening.
Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year, and is celebrated with the commandment to blow the shofar – an animal horn trumpet – which is the Biblical call to war. It is also a time of reflection over the year past and of the state of the Jewish people.
In the past 12 months, 29,500 immigrants have been absorbed in Israel, which is an increase of 13 percent over the previous year. The immigrants have come from 97 countries to make their home in the ancient homeland of the Jewish people.
According to the Jewish calendar, Rosh Hashanah this year begins the year 5776 since Adam and Eve. U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron released videos today to wish “Happy Rosh Hashanah” to the Jewish people and to the nation of Israel.
UPDATE: A video of a Jewish boy being brutally attacked by Arabs after Rosh Hashanah prayers at the Western Wall in Jerusalem has just been released.
[Intro photo credit: Israel Ministry of Tourism]