“Three times a year—on the festival of Pesach, on the festival of Shavuot, and on the festival of Sukkot—all your males shall appear before Hashem your God in the place that He will choose. They shall not appear before Hashem empty-handed,” Deuteronomy 16:16 (The Israel Bible™)
Echoing the days of the Temple when all the Jews came to Jerusalem, chol hamoed (the intermediary days) of the Passover holiday saw a record number of Jews ascend at one time.
Elishama Sandman of Yera-eh reported on the numbers of Jews who ascended to their holiest site last week:
- 2,438 Jews ascended the Temple Mount during the week. This number is roughly equal to the number of Jews who ascended during the intermediary days last year. This was impressive when considering that the first two days were unseasonably stormy and wet.
- Visiting hours for Jews are limited to 4.5 hours per day and are limited to the intermediary days, excluding visitation on the holidays and Shabbat.
- Normally, the size of the groups is limited, thereby limiting the total number of Jews that can enter the Temple Mount compound. On Thursday, the police permitted four especially large groups, one with 120 members. As a result, there were almost 300 Jews on the Temple Mount at one time, a new record. This may very well be the largest number of Jews on the Temple Mount at one time since the Temple stood.
- On Thursday, the eve of the Seventh Day of Passover, a total of 834 Jews ascended the Temple Mount.
“All of Israel was represented with many families and children touring the Temple Mount,” Sandman told Breaking Israel News. “The police ensured that anyone who wanted to ascend was able to and that they were able to fully tour the site within the accepted boundaries. A large number of prominent and influential rabbis made their first visits to the site.”
“We can only hope that this is the beginning of many trends; that more Jews will come, that more rabbis will support this, and that the police will continue to allow this important phenomenon to flourish,” Sandman said.
The only dark note concerned Sha’ar HaRachamim (the gate of mercy, also known as the golden gate). In March, Palestinians stormed the Sha’ar HaRachamim, an area that had been closed off to Jews and Muslims alike for 16 years after it was used as a meeting place for Hamas-related organizations. This was a clear violation of the status quo agreement between Jordan and Israel concerning the site. The Waqf (Muslim authority) refused to acknowledge summonses by the Israeli High Court and Prime Minister Netanyahu ordered the site sealed.
“The Palestinians are still there though the riots have ceased,” Sandman reported. “It seems that their seizure of the site has been accepted by the Israeli authorities.”