Jerusalem Day: Jews Dancing on the Temple Mount? The true story

Photo shows Jerusalem Day celebrations at the Western Wall 2024. This is not on the Temple Mount. Photo Credit: The Western Wall Heritage Foundation
In this column Defending Israel: Facts, not Fiction, we will look at the issues from various perspectives to answer the tough accusations that are often directed at Israel to explain why they are incorrect, and to go deeper to explore why this might be happening in general. Our goal is for the reader to feel empowered and uplifted regarding Israel’s response to the October 7th massacre and policies in general.

Jerusalem Day commemorates the day (according to the Hebrew calendar) in which Israel defeated the Jordanians who had illegally occupied Jerusalem for 19 years from the War of Independence until the 6 Day War in 1967. The Jordanians took the Old City in the War; their rule in Jerusalem was only recognized by Great Britain, Iraq, and themselves. In Jerusalem under Jordanian control, 38,000 Jewish graves were desecrated on the Mount of Olives, over 50 synagogues and Jewish study halls were destroyed, the Jewish Quarter was reduced to rubble, and Jews were exiled from the Old City and denied access to Jewish holy sites such as the Western Wall.

Archaeological excavations and written records attest to the strong Jewish history in Jerusalem not only thousands of years ago but also in the last 750 years. The only time the Old City of Jerusalem had no Jewish residents was under Jordanian Rule. In 1988, the Jordanians renounced their claim to Jerusalem and the West Bank they subsequently left the area; Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994 in which Israel committed to “respect the present special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in Muslim Holy shrines in Jerusalem.” Jordan retains custodianship of the Temple Mount and other holy places until today. The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan had been awarded custodianship by the Supreme Muslim Council in 1924, when they had lost control of Mecca to the House of Saud.

Since 1968, Jerusalem Day celebrations have included special prayers and a march with flags, known as the Dance of the Flags, through the Old City alleyways, leading to the Western Wall. In recent years, a growing number (this year approximately 1,500) Jews go up to the Temple Mount. Jews visiting the Temple Mount are allowed to go up in small numbers being watched and guarded by Israeli police as well as being observed by the Wakf, Muslim religious officials representing the Jordanians who ensure that Jews will not pray, sing, or observe any other Jewish customs in the holiest site to the Jewish people, the place of the First and Second Temples.

This year, Minister of National Security Itamar Ben Gvir, permitted Jewish prayers, singing, and dancing, although the police did stop visitors from doing so in some cases. According to Muslim law, any site that was once a mosque must always remain a mosque and therefore non-Muslim worship has been denied out of consideration for the Jordanians and the unwritten Status Quo of the Temple Mount. However, according to Jewish law as well, the Temple Mount retains the holiness as the place of the Beit HaMikdash (the Temple), even if it is destroyed. In the Jewish and democratic State of Israel, many people are starting to question why Muslim law is upheld while Jewish law is not, why a Muslim has rights on the Temple Mount that a Jew is denied. These issues are obviously complex, and while it’s understandable that some reporters might just be confused about the facts, it does seems that being anti-Israel sells news. As a result, a great deal of misinformation is spread about Jerusalem Day celebrations to the extent that sadly, it has almost become one of the customs of the day.

Fiction: “Large crowds of Israeli nationalists descend on Al Aksa.” This was reported on several international news outlets.

Facts: Jewish Israelis were allowed to visit the Temple Mount in small groups with a police escort. This video shows how the international media greatly exaggerated the event. In addition, the visits to the Temple Mount were completely separate from the Dance of the Flags march through the Old City Streets that culminates at the Western Wall. However, the international media tried to link them as if part of the procession involved people illegally going up to the Temple Mount. This video shows a group of Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount who were stopped from singing by the police.

Fiction: According to the international news, this event is always very violent. The reporters set out every year in search of trouble, hoping to catch it on their cameras. Even more shocking, was that yesterday, it was reported on an international media outlet that “In 2021 violence actually prompted Hamas to launch rockets towards israel sparking that ten day war between Israel and Hamas.”

Facts: In 2021, there was tension over many issues such as Sheikh Jarrah, police policies regarding Muslim teens causing trouble outside Damascus Gate during Ramadan, Palestinian Authority elections, the Abraham Accords, Muslim violence towards police on the Temple Mount. Hamas threatened that it would attack on Jerusalem Day and as a result, the march was significantly toned down: the route was changed
so that it did not enter Damascus Gate and only a fraction of the number of people attended compared to usual. Despite Israel’s efforts to avoid escalating violence, Hamas fired rockets on Jerusalem and continued to attack Israel for a week and half as well as inciting violence throughout Israeli cities. It’s remarkable that a reporter on an international news outlet would have forgotten these facts and instead blame teenage violence at the event itself for the reason for the war. This video shows tens of thousands of Muslims on the Temple Mount in which real violence was displayed in May 2021.

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