Thousands of Palestinians recently stormed the Golden Gate of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem in an effort to re-open the site for Muslim worship. The area around the gate has been closed by court order since 2003 when it was discovered that the Islamic heritage association that operated there was associated with Hamas and the site had become a meeting place for suspected terrorists. Illegal construction was also being carried out on site. Palestinian officials hailed the entry of worshipers into the Golden Gate site on Friday as a “big victory.” In an effort to curtail further violence, Israeli police arrested 60 East Jerusalem residents in their homes on suspicion of incitement and rioting at the Temple Mount. The police said additional arrests are possible. The Israeli news source Haaretz reported that prior to the arrests, firebombs were thrown at a security vehicle used to protect Jewish residents. Fortunately, the passengers were able to safely evacuate the vehicle before it was set on fire and burned.
Israeli Authorities Detain Waqf Officials
In response, two top Islamic Waqfs – religious-authority representatives – were arrested by Israeli police. Sheikh Abdelazeem Salhab, the head of the Waqf council on the Temple Mount and Najah Bakirat, deputy head of the organization, were both arrested. However, Israeli Police have not confirmed the arrests, but Palestinian media shared images of the men being escorted from their homes on social media. Interestingly, the Jordanian government – who officially controls the Temple Mount – recently expanded the number of members in the Waqf in the hopes of thwarting Israeli efforts to change the delicate status quo at the holy site, according to Haaretz. The extraordinary move is perceived as part of Jordan’s efforts to close ranks in order to combat any change in the religious and political status of the Temple Mount – which is holy to both Muslims and Jews – especially with respect to allowing the latter to pray there. Jewish entrance to and prayer at the Temple Mount is severely restricted, allowed only certain times and days of the year, with Waqf officials forbidding Jewish worshipers from even moving their lips in prayer or bowing down at the site. Violators are removed by Israeli police.
Relevant Scripture Passages
According to Jewish tradition, the Shekhinah (שכינה) (Divine Presence) used to appear through the Eastern Gate and will appear again when the Messiah arrives (Ezekiel 46:12). This event is seen by many Bible teachers as the triumphal entry (Ezekiel 43:2; Matthew 21:1–11) that Jesus will make into the Temple when He returns to initiate His Millennial Kingdom (Zechariah 14:4), entering the Temple complex by way of the re-opened Eastern Gate. Thus, since the Bible clearly teaches that Israel will not be at true peace with her neighbors until Christ returns to bring the ultimate peace only He can affect, and reign over the earth (Ezekiel 13:10; Jeremiah 8:11 cf. Matthew 24: 21-22) we must consider such events as mass rioting on the Temple Mount – especially around the site of the Eastern Gate – as having a potential implication for the fulfillment of prophecy. Likewise, the Bible indicates that when we see Israel surrounded by her enemies, we should know that desolation is near (Luke 21:20, 22). As riots such as this are carried out against the citizens of Israel – at the location of what was once their most Holy religious site – we cannot help but think that Israel’s enemies have sounded her indeed!