The Israeli occupation of Jerusalem in 1967 has provided an opportunity for extremist Jewish “Temple groups” to divide the revered Al-Aqsa Mosque, both temporally and spatially, between Muslims and Jews – an attempt to emulate what took place at the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron.
The Israeli government’s far-right agenda has made the devision of Al-Aqsa a de-facto reality which is being carried out by means of force and incremental steps. This stems from the growing pressure placed on the Israeli government by the ‘Temple groups’ coupled with the rising frequency of the incursions and violations taking place in the Holy Mosque.
The alarming regularity of Israeli settlers entering Al-Aqsa Mosque has become an increasingly concerning trend in recent years. Starting with sporadic and infrequent incursions occurring on different days, it has now become a daily ritual, except for Friday and Saturday, occurring twice, morning and evening. Furthermore, the disturbingly large settler presence at the mosque has demonstrably grown over time, with individual and collective Talmudic prayers now regularly being performed on premises.
Jewish extremist groups are strongly advocating for a radical reinterpretation of the status quo surrounding the Al-Aqsa Mosque, including requests for the extension of incursion hours allowing Jews to enter through all doors, perform biblical prayers and rituals, unrestricted access even on Fridays and Saturdays, a synagogue to be set up within the Mosque, and for police escorts of those storming the Mosque to be waived. Most alarming of all, the groups want to ensure that Jewish access to the Mosque should not be limited on any Islamic occasion. Such a drastic shift would mark an unprecedented level of involvement from Jewish settlers in a holy site traditionally associated with the Islamic faith, a move which would be met with virulent backlash from devotees in the region.
The ‘Temporal Division’ policy, whereby Muslims are only allowed to access the Al-Aqsa Mosque at certain designated times of the year, where Jews would be allowed to do so at others, is a highly controversial and divisive approach. This would force Muslim worshippers to try and accommodate their entire year’s religious requirements in specific, often limited, pockets of time.
This recent Israeli plan to restrict Muslims’ access to Al-Aqsa from 7:30 to 11:00 a.m. and from 1:30 to 2:30 in the afternoon has caused outrage among the Muslim population. This plan would also allow for a third period to be allocated exclusively to Jews so that they can perform three prayers a day inside the mosque.
Despite claims of peaceful intentions, the Israeli government’s actions in the occupied territories reveal otherwise—particularly regarding its ongoing efforts to grant Jewish access to the holy site of Al-Aqsa for a shocking 100 days of the year. Not only that, but Saturdays, which are already off-limits to Muslims, are also flagged as additional days for Jewish settler incursions—thus greatly heightening the frequency of desecration of the site.
Fakhri Abu Diab, a Trustee of Al-Aqsa Mosque, recently stated that the Israeli occupation is launching a sinister project to Judaize the Al-Aqsa Mosque via a studied campaign of temporal and spatial division. This abhorrent imposition of false ‘facts’ on the Mosque is a direct violation of international law and justice.
In an interview with Palestinian agency “Safa”, Abu Diab asserted that the Israeli occupation is attempting to disrupt the pre-existing balance of power in Al-Aqsa. This began with the splitting of the mosque between Muslims and non-Muslims during the morning period, and it continued when the evening period was added hours later.
For many years, Israel has greatly restricted the ability of Muslim *worshipers to visit Al-Aqsa, particularly during periods of Jewish holidays, introducing age limitations not seen in the past. Rather than protecting the rights of those who seek to visit the holy site, these tight regulations are more indicative of a desire to facilitate the illegal incursions of Israeli settlers.
In the opinion of Abu Diab, the Israeli occupation now intends to rob Muslim worshipers of their right to the entirety of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, by designating certain areas of the mosque for Jewish use and banning Muslim presence from the eastern region near Bab al-Rahma. This is an example of how the occupation aims to take what is temporary and turn it into permanent spatial division.
He added that the Israeli occupation, through the implementation of policies such as the segregation of the eastern portion of Al-Aqsa and the exclusive permission for Jewish extremists to hold prayer rites, is aiming to aggrandize its control of the region. This process has been accelerated through the attempted occupations of the mosque on various occasions, such as “Jerusalem Reunification Day” and “Shavuot.”
Abu Diab argues that the Israeli occupation, backed by certain “Temple groups” and an extremist government, has been attempting to impose complete Judaization on Al-Aqsa, and has even gone so far as to try and impose spatial division. This is an incredibly dangerous prospect for the historic and revered mosque, and one that should not go unchallenged.
One must heed the warning of Abu Diab and push back against the Israeli plan, which signals the possible implementation of a “Temple Mount” inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque. To do so would signify an end to the Islamic sanctity the mosque holds and a beginning of its establishment as a “Jewish sanctuary.”
It appears that the Israeli government is preparing to take action to alter the existing conditions surrounding Al-Aqsa Mosque. This is evidenced by the extremist government meetings in a tunnel under the Al-Aqsa, the militarily-backed incursions, and the funds allocated to the Judiazation of Al-Aqsa. This suggests that the occupying force is determined to impose their own reality on the area.
It is essential to acknowledge that harming any part of Al-Aqsa Mosque carries a devastatingly profound impact, as this holds a significant place in the Muslim faith. The repercussions will not be limited to the Palestinians, instead they will spread far and wide to the Arab and Islamic world. This poses serious threats of the potential for a religious war across the entire region.