Israeli police Thursday took what is being described as an unprecedented move to close Jerusalem’s Temple Mount to worshippers of all faiths until further notice, following the shooting late Wednesday night of a prominent advocate for Jews to pray at what is the holiest site in Judaism.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who has been accused of inciting violence in Jerusalem, called the closure of the holy site a “declaration of war” on Palestinians.
“This dangerous Israeli escalation is a declaration of war on the Palestinian people and its sacred places and on the Arab and Islamic nation,” Abbas said in a statement delivered by his spokesman Thursday.
Rabbi Yehuda Glick was in very serious condition after a Palestinian man on a motorcycle shot him three times at point-blank range as Glick was heading to his car following a speech he delivered on Jewish rights to worship at the Temple Mount.
In April, Glick told TheBlaze that he believed the Temple Mount represents “the prophesy of Isaiah that all the nations will lay down their swords, and that from here will come a message of no more war.”
“Violence is not the way,” he said.
This photo made on Nov. 10, 2013 shows activist Yehuda Glick walking in a street in Jerusalem. Late Wednesday, a gunman on a motorcycle shot and wounded Glick outside a conference promoting Jewish access to the site known to Jews as Temple Mount and to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary. (AP/Mahmoud Illean)
Israelis from across the political spectrum warned the shooting had made Jerusalem more dangerous following weeks of violence gripping the holy city that some have likened to an intifada, or Palestinian uprising.
TheBlaze interviewed Glick, who holds both Israeli and U.S. citizenship, in April regarding the consistent Palestinian harassment of Jews who visit the Temple Mount, which has included shouting, spitting, and the throwing of objects including chairs at the visitors. Glick, who heads the LIBA Initiative for Jewish Freedom on the Temple Mount, was in his 29th day of a hunger strike to protest the Israeli policy banning Jews from visibly praying on the site where both the First and Second Temples once stood.
The Israeli regulations are designed to prevent Arab attacks and limit Jewish access to the Temple Mount. While Jews may not pray visibly on the site, they can pray in their hearts.
Some are now calling on Netanyahu to use an “iron fist” to clamp down following weeks of Palestinian violence in Jerusalem. Last week, two people were killed, including a 3-month-old U.S. citizen, after a Palestinian with ties to Hamas rammed his car into a group of bystanders at a Jerusalem light rail station.
A Hamas spokesman in Gaza called Glick's shooting "heroic and brave."
In his speech before being shot, Glick compared the Genesis narrative of Abraham to the experience of Jews today.
Israel’s Arutz Sheva reported that Glick described how Abraham heeded God’s instruction to leave his native land for a new land where his people would become a great nation and that God would bless those who blessed him and curse those who cursed him.
Glick compared Abraham to Jews who take a controversial stand for what they believe is right and thus risk being cursed and mocked as extremists. Ultimately, he suggested, they would be blessed.
The Times of Israel reported that by closing the Temple Mount temporarily, top security officials aimed to avert violence at the holy site following the shooting.
Before the closure, right-wing Israeli politicians had called for a march to the Temple Mount in response to the shooting, which one Jerusalem municipality official called an “assassination attempt.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered Israeli police nationwide to be on high alert in response.
“We are all praying for Yehuda’s well-being,” Netanyahu said.
Anti-terror police fatally shot the key suspect in the shooting Thursday morning; when police arrived to make the arrest at his home – just up the road from the site of the shooting — the man who was identified as Moataz Hijazi fired at them, the police said.
"They returned fire and shot and killed the suspect," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
A Hamas website reported that Hijazi, 32, had previously served 11 years in Israeli prison.
Several Israeli news outlets reported that Palestinians in Jerusalem set off fireworks, danced in the streets and handed out sweets to celebrate the assassination attempt.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has been accused by Israeli officials of inciting the recent violence in Jerusalem where Palestinians would like to establish the capital of a future state.
They pointed to a speech two weeks ago in which Abbas said Jews must be barred from the Temple Mount using “any means” necessary.
"It is not enough to say the settlers came, but they must be barred from entering the compound by any means,” Abbas said, according to Arutz Sheva. “This is our Aqsa [mosque on the Temple Mount] ... and they have no right to enter it and desecrate it."
"Jerusalem is the jewel in the crown and it is the eternal capital of the Palestinian state. Without it, there will not be a state," Abbas said.
Lawmaker Miri Regev of Netanyahu’s Likud party blamed Abbas for fueling the violence.
“Abbas’ call two weeks ago to prevent Jews from visiting the Temple Mount, that’s the reality,” Regev told Israel’s Army Radio. “If you don’t seriously take note of expressions, if there’s no iron fist against terror, zero tolerance for terror in east Jerusalem, [it] leads to this situation.”
Member of Knesset Moshe Feiglin, who spoke at the Wednesday night gathering along with Glick, said the shooting was “terrible but quite expected.”
Feiglin, who spoke to an eyewitness, said that a man with a distinct Arabic accent on a motorcycle wearing a helmet approached Glick as the rabbi was nearing his car.
“He turned to Yehuda in a thick Arabic accent and said, ‘Yehuda, I am angry at you,’ and then shot him three times point blank,” Feiglin posted on Facebook, calling the incident a “despicable act.”
Family and friends of Glick said he had been threatened numerous times and that police had not done enough to protect him. Israel’s Channel 2 noted that Glick had reported threats to police at least five times. The Israeli station also reported that a message had been posted on a jihadi website with details of the Wednesday night conference and who was scheduled to speak.
“Unfortunately, he didn’t receive proper protection. He showed me on Facebook the threats against him. I knew this would happen and asked him to stop his activities,” Glick’s father, Shimon Glick, told Channel 2.
“The fact that permanent security was not assigned to him is a failure,” Likud lawmaker Feiglin said.
Israeli Housing Minister Uri Ariel told Israel’s Army Radio that the bullets fired at Glick “were aimed at all Jews who wish to pray on the Temple Mount.”
Knesset member Regev, who was at the Wednesday night conference, criticized the police move to close the Temple Mount on Thursday to Jews.
“I think the Mount today should be closed to Muslims for sure, but why Jews?” Regev told Army Radio. “The Temple Mount is a holy place for both Muslims and Jews. Let’s reach an arrangement where Jews can ascend the mount in peace without curses, without shouts without rocks being thrown at Jews and without rocks being thrown at police."
Glick told TheBlaze in April: “We feel that today, there’s no freedom of human rights for Jews on the Temple Mount. Today, the Temple Mount is in the hands of violent people instead of it being open to those who try to promote freedom of prayer for all.”
Israeli police control security on the Temple Mount, but the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf controls the religious sites there, including the Al Aqsa Mosque.
“The Jewish vision is that the Temple Mount should be a world center for those faithful in one God. It should be a center for the prophesy of Isaiah that all the nations will lay down their swords, and that from here will come a message of no more war,” Glick said in April.
“Unfortunately, today it’s in the hands of a very violent religion that instigates hate, violence, and terror. We think this is wrong … violence is not the way and the Temple Mount is not the place. The Temple Mount is the center for prayer to God.”
Watch an excerpt from Glick's Wednesday speech translated by Arutz Sheva: