In the past few weeks, we have witnessed rising tension in Israel. Terrorist attacks in major city centers from Be’er Sheva to Tel Aviv killed 14 Israeli civilians and left more injured and traumatized. The IDF has been engaged in counterterrorism missions in the West Bank city of Jenin. Most recently, tensions erupted in Jerusalem, as Palestinian extremists stockpiled rocks, planks, metal bars, and fireworks within the al-Aqsa Mosque.
After being pelted with rocks after morning Ramadan prayers, the Israeli police entered the compound, engaged with the rioters, and arrested 400 people. Three days later, the Iron Dome intercepted a missile from Gaza over the Negev Desert.
This series of events is dangerously similar to what unfolded a year ago, which necessitated Operation Guardian of the Walls. As the Israeli government grapples with balancing the security of its citizens and avoiding an escalation, it’s important to understand why this is happening now and how Israel is preparing to defend itself against this new style of incitement.
This week, Jewish Federations' Community Relations Councils across North America, including the heart of NJ's JCRC, heard from Israel Nitzan, Deputy Consul General of the Israeli Consulate in New York, on these recent events.
To learn more about our Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), click here.
April 25, 2022
The situation on the Temple Mount
After the dispersion of the violent riot on Friday morning, 150,000 Muslim worshipers were able to attend prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. During the prayer, a mob led by supporters of Hamas chanted antisemitic slogans on the Temple Mount calling for & glorifying the mass slaughter of Jews.
Since the beginning of Ramadan more than 800,000 Muslim worshipers have prayed in the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Terrorist organizations, led by Hamas, and other extremists are attempting to hijack al-Aqsa Mosque. During the last week, a small number of organized rioters have desecrated the sanctity of the Mosque and attempted to harm the multitudes of worshippers marking the holy month of Ramadan. These agitators are spreading false information and videos, which are edited in a manipulative manner with the goal of stoking the flames and disrupting Ramadan-related routines.
Israel will not allow any extremist groups to violate the status quo or incite violence. Israel is upholding prevailing customs, enabling freedom of worship in sites holy to practitioners of all religions. There has been no change in this respect.
Three rockets launched from Gaza
On Friday night terrorists in Gaza fired a rocket aimed at Israel that landed INSIDE the Gaza Strip. The rocket landed next to a UNRWA school.
In response to the rocket fire from Gaza, the Erez Crossing was closed to merchants and laborers. The crossing will reopen tomorrow (Tuesday, April 26th).
Rocket launched from Lebanon
Last night, one rocket launch from Lebanese territory was detected. The rocket landed on open ground (near Kibbutz Matsuba). No warning systems for civilians were activated, in accordance to Home Front Command policy. IDF artillery forces fired approximately 60 shells at open ground in southern Lebanon and near the site from which the rocket was launched.
It is our view that the State of Lebanon bears full responsibility for everything taking place within its territory. The State of Lebanon and the Lebanese Army must fulfill their responsibilities in the area and prevent terrorist activities and launches from their territory towards Israel.
Although Israel is interested in maintaining stability within the region, the state of readiness of our forces remains higher than ever. Israel will continue to take whichever measures are necessary to safeguard its sovereignty, as well as the security of the residents of the North and of all citizens of Israel.
Prime Minister Bennett spoke with US President Biden and UN Secretary General Guterres
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke yesterday with US President Biden. The Prime Minister wished the President a Happy Easter and updated him on the efforts to stop the violence and incitement in Jerusalem.
The Prime Minister and the President discussed the Iranian issue — in particular the Iranian demand to remove the IRGC from the US Foreign Terror Organization (FTO) list.
PM Bennett: "I'm sure President Biden — who is a true friend of Israel and cares about its security — will not allow the IRGC to be removed from the list of terrorist organizations. Israel has clarified its position on the issue: The IRGC is the largest terrorist organization in the world."
President Biden accepted Prime Minister Bennett's invitation to visit Israel and announced that he intends to visit Israel in the coming months.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett also spoke with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Saturday night.
PM Bennett: "The international community must not serve the agenda of the terrorist organizations. Israel is the stabilizing force; if we did not uphold order, tens of thousands of Muslims would not be able to pray. These are people who prepared rocks and Molotov cocktails in advance for use from inside the mosque.”
Prime Minister Bennett expressed his disappointment at the absence of condemnation by the UN for the firing of rockets at Israel.
The two also discussed the UN Secretary General's expected trip to see Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Voldymyr Zelenskyy, and the efforts to resolve the situation between Russia and Ukraine.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s International Press Briefing (April 24th, 2022)
(Communicated by the MFA Spokesperson)
Minister of Foreign Affairs Yair Lapid today (Sunday, April 24, 2022), briefed members of the foreign press at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem. Following are excerpts from his remarks:
“In the past three weeks, there has been a dangerous effort underway in Jerusalem. During Ramadan, terrorist organizations have been trying to hijack the Al-Aqsa Mosque in order to create an outbreak of violence in Jerusalem, and from there, a violent conflict across the country. Hamas and Islamic Jihad extremists burst into Al-Aqsa Mosque in the early mornings, again and again. They brought weapons into the Mosque. They threw rocks and explosives from within it, and used it as a base to incite violent riots.”
“It is not Israel that endangered worshippers -it is the terrorist organizations who endangered them.”
“I want to clarify: Israel is committed to the Status Quo on the Temple Mount. Muslims pray on the Temple Mount, non-Muslims visit. There is no change. There will be no change. We have no plans to divide the Temple Mount between religions. We call on Muslim moderates, on Muslim states, to act against this fake news, and to work together with us to ensure our common interest: preservation of the Status Quo and calming the situation.”
“During Ramadan, Israel ensured that hundreds of thousands of Muslims could go to the Temple Mount and pray at Al-Aqsa. Despite provocations by terrorist organizations, despite attempts to stoke violence: We have done, and continue to do everything to enable peaceful prayer. In fact, the only disruption to prayers yesterday, was a Hamas rally which took place on the Temple Mount. Hamas terrorists stood there and openly called for the murder of Jews. That is Hamas's prayer – an antisemitic call for the slaughter of innocents.”
“One last issue: Israel will not accept rocket fire from Gaza. Period. We have a zero-tolerance policy for attacks on our territory. Because of such rocket fire, we took the decision not to enable workers from Gaza to enter Israel today. In Gaza, like in Jerusalem, Hamas is primarily abusing its own people. Before Ramadan, we announced that if this period would pass quietly, we would double the number of work permits from Gaza to 20,000. That is 20,000 workers who would be able to work daily in Israel and support their families. In light of recent events, we will have to examine this decision carefully.”
“You know, when festivals of the three religions coincide, it should be a cause for joy. We should be able to celebrate together. Respect one another. Enjoy one another's traditions and cultures. That is the true spirit of Jerusalem. I believe that is what the majority want, and that is what the silent majority does.”
Holy Light Ceremony
On Sunday, thousands gather at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, for the Holy Fire ceremony.
In ordinary years before the pandemic, about 10,000 worshipers attended the Holy Light ceremony at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. In the years 2020-2021 the number was greatly reduced due to restrictions imposed because of the pandemic. This year most of the COVID restrictions have been lifted and foreigners can enter Israel without a problem. Following the Meron tragedy, it was decided to implement the "Safety Law" and as a result to restrict entry into the church. Thousands of worshipers were able to join the ceremony from outside the church.
The State of Israel, since its inception, has been committed to the freedom of religion and worship in Jerusalem and especially in the holy places.
The Holy Light ceremony is one of the most important ceremonies for the Eastern Christian world and is performed in coordination with the authorities in Israel, the Eastern Churches and many countries in the world where there are Orthodox Christian communities.
The State of Israel is committed to maintaining the safety of worshipers and the safety of events. We work to enable believers from Israel and around the world to participate in this important ceremony, while taking all necessary steps to protect visitors.
The ISA thwarted an attempt by the PIJ in the Gaza Strip to establish a terrorist network in Judea and Samaria meant to carry out terrorist attacks against Israel
Cleared for publication: in recent months, the Israel Security Agency has uncovered and thwarted an attempt by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in the Gaza Strip to establish a terrorist network in Judea and Samaria meant to carry out terrorist attacks against Israel.
As part of the operation, a number of Palestinians from Jenin and the surrounding villages who had been recruited by PIJ operatives from the Gaza Strip for military activities were apprehended by ISA and IDF forces.
April 22, 2022
Israel Police Spokesperson (Jerusalem):
This morning around 4:00 a.m. (local time in Israel) during the Fajr prayer, hundreds of rioters and lawbreakers, some of them masked and holding Hamas flags, began a massive order violation on the Temple Mount, which included fortifications, stone-throwing, and fireworks.
Despite the stone-throwing, the police waited for the Fajr prayer to end, respecting the worshipers.
Unfortunately, massive nonstop stone-throwing continued and the violent riot intensified, including stone hurling towards the back of the Western Wall, while prayers were held at the site.
Due to the ongoing violence, police forces were forced to use means to disperse demonstrations in order to accomplish a stop to the violence and to repel the crowd.
During the violent riots, a masked man who violated the order and threw stones with others at the back of the Western Wall was injured and was taken to receive medical treatment by emergency and rescue services.
Unfortunately, media outlets and social platforms have been flooded with false rumors and facts about the event and completely misinform about the course of actions.
While many police officers work in order to allow freedom of worship while maintaining security, law and order in the holy places and throughout the city of Jerusalem, there are those who choose to riot and disturb public order. We will continue to act against rioters and outlaws for the sake of public peace and security.
April 21, 2022
Last night terrorists fired a rocket from Gaza into Israel.
The rocket was intercepted by the Iron Dome Aerial Defense System.
Six people were lightly injured in Sderot while running for cover.
In response to the rocket attack on Israel last night, the IDF struck terror targets in Gaza, including an underground complex used to produce rocket engines, a Hamas launch compound & anti-aircraft missile storage facility.
Israel Police Statement: Events on the Temple Mount this morning
(Communicated by the Israel Police Spokesperson, Jerusalem District)
At the end of the Fajr prayer on the Temple Mount this morning (Thursday, 21 April 2022), dozens of lawbreakers and masked men rioted and disturbed the peace with severe violence, as they have done in recent days.
Earlier this morning, they entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque, closed its doors and continued to disturb the peace and riot, by throwing rocks and using fireworks, desecrating the mosque, where they are barricading themselves at this time.
While the Israeli Police is doing everything in its power to enable the public to worship freely, once again, this morning, lawbreakers have again thrown fireworks and rocks, including from inside the mosque.
It will be recalled that just yesterday rioters threw Molotov cocktails from inside the mosque, one of which fell on the carpet at the entrance to the mosque, causing a fire that was extinguished immediately; another fell in the doorway of the mosque, which could have caused a fire.
After leaving the Temple Mount area, police arrested seven residents of eastern Jerusalem on suspicion of involvement in throwing Molotov cocktails from the mosque last night. Regrettably, a crowd of lawbreakers chose to violently desecrate the mosque, causing damage.
Police forces are currently working at the scene (outside the mosque) to provide security for visits and maintain order.
Arab social media networks continue to spread false, inciting and misleading information about events on the Temple Mount in an attempt to escalate the situation and misinform the public. It should be emphasized that many reports are out of touch with reality regarding events in the Temple Mount.
The Israel Police will continue to allow freedom of worship and take resolute action against rioters and violent lawbreakers wherever they are.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Yair Lapid met this afternoon with a State Department delegation visiting Israel
Minister of Foreign Affairs Lapid said after the meeting: “The State of Israel is dealing with extremist Islamist terror whose entire goal is to sow violence, fear, and chaos. We call on all leaders in the region to act and speak responsibly in order to calm the situation. Israel is preserving and will continue to preserve the status quo on the Temple Mount and we have no intention of changing it whatsoever.”
FM Lapid added:: “We will not accept in any situation, rocket fire from the Gaza Strip on the State of Israel. Hamas and the entire world must know that Israel will act and will do everything necessary to defend the security of its citizens.”
Participating in the meeting were Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Yael Lempert, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Israeli & Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr, and U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides.
Participating from the Israeli side were Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz and Deputy Director-General of the Foreign Ministry’s Middle East & Peace Process Division, Oded Joseph.
Discussed during the meeting were Israel’s efforts in this very challenging period to preserve the status quo on the Temple Mount.
Minister Lapid provided an update that in the first two weeks of Ramadan, hundreds of thousands of Muslims have prayed at Al-Aqsa Mosque. The only people who have disturbed them were extremists and Hamas supporters who took control of the mosque, desecrated it, disrupted prayer, launched fireworks, and threw Molotov cocktails and rocks.
We are acting only in order to prevent violence and to enable prayer to continue as normal. This is Israel’s policy, and there is no other.
Lapid expressed his great appreciation to the U.S. for its efforts to calm tensions in the region.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and UAE Foreign Minister HH Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed spoke late last night.
The two ministers wished each other a Ramadan Kareem and Chag Sameach. The Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates expressed his appreciation for the steps Israel has taken to calm the situation and his understanding of the complexities and difficulties Israel faces. The Ministers discussed the challenge of dealing with anti-Israel disinformation in the Arab world and agreed to keep working together to advance religious tolerance and peace between Israel and the Arab people of the Middle East. The Ministers reaffirmed the importance of the bilateral relations between the countries and the efforts being made to further deepen and strengthen those relations.
April 20, 2022
Yesterday, Foreign Minister Lapid updated Secretary Blinken about Israel’s efforts to ensure freedom of worship in Jerusalem.
Lapid emphasized Israel’s responsible and measured efforts in the face of riots by hundreds of Islamic extremists on the Temple Mount, as well as falsehoods and disinformation spread by extremists which are fanning the flames of violence instead of bringing about calm. He told Secretary Blinken that Israel will not tolerate calls in support of violence, and emphasized the need for international support for returning calm to Jerusalem.
This morning a number of violent rioters again desecrated al-Aqsa Mosque, throwing stones and Molotov Cocktails from inside the mosque. The violence endangers worshipers attempting to enter the mosque, and impeded police efforts to ensure freedom of worship at the site.
The Molotov Cocktails set fire to a mat and a window causing fires that luckily were extinguished before greater damage was done.
Earlier this week rioters were filmed throwing stones, setting off firecrackers and even playing soccer inside the mosque. This morning they set off fires that caused damage and prevented worshipers from entering the mosque.
We call on all regional and international actors to condemn this violence, reject fake reports and contribute to maintaining calm during the upcoming days.
April 18, 2022
Statement by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett:
"Over the past week, a Hamas-led incitement campaign has been waged against Israel.
Here's the truth: Israel is doing everything so that all peoples, as always, can celebrate the holidays safely - Jews, Muslims and Christians.
We expect everyone not to join the lies and certainly not to encourage violence against Jews.
The State of Israel will continue to keep our capital, Jerusalem, open to all.”
April 18, 2022
Minister of Foreign Affairs Yair Lapid media announcement:
The summoning of Israel’s Deputy Chief of Mission to the Jordanian Foreign Ministry, and the statement by the Jordanian Foreign Ministry’s spokesman following said meeting, harm efforts to bring about quiet in Jerusalem and provide backing to those who are damaging the sanctity of the holidays and are using violence which endangers the lives of Muslims and Jews alike.
We call on everyone to assist Israel in its efforts to bring about calm in Jerusalem and enable freedom of worship on the Temple Mount.
The State of Israel is committed to and is acting indefatigably to guarantee freedom of religion and worship for Jews, Muslims, and Christians in Jerusalem on normal days and holidays alike, and certainly in this period during which Passover, Ramadan, and Easter converge.
Israel’s responsible management of the Temple Mount in recent weeks is indicative of this consistent policy, and Israel’s determination to implement it.
In recent weeks, the Israel Police have acted responsibly, with restraint, and with discretion in the face of many dozens of rioters who with their actions desecrate the values of Islam and the holiness of the Mount. The Israel Police’s actions, including last Friday, are what has allowed prayers to take place for tens of thousands of Muslim believers. Such activity came only after all other means were exhausted, including intensive dialogue with the Waqf.
Every responsible partner must recognize this, and not take part in spreading completely false information which only inflames the atmosphere. Statements supporting violent actions, including the throwing of rocks, are beyond understanding and contribute to escalation.
Israel is maintaining the status quo and expects all of its partners to condemn extremists partaking in incitement and violence.
April 17, 2022
Israel Nitzan - Consulate General of Israel - New York
As an update following today's events in Jerusalem, I would like to share these press releases:
Police Spokesperson (Jerusalem):
The ascension of Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount is a practice that takes place over the Passover holiday that has been in place for many years.
In the early morning hours, before the weekly visits to the Temple Mount began, hundreds of young Palestinians, some masked, began collecting and storing stones in the mountain plaza in an attempt to disrupt public order and block the ascendant routes for visitors with rocks and steel rods.
Hundreds of Palestinians began rioting inside the mosque and in the Temple Mount area while defiling and desecrating the holy places and trying to harm security forces and innocent civilians.
Police forces operated at the site to remove the rioters and unblock the routes, in order to allow worshipers to visit the site as usual.
It should be noted that alongside these visits, full freedom of worship was maintained for the Muslim worshipers on the Temple Mount, as it has been for the last two weeks since the beginning of Ramadan.
At this time, public order has been restored to the Temple Mount and the freedom of worship continues.
The Israel Police will continue to operate throughout Jerusalem and in the holy places to allow freedom of worship to people of all religions.
Separately, this morning, the Israel Police received a report of stone-throwing at buses traveling in an area near the Old City of Jerusalem. As a result of the stone-throwing, several buses were damaged and a number of passengers were lightly injured and are now receiving medical treatment.
Police and Border Police fighters have so far arrested two suspects on suspicion of stone-throwing, and police forces continue to operate in the area and are currently conducting searches to locate more suspects.
We will continue to act resolutely against violators and lawbreakers and maintain public peace and security.
Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs:
Instead of acting to promote calm, the Palestinian Foreign Ministry has chosen to join extremists in sharing disinformation with the goal of bringing about an escalation and violence.
Israel is preserving freedom of religion and worship in Jerusalem at the holy sites of the three religions which are celebrating their holy days at this time.
Any attempt to falsely show otherwise is to provide support to Palestinian terrorist organizations and criminals. With their behavior, these same bodies demean the spirit of Islam.
April 15, 2022
Israel Nitzan - Consulate General of Israel - New York
Today, in the early morning hours, dozens of masked men carrying Hamas and Palestinian Authority flags marched into Al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount, chanting inciting messages and setting off fireworks. The crowd collected stones and large rocks, which were then hurled in the direction of the Mugrabi Gate. These actions have nothing to do with prayer, and in fact desecrate the mosque and the month of Ramadan.
Police were forced to enter the grounds to disperse the crowd and remove the stones and rocks, in order to prevent further violence.
The State of Israel will take all necessary action in order to ensure freedom of worship, and will not tolerate violence aimed at thwarting religious freedom.
Following the clearing of the violent rioters from the site, over 50,000 worshipers arrived to the Al-Aqua Mosque grounds.
April 15, 2022
Minister of Foreign Affairs Yair Lapid issued the following statement in the wake of the violent clashes this morning on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem:
Israel is committed to freedom of worship for people of all faiths in Jerusalem, and our goal is to enable peaceful prayer for believers during the Ramadan holiday. The riots this morning on the Temple Mount are unacceptable and go against the spirit of the religions we believe in.
The convergence of Passover, Ramadan, and Easter is symbolic of what we have in common. We must not let anyone turn these holy days into a platform for hate, incitement, and violence.
I send my support to the security forces who acted this morning with sensitivity and determination thus enabling prayers to continue as normal.
Today, on the eve of Passover, the holiday of freedom, we all pray for freedom, security, calm, and good relations between neighbors. I call on our neighbors’ leaders to act in this spirit."
Though terror stricken, Israel strives to afford freedom of worship to all. This coming month is teeming with holidays and anniversaries linked to Jerusalem, celebrated by the three major monotheistic religions. The coming weeks will see events for Passover, Ramadan, Easter and the Sabbath of Light in Jerusalem.
The State of Israel is striving to ensure freedom of religion and worship for all sects, residents and tourists in Jerusalem, while maintaining security, calm and day-to day life in the Capitol.
Palestinian terror organizations are calling for violence during the holidays, while taking advantage of the religious sentiment. Israel is working to relax the friction during this sensitive time, despite the recent terror attacks. The State of Israel is doing all it can to ensure these freedoms in Jerusalem. Israel’s police are working to maintain the peace and daily life in the Capitol.
Friday prayers in Al Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan: Women of all ages will be allowed; children under the age of 12 will be allowed without the need for an entry permit; men over 50 will not need a permit.
Men between the ages of 12-40 will not be allowed in the Temple Mount; men between the ages of 40-50 will need a permit. The number of worshipers allowed on the Temple Mount during Ramadan was decided while taking safe and security considerations into account, in order to ensure the safety and security of all worshipers. The COVID pandemic did not allow for any leniencies over the past 2 years, over the next month the hours of operation at the crossings will be prolonged, so as to accommodate all the visitors.
In this context, a Government decision from March 27th increased the number of workers permitted from Gaza to 20,050; 12,000 building laborers, 8,000 agriculture workers and 50 more workers for the Israel-Gaza crossings. The decision also allows for the upgrade of the crossings, in order to accommodate the larger numbers of people passing through them. It should be noted, that this is the largest number of workers allowed into Israel since 2006.
We hope quiet will prevail, allowing all to celebrate their holidays in peace.