Courtesy of JNS. Photo credit: Courtesy of Beyadenu
On the Temple Mount are, from left, former Jewish Home Party MK Shulamit Mualem-Rafaeli and Likud MKs Dan Illouz, Ariel Kallner and Amit Halevi, May 18, 2023

(JNS) Several Knesset members visited the Temple Mount in celebration of Jerusalem Day, which commemorates the reunification of Israel’s capital during the Six-Day War in 1967.

Likud Party MKs Amit Halevi, Ariel Kallner and Dan Illouz went up to the Mount on Thursday morning.

The lawmakers were joined by former MK Shulamit Mualem-Rafaeli of the Jewish Home and New Right parties. During their visit, they sang “Hatikvah,” Israel’s national anthem.

Illouz posted to social media, quoting Isaiah 27:13: “And they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem.”

“The Temple Mount is the holiest place for the Jewish people and it is a great privilege to come here again for the first time as a member of the Knesset. I asked God to work for the unity of the people of Israel and for the prosperity of the State of Israel,” Illouz added.

Kallner told the media that Jerusalem Day was also “a day celebrating Zion and the basis of Zionism is Zion, and Zion is here, this Mount, this place. The Jewish people has yearned for it for thousands of years…. It was important to me to express that connection.”

Arnon Segal, a guide for the NGO Beyadenu, which encourages Jewish visits to the Temple Mount, escorted the MKs on their tour.

Visiting the Temple Mount earlier in the day were National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir from the Otzma Yehudit Party, who went up to the site with his wife, Ayala, and Minister for the Development of the Periphery, the Negev and the Galilee Yitzhak Wasserlauf, also from Otzma Yehudit.

The MKs’ Temple Mount tour sparked protests from various quarters. Jordan’s Foreign Ministry condemned the visit of “a member of the Israeli government and several members of the Knesset and extremists under the protection of the Israeli police,” adding that “Israel has no sovereignty over the holy places and East Jerusalem is occupied Palestinian land.”

Hadash-Ta’al, an Arab faction in the Knesset, issued a statement, saying: “A thousand hate parades, policemen and delusional ‘flag dances’ will not change the fact that East Jerusalem and the West Bank are under violent occupation. Jerusalem is occupied by force, not ‘unified.’ ”

The visit also prompted criticism from within the coalition. United Torah Party Chairman Moshe Gafni asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to prevent elected officials from going up to the Mount, mainly because it represented a violation of the sanctity of the site.

The issue of the Temple Mount visits has generally divided ultra-Orthodox and religious Zionists, with the former considering it forbidden.

Likud MK David Bitan also came out against the visit on this particular day, citing security concerns and telling Ynet that “Netanyahu could have called them and told them, ‘Don’t go up.’ ”

Tensions were high in the capital as Jerusalem police prepared for the day’s central event, the annual flag parade, in which a procession of thousands march from the city center, pass through the Old City’s Damascus Gate and proceed through the Old City to the Western Wall.