Thousands of Jews prayed at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City on Thursday, after a series of clashes at the adjacent flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound.
Ahead of the ceremony, Israeli police blocked access for non-Muslims to the highly sensitive holy site, which is directly above the Western Wall plaza, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP.
Rosenfeld said the move was to prevent clashes, and the prayers took place without incident.
Palestinians and police clashed on Wednesday and last Sunday after Jewish visitors were allowed onto the compound, which is known to Jews as the Temple Mount and considered Judaism’s holiest place — the site where the biblical first and second Jewish temples stood.
It also houses the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosques, the third holiest site in Islam.
Rosenfeld said six Palestinian youths had been arrested in suspicion of involvement in Wednesday’s clashes.
Jews are celebrating Passover, a seven-day holiday which in ancient times was marked by mass pilgrimage to the Temple Mount.
Muslims are intensely sensitive to any perceived threat to the status of the compound and many believe Jews are determined to build a new temple on the wide esplanade.
Jews are not allowed to pray on the Temple Mount.
Rosenfeld noted police preparations for the Friday weekly prayers at the Al-Aqsa compound, as well as the Holy Fire rite, which takes place the day before Easter Sunday in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City.
A spokesman for COGAT, the Israeli defence ministry unit responsible for coordinating civilian affairs in the Palestinian territories, told AFP the Jewish state had given 17,000 West Bank Christians entry permits into Israel and east Jerusalem for Easter events.
He said that 500 Palestinian Christians from Gaza were also given entry permits into Israel and the West Bank for Easter.