Po­lice to shut Da­m­as­cus Gate to Jews this Shab­bat and Shavuot

The Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - • By UDI SHAHAM (Am­mar Awad/Reuters)

The Da­m­as­cus Gate en­trance to Jerusalem’s Old City will be closed to Jewish wor­shipers on Shab­bat and Shavuot be­gin­ning this Fri­day and end­ing Sun­day.

The Is­rael Po­lice said in a state­ment Tues­day that as part of prepa­ra­tions for the up­com­ing hol­i­day it de­cided to stop Jews from go­ing through the gate that leads to the Western Wall through the Mus­lim Quar­ter.

The par­tial clo­sure will co­in­cide with the first Fri­day of this year’s Ra­madan, dur­ing which large num­bers of Mus­lim wor­shipers, in­clud­ing Pales­tini­ans from the West Bank, are ex­pected to come to the city.

The de­ci­sion was made “in or­der to keep the pub­lic safety, pre­vent over­loads in the al­ley­ways of the Old City... in ac­cor­dance with a se­cu­rity as­sess­ment,” the state­ment said, adding that it will not be pos­si­ble to exit through the gate.

The move was crit­i­cized by some who said it dis­crim­i­nates against Jews.

Pub­lic Se­cu­rity Min­is­ter Gi­lad Er­dan re­sponded dur­ing an in­ter­view on 103FM Ra­dio by say­ing he would look into the is­sue.

How­ever, “Some­times the po­lice want to cre­ate a divi­sion that is nec­es­sary [be­tween the re­li­gious groups],” he said.

“So in or­der to pro­tect the lives of the peo­ple, [they de­cide] on street X one group goes, and on the other goes Y. There are no racist mo­tives, just another way to save lives.”

Po­lice spokesman Micky Rosen­feld told The Jerusalem Post the move was in no way meant to dis­crim­i­nate against Jews, not­ing that in other cases re­stric­tions on move­ment have been im­posed on Mus­lims in the area.

He added that in such a com­plex sit­u­a­tion, where one group cel­e­brates Shavuot and the other cel­e­brates Ra­madan, the po­lice are tak­ing the nec­es­sary oper­a­tive mea­sures to pre­vent con­fronta­tions be­tween the two.

“These are con­sid­ered wide-scale prepa­ra­tions,” he said. “We want all groups to ar­rive at the prayer des­ti­na­tion safely, and if needed, we will di­vert them in other ways.”

Rosen­feld added that in re­cent years, only a mi­nor­ity of Jews passed through the Da­m­as­cus Gate, while most went through the Jaffa Gate.

A vi­o­lent in­ci­dent was re­ported on the eve of Simhat To­rah last Oc­to­ber, when a large group of Jews van­dal­ized a Pales­tinian-owned shop on Al-Wad Street next to the Da­m­as­cus Gate and in­jured the shop­keeper.

Po­lice said at the time that an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the case had been launched, how­ever, seven months later the case has not been con­cluded.

PEO­PLE WALK near the Da­m­as­cus Gate en­trance to Jerusalem’s Old City in De­cem­ber 2017.

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