A delegation of U.S. congressmen in Israel was harassed by a large group of Muslim men during a visit to the historically significant Temple Mount in Jerusalem on Tuesday, according to a Jerusalem Post report.
Reps. Trent Franks (R., Ariz.), Keith Rothfus (R., Penn.), and Evan Jenkins (R., W.Va.), who was also joined by his wife, were approached by several Muslim men when they ascended the Temple Mount.
The men were "surprisingly intolerant and belligerent," according to Rothfus.
Police had to break up multiple outbursts, one which was caused by outrage that Jenkins' wife, who was wearing a long sleeve shirt and calf-length skirt, needed to cover up more.
The delegation said the harassment began when they ascended the Mount, and Mrs. Jenkins, who was wearing a calf-length skirt and a long-sleeved shirt was yelled at that she needed to cover up more, and police were needed to break up the melee and clear the way for the group to continue the visit.
The delegation’s guide then began to speak about the history of the site, which is holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims, but is controlled by Jordan and the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf. When the guide showed the group a map of Israel, a man who was cleaning nearby notified another man in the area, who asked the guide questions about the maps and diagrams, demanding to be shown if any of them feature the Temple, and told him he cannot use the term "Temple Mount," only "Dome of the Rock," as can be seen in a video the group provided to The Jerusalem Post.
The men who initially harassed the group were able to mobilize a larger group that attempted to steal the guide's materials.
Men wearing shirts with Waqf insignia then repeatedly interrupted the guide and tried to grab his diagrams and maps. The guide responded that he is doing nothing illegal and will only stop if told to do so by police.
Soon after, 15-20 men began to harass the group, interrupting the tour guide, shouting and pointing, and once again police had to break up the commotion.
The guide "let us know that men running around with walkie-talkies are not the final authority," Jenkins recounted. "Despite the screaming and shouting and pointing of men with walkie-talkies, the police were able to exercise their authority and let us proceed comfortably."
The congressmen were disappointed that the experience, which they hoped would be "exhilarating and meaningful beyond words," was ruined.
"It was a place of great religious meaning to me as a Christian, a destination … that me and my wife were looking forward to, and then to have the confrontation from the Muslims who yelled and shouted at us and my wife individually … To literally step on the Temple Mount and be confronted was certainly shocking," Jenkins said.
Rothfus said that his freedom of expression was violated for no reason.
"We weren’t doing anything religious. We were learning the history of the Temple Mount," Rothfus said. "Maybe the folks who were behaving like this might want to do some self-examination. They really are not presenting themselves as very good ambassadors for their cause."
Franks called it a "a reminder of challenges both in micro and macro that the people of Israel face every day."
Published under: Israel