Israeli Govt and Court at Odds Over Jewish Prayer at Temple Mount
Israel reaffirmed on Sunday a long-standing arrangement with Muslim authorities that prevents Jewish prayer at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, pushing back against a lower Israeli court that questioned the legality of police action against violators.
Under the decades-old “status quo” at the holy site, Israel allows Jews to visit only if they refrain from religious rites.
Three Jewish minors, ordered to stay away for 15 days by police after they prostrated themselves and intoned the Shema prayer during a compound tour, contested the ban at Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court. It ruled in their favor on Sunday.
Police argued that the appellants had disrupted officers’ duties and threatened public order. But Judge Zion Saharai, while noting he did not intend to interfere in law enforcement policy, said they had not “raise(d) worry of harm befalling national security, public safety or individual security.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas issued a statement calling the ruling “a grave assault against the historic status quo … and a flagrant challenge to international law.”
Jordan, a US-backed Israeli security partner that serves as custodian of the Al Aqsa compound, has also voiced concern about the Jewish visits to the compound.
Nati Rom, an attorney with the legal defense group that represented the Jewish minors in the court case, welcomed the ruling, calling on Israel police to “stop dealing with esoteric issues while violating blatant religious freedom for Jews on the Temple Mount.”
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office said the ruling would be appealed at the higher Jerusalem District Court.
“There is no change, nor is any change planned, on the status quo of the Temple Mount,” it said in a statement.
“The magistrate’s court decision is focused exclusively on the matter of the conduct of the minors brought before it, and does not include a broader determination regarding the freedom of worship on the Temple Mount.”