Temple Mount activists: Prayer ban for Jews is discrimination
Temple Mount activist groups denounced on Sunday the recent diplomatic efforts of US Secretary of State John Kerry, along with comments by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in support of the longstanding status quo on the Temple Mount in which Jews and other non-Muslims are banned from praying at the holy site.
Kerry held meetings on Saturday in Amman with [PLO/Fatah] President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah, and in Germany with Netanyahu on Thursday to discuss the issue.
Netanyahu said during a press conference Saturday night that, “Israel will continue to enforce its longstanding policy: Muslims pray on the Temple Mount; non-Muslims visit the Temple Mount.”
Organizations that have strongly advocated for Jewish visitation and prayer rights at the Temple Mount – the holiest site in Judaism and a holy site for Muslims – accused Kerry and Netanyahu of breaching international and Israeli law in preventing Jews from praying there.
“John Kerry has positioned himself alongside Islamic fundamentalism in his efforts to prevent Jews praying at the Temple Mount, which is in total opposition to the US being the cradle of modern democracy, which takes pride in being the homeland of human rights,” said the Joint Committee of Temple Organizations on Sunday.
The committee comprises approximately 30 different organizations committed to promoting Jewish visitation and prayer rights at the Temple Mount, and the assertion of Israeli sovereignty over it.
“This represents a colossal loss of values by the US State Department, which is lending its hand to severe religious and racist discrimination,” the committee stated, saying that the agreement contravened the principles of the American Constitution and Israeli law.
The Supreme Court has, in the past, upheld the theoretical right of Jews to pray at the Temple Mount, although it has stated that security forces are permitted to take security considerations into account when deciding whether to allow non-Muslim prayer there.
In accordance with the so-called status quo arrangement at the site, non-Muslim prayer is de facto banned, due to the concern that permitting it will lead to Arab rioting and violence and a severe deterioration of the security situation.
“The prime minister is not entitled to prevent Jews from praying on the Temple Mount,” the committee continued, adding that such a stance contravened international law on freedom of worship, Israel’s Law of the Holy Places and Israel’s Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel.
Yehudah Glick, a longtime Temple Mount activist and a Likud candidate in this year’s election, said that given the spiritual nature of prayer, it cannot be prevented at the site by declarations or by force.
He praised Netanyahu, however, for what he claimed was the prime minister’s refusal to agree to further concessions, such as instituting a quota on the number of Jewish visitors to the site or banning Jewish visitation completely for several months.
“Prayer is an internal, spiritual act, which an army or police force has no power to prevent,” Glick wrote on his Facebook page. “The reality on the Temple Mount will not be determined by speeches or even international agreements in front of cameras, but rather by facts on the ground.”
Glick said he was therefore calling on people to “come to Zion, which is the Temple Mount, to make the world accustomed to the fact that Jews are part of the natural view of the mount.”
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Glick said, “Three million Muslims visited the Temple Mount in 2014 and only 12,000 Jews did, so naturally the Muslim claims carry more weight until Jewish visitors increase.”
Glick advocates a time-sharing or space-sharing arrangement at the holy site, as is implemented at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron.
Glick also said he welcomed increased US and Jordanian efforts to maintain order at the Temple Mount, as was evidenced by a tentative agreement to install a 24-hour video monitoring system at the site.
“If Jews are allowed to visit the Temple Mount without being harassed that would be wonderful,” said Glick.
In September, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon outlawed the Murabitun and Murabatat Islamist activists groups, who for several years were paid by the Islamic Movement’s Northern Branch to verbally abuse and harass Jewish visitors at the Temple Mount.
The Temple Institute, an educational and activist group dedicated to preparing vessels for the third Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount and “bring[ing] about the building of the Holy Temple in our time,” denounced the agreements between Israel, the US and Jordan, saying they discriminated against Jews and bolstered Jordan’s “ custodian rights” over the site.
“The prime minister has rewarded Islamic terrorism by empowering and institutionalizing the discrimination of Jews on the Temple Mount,” said Rabbi Chaim Richman, international director of the Temple Institute.
“Instead of stating unequivocally that the recent violence and murder of innocent Jews has nothing to do with peaceful Jewish prayer, the prime minister has bolstered a false Islamist narrative by agreeing to place cameras monitoring Jewish visitors’ lips on the Temple Mount and reaffirming that Jordan, and not Israel, is the sovereign ruler over the Temple Mount, the heart of our people,” Richman said.
According to its website, the Temple Institute’s “long-term goal is to do all in our limited power to bring about the building of the Holy Temple in our time,” while in the short-term seeking to “rekindle the flame of the Holy Temple in the hearts of mankind through education.”