Temple Mount in Jerusalem
JERUSALEM – Jews are not allowed to pray on the Temple Mount in any way whatsoever, even if they only move their lips or demonstrate other “signs” of prayer on Judaism’s holiest site, ruled Avi Dichter, Israel’s public security minister.
Dichter was responding to a recent decision by two Knesset members who said they would ascend the Temple Mount quietly – without informing the media or making any protest – and attempt to pray on the holy site.
The lawmakers, Uri Ariel and Aryeh Eldad from Israel’s National Union Party, said Muslim prayer services take place throughout the day in the many mosques and Islamic religious schools situated on the holy site, and Jews should be able to pray as individuals on the Mount.
In a letter to the lawmakers, Dichter, Israel’s highest ranking public security officer, wrote that while police cannot generally arrest a person “conversing with his maker … however it is possible to carry out an arrest for expressions of outward and demonstrative signs [of prayer on the Temple Mount].”
Dichter’s use of the phrase “conversing with his maker” mimicked the terminology used by Ariel and Eldad to describe prayer.
Dichter wrote his interpretation of Israeli law “is in line with the rationale that bans Jews from praying at the site, in light of serious concerns that this will serve as a provocation, resulting in disorder, with a near certain likelihood of subsequent bloodshed.”
Israeli restrictions bar Jewish groups from praying on the Temple Mount and only allow Jews to ascend for certain hours on some days, while the Mount is open to Muslims all year.
According to strict interpretation of a 1973 Israeli law, a Jew as an individual can pray on the Temple Mount as long as the prayer is not uttered as a protest of Jewish rights to the holy site. But Israeli police forbid all Jewish prayer at the site, although there have been a few instances recently in which Jews prayed there without being arrested.
While Dichter vehemently opposed even the slightest pretence of a Jew praying on the Mount, his security ministry and the Israeli police have not acted to halt the Hamas terror group’s daily broadcast of Islamic prayer services from the Mount’s Al Aqsa Mosque, considered the third holiest site in Islam.
WND broke the story that Hamas last month starting broadcasting the Mount’s daily Muslim prayers on the group’s official radio station, Al Aqsa Radio. The services are broadcast alongside anti-Semitic commentary, including incitement against Jews.
The official Hamas radio network announced it would continue airing exclusive daily streams of Muslim morning services from the Temple Mount, and, indeed, the broadcasts have continued as scheduled, with this morning’s prayer services streamed live by Hamas.
Hamas radio is heard throughout Palestinian cities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
“Our broadcast is a victory for the Al Aqsa Mosque, which is suffering from Judaization efforts imposed by the Zionist government,” said Rami Kaoud, a manager at Al Aqsa Radio. “Broadcasting daily radio is a way to bring Al Aqsa to the Gaza Strip and challenge the siege imposed on us by the Zionist entity.”
All broadcasts from the Mount must be approved by the Waqf, which guard the Muslim entrances to the Temple Mount along with the Israeli police. Broadcasts must also be approved by the Israeli police, but cameramen and reporters routinely enter the site from Muslim gates to broadcast without prior police approval as long as Waqf agents allow the entry.
Rabbi Chaim Richman, a spokesman for the New Jewish Congress, a group of religious Zionist leaders, told WND Dichter’s comments today restricting Jewish prayer “convey hatred and discrimination towards the Jewish people.”
“Dichter’s statement is yet another indication that the government of [Israeli Prime Minister] Ehud Olmert has ceased to be a Jewish government altogether, having not the slightest connection with the Jewish people.”
Dichter is a member of Olmert’s ruling Kadima party.
The Temple Mount is site of the First Jewish Temple, which was built by King Solomon in the 10th century B.C. It was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. The Second Temple was rebuilt at the same location in 515 B.C. after Jerusalem was freed from Babylonian captivity. That temple was destroyed by the Roman Empire in A.D. 70. Each temple stood for a period of about four centuries.
The Jewish Temple was the center of religious Jewish worship. It housed the Holy of Holies, which contained the Ark of the Covenant and was said to be the area upon which God’s “presence” dwelt. The Dome of the Rock, adjacent to the Al Aqsa Mosque, now sits on the site.
The Temple served as the primary location for the offering of sacrifices and was the main gathering place in Israel during Jewish holidays.
The Temple Mount compound has remained a focal point for Jewish services over the millennia. Prayers for a return to Jerusalem have been uttered by Jews since the Second Temple was destroyed, according to Jewish tradition. Jews worldwide pray facing toward the Western Wall, a portion of an outer courtyard of the Temple left intact.
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