Jewish prayer should be allowed on the Temple Mount
Following a district court ruling in Jerusalem last week, news from Islamic sources seems disturbing and quite threatening.
Turkey condemned it, “strongly”. Turkey’s foreign ministry said it would “further encourage fanatic circles” and “stir up new tensions”. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry denounced him and expressed “its extreme concern for the repercussions of such a court decision and its impact on security and stability in the region”. The Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization warned of the consequences of the decision and the Palestinian National Council (PNC) viewed the decision “as a direct and explicit assault on the exclusive right of Muslims.”
And what was the decision? Judge Bilhah Yahalom ruled last week that “silent” Jewish prayer can take place inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque as long as it remains silent and does not violate the instructions of the Israeli police and is not criminal. In fact, his opinion is consistent with the law for the protection of holy places and several judgments of the High Court of Justice. However, this conflicts with the Israeli government’s policy since 1967, known as the “status quo,” which says that while Jews (and Christians) can visit the Temple Mount, only Muslims can pray there.
Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer believes that indeed “Jews should have the right to worship freely, but not in today’s Jerusalem.” He believes that the right to freedom of worship “is not only about the type of worship we tend to agree with, but also, and most importantly, the worship with which we disagree.” Nonetheless, he opposes this right at the moment, not so much because of the vehement responses cited above, or worse, the threats, but rather because of a vague ideological point of view: “Jerusalem is not not a free city with equal rights for all its inhabitants. “
But what about the main problem? Why do so many people slip into a meaningless mode of rationality and suggest that such a right does not exist, that Jewish prayer is a provocation, or even that Jewish temples never existed, like say the PNC officials? Or that the Jews who enter the compound of Haram al-Sharif “storm”, as if they were invading a place that was not theirs?
Days after the ruling, on appeal from the police, District Court Judge Aryeh Romanov confirmed that Jews were prohibited from praying openly at the site. However, the problem will not go away and its causes and ramifications should be analyzed.
Let it be clear: No Jew enters a Muslim building on the Temple Mount and certainly not a mosque. The complex is quite large and there is more than enough room for it to be shared. After all, in Hebron, Jews pray daily in a structure considered to be a mosque (the Cave of the Patriarchs). So why is there this form of Islamic cancellation culture which can be summed up as follows: the Temple Mount belongs only to Muslims and the Western Wall to Jews.
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First, the facts. The invading Muslim armies conquered Jerusalem in A.D. 638 and physically and theologically usurped Mount Moriah. Although Jews were allowed entry at certain times, from the 13th century until the end of the 19th century, Jewish entry was prohibited. This was also the situation in Hebron. In 1947, a Jew who accidentally entered the compound was killed. Along with this, the majority rabbinical opinion was that although the enclosure was larger than the original sacred area, all entry would be prohibited.
Against this background, in 1967, the famous status quo was adopted. But if this situation is not static – Muslims have opened three new mosques since then – do they have the right to protest? Are they the only ones who have the right to be “provoked”? Article 9 of the Israel-Jordan peace treaty calls for the promotion of “interfaith relations … in order to work for religious understanding … freedom of religious worship and tolerance”. Should we not honor it?
Can we not try to achieve peace through religious unity and compromise? Why should we tolerate such degrading language in the Arab media on this issue as when PA President Mahmoud Abbas said the Jews “defile the Al-Aqsa Mosque with their dirty feet.”
The Waqf and its financial patron, the Jordanian Ministry of Islamic Affairs and Holy Places of Awqaf, have blocked surveillance cameras which could reduce violence and encourage intimidating attitude that portends stone-throwing and worse. They need to be more responsible.
In the spirit of Isaiah 56: 7, that “my house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations,” cannot we accept that all who seek to respect and worship in their holy places be permitted to do so reasonably without resorting to threats. violence?