Court demands state justify Temple Mount metal detectors for Jews

Court demands state justify Temple Mount metal detectors for Jews

In small victory for far-right activists, judge order government to explain its policy after security measures were removed from Muslim access points to holy site

An Orthodox Jew stands facing the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem on July 24, 2013. (Lucie March/Flash90)
An Orthodox Jew stands facing the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem on July 24, 2013. (Lucie March/Flash90)

The High Court of Justice on Friday instructed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to respond to a petition by right-wing Jewish activists to remove the metal detectors from the sole entrance to the Temple Mount used by Jews and other non-Muslim visitors.

The judge, Justice David Mintz, gave the government 50 days to reply to the petition filed by far-right lawyer Itamar Ben Gvir, who argued that Israel is discriminating against non-Muslims by subjecting them to security checks while allowing Muslims free access to the Jerusalem holy site through other gates, the Srugim news site reported.

Ben Gvir filed the suit on Thursday against Netanyahu, and many of the members of his cabinet, on behalf of himself and three well-known activists: Michael Ben Ari, Baruch Marzel and Bentzi Gopstein.

The African Quarter of the Old City, with the Council Gate to the Temple Mount at center. (Ilan Ben Zion/Times of Israel staff)

Non-Muslims are only permitted to enter the Temple Mount through the Mughrabi Gate, which is adjacent to the Western Wall. Ten other gates allow access only to Muslims.

“This petition is based on the principle of equality and against the unfair policy that discriminates against Jews and tourists and in favor of Muslims,” said the document filed with the court.

The petition follows the removal of security measures, including metal detectors, from the other gates of the flashpoint site. They had been set up in the wake of a deadly attack on July 14, in which three Arab Israelis used guns smuggled into the compound to kill two police officers standing guard nearby.

Israeli border policemen install metal detectors outside the Lion’s Gate, a main entrance to the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem’s Old City, on July 16, 2017. The detectors were later removed (AFP/ Ahmad Gharabli)

The installation of the metal detectors set off almost two weeks of unrest and clashes between Palestinian rioters and Israeli police in and around East Jerusalem and in the West Bank, and was cited as the motivation for a Palestinian who killed three members of an Israeli family in the West Bank settlement of Halamish. The government then ordered the metal detectors and other security measures removed.

The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism and is revered as the site of the biblical temples. It is also the third-holiest site in Islam, after Mecca and Medina, and is known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif. Under an arrangement in place since Israel captured the Old City in the Six Day War in 1967, non-Muslims are allowed access to the site but are forbidden to pray there. Under this status quo, Israel is responsible for security at the site while the Jordanian trust — the Waqf — is in charge of administrative duties.

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