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Jerusalem judge rules against Temple Mount ban for Jewish youth caught praying there

Ruling comes after right-wing Honenu legal defense group files appeal against detention of three Jewish youth who recited ‘Shema Yisrael’ prayer at flashpoint site

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel.

Israeli police accompany a group of Jews touring the Temple Mount on May 5, 2022, as the Jerusalem holy site was reopened to non-Muslim visitors. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)
Israeli police accompany a group of Jews touring the Temple Mount on May 5, 2022, as the Jerusalem holy site was reopened to non-Muslim visitors. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they unfolded.

Ben Gvir announces intention to visit Temple Mount on Jerusalem Day

Firebrand far-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir informs the head of the Knesset Guard that he intends to visit the Temple Mount on Jerusalem Day next week.

Earlier today, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh vowed that allowing right-wing Israelis to conduct the annual Jerusalem Day “Flag March” in the Old City will not “go unanswered.”

Ben Gvir is required to ask permission from the Knesset before he visits. In April, the lawmaker was barred from leading a similar march through the Old City’s Damascus Gate as he was deemed a security risk.

“Threats from the enemy will not scare us from going to the holiest place to the Jewish people,” says Ben Gvir. “Just the opposite — it only strengthens us, and we will arrive to implement Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem.” He also expresses hope that Haniyeh will be assassinated by Israeli forces on Jerusalem Day.

Last year, Hamas fired rockets toward Jerusalem during the annual march, sparking the 11-day war between Israel and Gaza terror groups.

UN denounces racist, homophobic monkeypox reporting

The United Nations’ AIDS agency calls some reporting on the monkeypox virus racist and homophobic, warning of exacerbating stigma and undermining the response to the growing outbreak.

UNAIDS says “a significant proportion” of recent monkeypox cases have been identified among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men. But transmission is most likely via close physical contact with a monkeypox sufferer and could affect anyone, it adds, saying some portrayals of Africans and LGBTI people “reinforce homophobic and racist stereotypes and exacerbate stigma.”

As of May 21, the World Health Organization received reports of 92 laboratory-confirmed monkeypox cases and 28 suspected cases, from 12 countries where the disease is not endemic, including several European nations, the United States, Australia, Israel, and Canada.

Monkeypox symptoms include fever, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion, and a chickenpox-like rash on the hands and face.

Israeli ministers join Celebrate Israel parade in New York City

While the coalition falters in Jerusalem, several ministers are taking part in the annual Celebrate Israel parade in New York City, which returns this year after a two-year COVID break.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Immigration and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata, and Diaspora Minister Nachman Shai are all spotted taking part in the festivities down the famed Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

Labor MK Gilad Kariv, Yesh Atid’s Inbar Bezek, and Likud’s Ofir Akunis are also marching in the parade.

After return to coalition, Zoabi said to give up on Shanghai consul post

After agreeing to return to the coalition earlier today, Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi is withdrawing her nomination as Israel’s consul general to Shanghai, according to Hebrew media reports.

Zoabi announced last week that she was quitting the coalition before reversing her decision today, following a meeting with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid — during which he agreed to release already promised funds for Arab municipalities.

In February, Zoabi was tapped as the consul general to Shanghai in a move that was widely seen as an attempt to shore up the coalition by installing the Meretz MK, who was seen as a defection risk, safely in China.

Report: Slain IRGC colonel oversaw terror attacks against Israelis, Jews worldwide

A senior member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps who was killed outside his home earlier today is said to have overseen planned kidnapping and terror attacks against Israelis and Jews worldwide, according to unsourced Hebrew media reports.

Col. Hassan Sayad Khodayari was shot five times by two unidentified gunmen in his car in the middle of Tehran, according to Iranian state media.

According to Channel 13 News, one of the operatives overseen by Khodayari was Mansour Rasouli, who reportedly admitted to Mossad agents during an interrogation at his home in Iran that he was sent to target an Israeli diplomat in Turkey, as well as an American general stationed in Germany, and a journalist in France.

Annual Celebrate Israel parade kicks off in New York after COVID hiatus

The annual Celebrate Israel parade is underway in New York City after a two-year hiatus due to COVID.

Thousands of students from dozens of area yeshivas and representatives from a spectrum of Jewish groups march through midtown Manhattan in a major show of solidarity for New York’s Jewish communities.

A police marching band leads the estimated 40,000 marchers down Manhattan’s iconic Fifth Avenue. Marchers wave Israeli and American flags, dance and sing in Hebrew.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams marches alongside Israeli Consul to New York Asaf Zamir and parade organizer Gideon Taylor.

A small group of pro-Palestinian protesters from a local activist group and the fringe Naturei Karta Jewish group rally on the sideline.

Jerusalem judge rules against Temple Mount ban for Jewish youth caught praying there

Jerusalem Magistrate Court justice Zion Saharay cancels a bid by police to bar three Jewish Israelis from the Temple Mount holy site for 15 days after they had prayed at the flashpoint shrine.

Saharay rules that there is no suspicion that the three suspects had “disturbed the peace” when they bowed and recited the “Shema Yisrael” prayer at the holy site.

Saharay even quotes Israel Police Chief Kobi Shabtai, in comments from last May, on how officers would ensure freedom of religion for “all residents of the country and the territories” at the flashpoint holy site. He also claims that existing statutes guaranteeing freedom of worship at holy sites back them up.

“When the appellants conduct themselves in accordance with the public call of the police commissioner and according to the Law on the Protection of Holy Places, they cannot be suspected of committing a criminal offense,” writes Saharay.

The judge emphasizes, however, that the decision solely relates to whether the suspects can be given a restraining order barring them from returning to the Temple Mount. The ruling does not establish anything regarding the permissibility of Jewish prayer in general at the Temple Mount.

“This [decision] does not intervene with the police’s job in enforcing public order at the Temple Mount, nor does it determine anything regarding freedom of worship at the Temple Mount. These matters are not discussed in the decision at all,” says Saharay.

Similar rulings in the past have been quickly overturned by appeals courts.

Earlier today, Hamas threatened to fire rockets at this year’s Jerusalem Day flag march in the capital’s Old City; similar actions last year were seen as leading to the 11-day war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

Iran claims to uncover Israeli spy ring amid IRGC assassination

Iranian state-run media says the Revolutionary Guard’s security forces have uncovered and arrested members of an Israeli intelligence network operating in the country.

The reports come around the same time that state media report of the assassination in Tehran of Iran Revolutionary Guards Col. Hassan Sayad Khodayari. The media reports did not indicate if there was any connection between the two.

Although the Guard gave only scant detail about the attack that occurred in broad daylight in the heart of Iran’s capital, the group blamed the killing on “global arrogance,” typically code for the United States and Israel.

That accusation, as well as the style of the brazen attack, raises the possibility of a link with other motorbike slayings previously attributed to Israel in Iran, such as those targeting the country’s nuclear scientists.

Arab mayors pressured Zoabi to stay in coalition, says Kafr Kanna chief

Kafr Kanna mayor Izz al-Din Amarna tells The Times of Israel that pressure by Arab mayors on Rinawie Zoabi was key to keeping her inside the coalition.

“We asked for her not to leave the coalition. We told [her] that we are not interested in toppling this government. We pressured her and she went back on it,” says Amarna.

Amarna adds that “hundreds of millions of shekels” promised to Arab communities as part of a five-year plan to reduce inequality between Arab and Jewish towns have yet to be dispensed. Throughout the meeting with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, the mayors demanded that the government accelerate its disbursement, he adds.

“There will be a vote in the Finance Ministry to disperse this money soon. We’re talking about hundreds of millions of shekels here that they need to transfer,” says Amarna.

Zoabi was not promised any new funding to return to coalition, say those in meeting

As part of today’s deal that returned Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi to the coalition merely three days after she left, promises were made to transfer existing funds — rather than new — to Arab municipalities, says Kafr Manda Mayor Ali Khader Zidan.

Zidan, who was one of several Arab municipal mayors to join Rinawie Zoabi in an afternoon meeting hosted by Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, says that while the amount of money is in the “millions” of shekels, it is not newly budgeted.

“It’s not an issue of budgets that were agreed upon, it’s an issue of budgets that were promised in the coalition negotiations and they haven’t arrived,” Zidan tells The Times of Israel. “So what needed to happen was to plan a system by which the money will arrive in the field and to fix the regulations so that the money will arrive in Arab municipalities.”

A Yamina statement echoes Zidan’s statement, noting that no new funds were budgeted in the negotiations with Rinawie Zoabi; rather, the release of already agreed-upon funds was discussed.

As part of coalition negotiations with the Islamist Ra’am party, significant funding was obtained for addressing infrastructure, crime and socioeconomic issues in Arab cities. However, much of the money has yet to appear in municipal coffers.

“There’s been neglect for Arab society as if it’s not part of [Israeli] society,” Zidan says, adding that Arab municipalities do “not [receive] equal money compared to what’s given to the Jews.”

“And therefore there’s been discrimination for many years. And it’s time. We’re part of the coalition,” Zidan says. “And there should be real equality between Arab and Jewish society.”

Zidan, who supports Rinawie Zoabi’s return to the coalition, echoes a complaint from her resignation letter, in which she wrote that “the underside [second-class] of the coalition is always Arab.”

“It’s important that the government and the coalition should behave with responsibility and honor toward Arab society, if it’s in behavior, deed, or money, and that we are partners in every way,” says Zidan. “They should treat us equally with how they treat Jewish society.”

US Ambassador Nides moves into new residence in Jerusalem

US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides has moved into a new home in downtown Jerusalem and his embassy has filed a request to the Foreign Ministry to recognize the building as the envoy’s official residence, a US official confirms to The Times of Israel.

The building is located on Emek Refaim street in Jerusalem’s yuppity German Colony neighborhood.

Nides had been mostly staying at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Jerusalem since arriving in Israel last November.

The old US ambassador’s residence had been a seaside compound in the Tel Aviv suburb of Herzliya, but it was sold by the Trump administration to the late casino mogul Sheldon Adelson after the former president moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The sale was seen as having been designed to prevent future administrations from rolling back the embassy move.

But Biden officials made clear from the get-go that they never planned to reverse the move, and Nides told US senators at his confirmation hearing that he would be living in Jerusalem and respects the decision by the previous administration to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

5 Jerusalem men arrested for ties to Islamic State

Police say five Jerusalem men have been arrested over alleged Islamic State ties.

The suspects, all in their 30s, were detained over the weekend, police say.

Their remand has been extended until tomorrow.

The arrests come as Israeli authorities have attempted to clamp down on those affiliated with the jihadist group, following a series of attacks committed in their name.

Turkey summons US ambassador after American warning on police methods

The US ambassador to Ankara is summoned to the Turkish Foreign Ministry over a warning to US citizens in Turkey about attending a political rally that referred to police crowd control methods, state-run media says.

The US Embassy posted a message on its website on May 18 ahead of an Istanbul rally for the opposition People’s Republican Party, or CHP, on Saturday evening.

“The Turkish National Police have used measures, including water cannons, tear gas and non-lethal projectiles, to control crowds at protests in the past,” the alert to US citizens in Turkey stated. “There is a strong possibility similar measures will be employed at this demonstration.”

The state-run Anadolu news agency, citing unnamed ministry sources, reports that Ambassador Jeffry Flake was summoned so the Turkish government could express its “discomfort” over “the unfounded allegations” in the US warning.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry issues its own warning to Turkish citizens in the US that seemed to mirror the American statement. It said, in the past, live ammunition, electroshocks, tear gas and “violent acts” had been employed by US police to quell demonstrations.

Senior Iran Revolutionary Guards member said assassinated in Tehran

A senior member of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard was killed outside his home in Tehran by gunmen on a motorbike, state TV reports, providing only scant details about the attack.

The two assailants shot the victim five times as he entered his home in an alleyway in the eastern part of the capital, state media says.

According to state news agency IRNA, the man was identified as Col. Sayyad Khodai, and was shot dead by two motorcylists in Tehran’s Mohahedin-e Eslam Street.

Reports identify the target as a “defender of the shrine,” a reference to Iranians who fight against the extremist Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq within the Guard’s elite Quds force that oversees operations abroad.

There is no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

Security forces were pursuing the suspected assailants, state TV reports, without offering further details or giving a motive for the killing.

Teachers protest in Tel Aviv over wages

Teachers and principals take part in a protest in Habima Square in central Tel Aviv amid an ongoing wage dispute between the state and the Israeli Teachers’ Union.

Last week, the union filed a work dispute, threatening to go on strike and not show up on the first day of classes in September if it is unable to reach a new salary agreement with the state.

Teachers claim that the Finance Ministry’s current offer to raise teachers’ salaries is not nearly enough.

Meretz MK announces return to coalition: ‘The alternative is worse’

Alongside Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Nazareth Mayor Ali Salam, Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi announces she will return to the coalition.

“Because I arrived to serve the local authorities and to achieve accomplishments for the needs of the Arab public, I will support the coalition,” says Zoabi in a joint video announcement.

Zoabi says she realizes that “the alternative to this government will be [far-right MK Itamar] Ben-Gvir as a minister, and I want to prevent that alternative.”

Lapid says he welcomes Zoabi’s return to the coalition after “we had an open dialogue” and discussed the needs of the Arabic community. “We have put this disagreement behind us and we are returning to government work.”

Zoabi’s announcement last week that she would depart the government put the coalition in the minority; with her return, the opposition/coalition breakdown returns to 60-60.

Kalfon, Silman, Chikli join opposition MKs in West Bank tour

Rebel Yamina MKs Amichai Chikli — who was ousted from the party — and Idit Silman, as well as ex-MK Yomtob Kalfon, who was replaced in the Knesset last week, take part in a tour of the demolished West Bank outpost Homesh.

Kalfon, who has promised that he had no intention of deserting his party or the coalition, tweets that it is “important to strengthen Homesh and the settlements in northern Samaria.”

Opposition MK Bezalel Smotrich of the Religious Zionism party tweets that “this left-wing government has lost its majority among the nation and in the Knesset and it has no legitimacy to limit settlement steps in the area, and certainly not to evacuate Homesh.”

Meretz MK expected to reverse decision to abandon coalition

Rebel Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi is expected to shortly announce her decision to once again vote with the coalition, days after she declared that she was leaving the government.

Her purported decision comes immediately following a meeting in Jerusalem with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid — and a range of other ministers and mayors — where they discussed her terms for returning to the government.

Amid controversy, European Parliament president touches down in Israel

Roberta Metsola, president of the European Parliament, lands in Israel for a three-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority. This is the first visit by an EP president since 2014.

Metsola, a Maltese politician, is slated to speak in front of the Knesset tomorrow, and to meet with President Isaac Herzog, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, and other officials during her trip. She will also visit Yad Vashem, and she is scheduled to pay a visit to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

“President Metsola is expected to bring with her a message of hope, a call to strengthen relations with both Israel and the Palestinians, and to offer the goodwill and resources of the European Parliament to restart the Middle East peace process,” reads a statement by the European Union Delegation to Israel.

Metsola is met at Ben Gurion Airport by Israel’s Envoy to the EU Haim Regev, EU’s Ambassador to Israel Dimiter Tzantchev and Yisrael Beytenu MK Yossi Shain, the head of the Knesset delegation for relations with the European Parliament.

Metsola’s visit, however, begins amid controversy.

On Thursday, the Foreign Ministry informed the EU delegation in Israel that European Parliamentarian Manu Pineda, a Spanish communist politician and chair of the EP Delegation for Relations with Palestine, would be barred from entering Israel on a separate visit by his delegation. In protest, all members of the small delegation canceled their visit.

Metsola publicly airs her disapproval of Israel’s decision, tweeting that she “will raise the issue directly with authorities concerned.”

“Respect for MEPs and the European Parliament is essential for good relations,” she continues.

Bennett congratulates new Australian prime minister

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett tweets congratulations to the new prime minister of Australia, Anthony Albanese.

“Israel and Australia are close friends and I look forward to working together with @AlboMP to deepen that friendship & strengthen the bond between our nations,” Bennett tweets.

Bennett also adds his thanks to outgoing Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison “for being a good friend and a valuable partner. I wish you all the best.”

Morrison conceded defeat yesterday to Albanese, ending the Liberal Party’s nine-year rule of Australia.

Frej: Coalition crisis is opportunity to strengthen government’s commitment to Arabs

Meretz’s Regional Cooperation Minister Esawi Frej says that a meeting he took part in with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and renegade Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi was conducted “in a good atmosphere.”

The meeting between Lapid, Zoabi, Frej and other ministers as well as Arab mayors ended, and Lapid and Zoabi are now meeting one-on-one.

Frej, who is the second Muslim minister ever in Israel, says that it is clear that the Arab community in Israel wants “to preserve the government and the coalition.” According to a statement from his office, Frej says that they are working “to turn this crisis into an opportunity to strengthen the government’s commitment to the Arab community.”

He also says that the Arab mayors who took part in the meeting vocalized their support for maintaining the government. Zoabi placed the already-fractured coalition in danger after announcing last week that she was defecting to the opposition, leaving it in the minority.

Taliban begins enforcing face-cover order for female TV anchors

Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers begin enforcing an order requiring all female TV news anchors in the country to cover their faces while on-air. The move is part of a hardline shift drawing condemnation from rights activists.

After the order was announced on Thursday, only a handful of news outlets complied. But today most female anchors are seen with their faces covered after the Taliban’s Vice and Virtue Ministry began enforcing the decree.

The Information and Culture Ministry previously announced that the policy was “final and non-negotiable.”

Renegade Meretz MK meets with Lapid in Jerusalem for coalition negotiations

Rebel Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi is meeting with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in Jerusalem as the Yesh Atid leader seeks to hold together the fracturing government coalition.

Zoabi arrived at the meeting in the Foreign Ministry flanked by several Arab mayors from across Israel, according to Hebrew media reports. Lapid was accompanied by Yisrael’s Beytenu’s Hamad Amar, a minister in the Finance Ministry.

Significant progress was reported over the weekend in convincing Zoabi to not bring down the current government, after her surprise announcement last week that she was defecting to the opposition placed the coalition in the minority, with just 59 seats.

Lapid sheds tears in cabinet over vote on funding for Israelis with disabilities

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid is said to have teared up during the cabinet meeting when discussing a proposal to budget 2 billion shekels toward better integration of Israelis with disabilities.

Lapid tells his fellow cabinet ministers that approving such a measure “is the most important thing you will do in your lives,” and speaks about his own experience with his daughter, Yael, who has autism.

Yesh Atid MK Simon Davidson tweets about the exchange, reporting that following Lapid’s speech “there were not a lot of dry eyes left in the room.”

Health Ministry deputy director: Violence against healthcare workers is rising

Deputy director of the Health Ministry Sefi Mendelovich says violence against healthcare professionals in Israel is rising in an alarming fashion.

Mendelovich tells Army Radio that over the past 14 years, since he was a young doctor, he has experienced such violence “a lot of the time.” Overall, he says, he has seen a “significant rise in violence toward healthcare staff — both physical and verbal. And it cannot continue this way.”

Also today, police say that three suspects in a violent attack in Hadassah Hospital in Mount Scopus in Jerusalem last week were remanded into custody pending charges.

Hamas threatens Israel over Flag March, says ‘all capabilities’ on the table

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh warns Israel in a speech against allowing right-wing Israelis to conduct the annual Jerusalem Day “Flag March” in Jerusalem’s Old City next week, a year after Hamas fired rockets at Jerusalem when the event was last held.

“I want to clearly warn the enemy against committing these crimes and these steps. The Palestinian people, led by the resistance — especially those in the West Bank and Jerusalem — will not permit this Jewish, Talmudic rubbish to go idly by,” says Haniyeh, speaking by video in front of a crowd in Gaza.

“Our decision is clear and unhesitating… We will resist with all our capabilities and we will not allow the violation of the Al-Aqsa Mosque or thuggery in the streets of Jerusalem,” he adds.

Palestinian prisoners caught after notorious jail-break sentenced to additional 5 years

A court hands down prison sentences to six Palestinian security prisoners who escaped from a high-security detention center in northern Israel last year.

The six broke out of Gilboa Prison in September and were all later caught at the end of a massive two-week manhunt.

Today’s sentences will be added to the time they are already serving behind bars, along with fines.

Four prisoners who did not escape but who helped the six men to break out of Gilboa Prison were sentenced to four additional years as well as a fine.

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