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After court ruling, minister calls for ‘serious discussion’ on Temple Mount policies

Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel says he backs a court ruling that cleared three Jewish teens of wrongdoing after they were detained for praying on the Temple Mount and temporarily banned from the site.

“Freedom of worship is one of the cornerstones of our democracy. It can’t be that a mumbled ‘Shema Yisrael‘ prayer is a criminal act,” he tells Army Radio, calling the ruling “reasonable.”

Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel visits the Museum of Antiquities in Gush Etzion, December 8, 2020. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

He also seems to hint that the government may attempt to formulate new policies regarding the flashpoint site, where Jews can visit but are prohibited from praying due to a long-standing status quo agreement with Jordan that prohibits any changes at the site or in how it is managed.

“We haven’t set any policies on the subject,” he says. “We need to have a serious discussion with the decision makers and not do this ad hoc.”

Following the Sunday ruling, and the ensuing backlash from the Muslim world, Judge Zion Saharay clarified that his narrow verdict did not change the status quo, and that police still had wide leeway to enforce order at the site, indicating that they could continue to prohibit Jewish prayer and punish offenders.

“The decision was focused on one question only: Did the behavior exhibited by the appealers before me, under the concrete circumstances of the case, justify reasonable suspicion for disturbing a police officer on duty or any other form of behavior that may disrupt the peace and justify a ban on them for 15 days,” the judge said.

 

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