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

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)

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.

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