Ministry looking to allow Jewish prayer on Temple Mount

Deputy religious affairs minister says he ‘expects’ government to adopt new directives breaking longstanding taboo

Deputy Minister Eli Ben Dahan (photo credit: Flash90)
Deputy Minister Eli Ben Dahan (photo credit: Flash90)

The Religious Affairs Ministry is crafting new rules that would allow Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, Deputy Minister Eli Ben Dahan said Tuesday.

“We have drafted regulations that will regulate prayer on the mount,” said Ben Dahan, of the nationalist Jewish Home party. “I expect the prime minister and the government of Israel to adopt and validate these regulations and allow all Jews who desire so to go up to the Temple Mount and pray there,” he told a conference of Liba, an organization that encourages Jews to visit the Temple Mount, via video address.

The regulations would reverse longstanding orders banning Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount. The rules have garnered backlash over the last several months amid a renewed interest in visiting the site by Jewish groups, which has served to stoke heated tensions at the site, holy to both Jews and Muslims.

Non-Muslim visitors seen prostrating or praying silently or openly have faced arrest by police for disturbing the peace.

Police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said that the police were not aware of any imminent changes to security arrangements at the Temple Mount.

The Temple Mount compound, which holds the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque, is considered the third holiest site in Islam and the holiest site to Jews as the site of the two ancient Jewish temples.

By law, under arrangements Israel instituted after capturing the area in 1967, Jews are not allowed to pray at the site.

In February, Likud MK Moshe Feiglin initiated a first-of-its-kind Knesset debate to examine the right of non-Muslims to enter and pray at the holy compound, with over 30 MKs from both right-wing and left-wing parties seeking to voice their opinion on the divisive topic.

Likud MK Moshe Feiglin addresses the Knesset plenum during a debate on Israeli sovereignty on the Temple Mount, Tuesday, February 25, 2014 (photo credit: Flash90)
Likud MK Moshe Feiglin addresses the Knesset plenum during a debate on Israeli sovereignty on the Temple Mount, Tuesday, February 25, 2014 (photo credit: Flash90)

Speaking at the Liba conference Tuesday, Feiglin criticized public security minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch for sending troops to combat settler violence in Yitzhar, but not sending forces to secure the Temple Mount, according to Israel National News.

A resurgence of interest in prayer on the Temple Mount has provoked outrage among Palestinians and others in the Muslim world, who accuse Israel of attempting to “Judaize” the site.

Attempts to reach the Waqf, the Islamic trust charged with managing the site, were unsuccessful.

Earlier in April, during the Jewish holiday of Passover, riots broke out on the Temple Mount compound as Palestinians protested a visit to the holy site by Jewish pilgrims and tourists.

Dozens of Palestinian protesters and an Israeli policeman were wounded during clashes, which resulted in the closure of the site to non-Muslims the following day.

Last week, video surfaced of Muslim worshipers shouting and throwing shoes at an ultra-Orthodox group of children and adults visiting the compound.

The director of Liba, Yehuda Glick, decried the violence.

“We came to say loud and clear — ‘enough,'” he said in his opening statements at the conference. “The situation of daily attacks on Jews on the Temple Mount cannot continue for another moment. “I call on the State of Israel and its leaders to act like a democratic state and protect the basic rights of every Jew who goes and prays on the Temple Mount.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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