Ten Jews detained for praying on Temple Mount

Police haul men away after they sing ‘Hatikvah,’ unfurl Israeli flag atop sensitive enclosure

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Religious Jews visiting the Temple Mount, March 27, 2013. (photo credit: Sliman Khader/Flash90)
Religious Jews visiting the Temple Mount, March 27, 2013. (photo credit: Sliman Khader/Flash90)

Ten Jewish men were detained by police after they were accused of praying and bowing inside the Temple Mount enclosure on Monday morning.

The group reportedly said prayers, sang “Hatikva,” the Israeli national anthem, unfurled an Israeli flag and began dancing.

The men were removed and police closed the site to visitors. The sensitive Temple Mount area, holy to both Muslims and Jews, is controlled by the Muslim Waqf, but security is overseen by Israel. Non-Muslims are allowed to visit, but all non-Muslim religious ritual is banned.

Under current laws, Jews are allowed to ascend the mount and pray at the site, which is revered as the location of both ancient Jewish temples. However, police have the right to veto any visits and in practice prevent both prayer and high-profile Jewish visits.

Israeli police and Waqf guards keep close tabs on visitors identifiable as religious Jews. If any are seen moving their lips in prayer, or prostrating themselves on the smooth stones of the shrine, they are expelled and sometimes detained.

Last month there were several clashes between police and Palestinian youths on the mount and security forces used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse the crowds.

Tensions were raised by an influx of Jewish visitors to the site during the Sukkot holiday. As a result, at the end of September, Jerusalem police closed the Temple Mount to non-Muslim visitors, citing security concerns — a surprise announcement that caused many holiday pilgrims and tourists to be turned away at the site.

Jewish prayer and visits at the Temple Mount enclosure are seen as a provocation by many Arab worshipers but the practice has support among Knesset members, notably Likud MKs Miri Regev and Moshe Feiglin, the latter of whom has made prayer visits to the site.

In May, Deputy Transportation Minister Tzipi Hotovely marked her last day as an unmarried woman with a visit to the Temple Mount and earlier that month Regev chaired a Knesset committee meeting to review Jewish prayer on the mount.

Regev has spearheaded a campaign to uphold Jewish prayer on the controversial site, despite the explosive security and political implications.

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