Majority of Israelis back Jewish prayer rights at Temple Mount

Police prohibit any non-Muslim prayer at the site as well as any outward demonstrations of religious worship.

April 13, 2015 02:20
2 minute read.
Mount of Olives

Snow on the Dome of the Rock in the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City is seen from the Mount of Olives January 9. (photo credit: EUROPEAN JEWISH ASSOCIATION)

A new poll released on Sunday by the Yesodot Center for Torah and Democracy shows a majority of Israeli Jews favor prayer rights for Jews on the Temple Mount, something currently forbidden by police restrictions.

The Supreme Court has upheld the theoretical right for Jews to pray there, although it has stated that security considerations should be taken into account when deciding whether or not to allow non-Muslim prayers.

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Access for Jews and other non-Muslims is strictly controlled at the site, and police prohibit non-Muslim prayer as well as any outward demonstrations of non-Muslim worship in accordance with the demands of the Jordanian Islamic trust, or Wakf, which administers the area.

According to the poll conducted by the Yifat Gat research institute this month on a sample of 500 adults, 37 percent of those interviewed agreed that the government should allow free access to adherents of all religions who wished to pray at the Temple Mount.

Another 36% said that specific prayer hours should be established for different religious groups, as is the case at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, while 20% said the government did not need to establish free access for all religions.

Seven percent of the respondents said that Jewish access to the Temple Mount should only be allowed at specific times, including Jewish holidays.

In response to a question of who should have sovereignty over the site, 66% said it should be the Israeli government, and 2% said the Wakf.

Thirty-two percent said a special body should be established comprising Jewish and Muslim leaders who would determine prayer times.

Among those who said Jews should have free access, including full prayer rights, on the Temple Mount, 41% defined themselves as religious and 40% said they were secular. Of those who said they were not in favor of allowing Jewish prayer rights there, 61% defined themselves as haredi (ultra-Orthodox), 18% national-religious, and 13% secular.

Yesodot’s director, Dr. David Feuchtwanger, highlighted what he described as the surprisingly large number of haredi respondents who said they were either in favor of Jewish prayer rights at the site or that specific hours should be established for members of all religions to have prayer services.

In the haredi community, it has been the mainstream rabbinic opinion for many years to ban Jews from the site since it is impossible to perform a ritual required to ascend to certain areas there. Several senior rabbinic figures in the national-religious community have in recent years permitted visitation, arguing that prohibited areas could be avoided.

When asked whether security considerations should be taken into account when considering freedom of worship on the Temple Mount, 43% of those polled answered yes, 37% said it depended on political and security realities, and 20% said such considerations should not limit freedom of worship whatsoever.

“It appears that the results of the poll show there is no change in the [people’s] relationship to the Temple Mount and the need for some type of Israeli intervention to establish policies regarding prayer at the site,” Feuchtwanger said.

He added, however, that access to the site remained an explosive issue for many Israeli Jews.

“Considerations for establishing policy must be done subject to diplomatic and security circumstances,” he said.

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