Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely launched a fierce attack against the Jerusalem police on Wednesday, accusing them of unilaterally tightening regulations against Jews who want to go up to the Temple Mount.
Israeli authorities forbid Jews and other non-Muslims from praying out loud on the Temple Mount because of tensions it may cause.
Supervisors from the Jordanian Wakf accompany visiting groups to ensure that they do not pray or conduct any visible form of worship with Israeli police providing security oversight.
Hotovely’s comments come following several recent incidents on the Temple Mount in which Jewish visitors have experienced problems during or before their ascent to the site, which the MK referred to in her statement.
Last Wednesday Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, founder and director of the Temple Institute, tried to go up to the Temple Mount, but was told by police that he was banned from the site.
The Temple Institute is a non-profit organization that has constructed the vessels for the Temple according to the directions found in the Bible, and states that its long-term goal is to do “all in our limited power to bring about the building of the Holy Temple in our time.”
Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said that Ariel tried to break the law during his last visit to the Temple Mount, but refused to elaborate on the issue because police have opened a criminal investigation.
Ariel last visited the site on Jerusalem Day, along with MKs Michael Ben Ari and Uri Ariel and other prominent rabbis and public figures.
The relatively large group prayed out loud, sang and recited blessings while on the Temple Mount. Yisrael Ariel, who, during the Six Day War, was a paratrooper that participated in the capture of the Temple Mount, recited a mourner’s prayer in memory of soldiers who were killed in the battle for Jerusalem in 1967. Uri Ariel, who is a kohen, recited the priestly blessing, and the entire group recited a thanksgiving prayer.
The Temple Institute later published a video of the visit on YouTube.
It is likely that it is this incident police are investigating.
Ben-Ruby said that Yisrael Ariel has been banned from the Temple Mount during the course of the investigation.
He added that the ban is not permanent and police will re-examine the ban on his access to the Temple Mount after the investigation is concluded and either arrest him and bring him to court, or lift the ban.
Hotovely called the ban on Ariel “a fatal blow to freedom of worship, which has no place in the State of Israel, not toward members of any religion and especially not towards a devout Jew.”
She also submitted a request for a special hearing in the Knesset’s Interior Committee on the issue of freedom of worship at the Temple Mount.
Rabbi Chaim Richman, international director of The Temple Institute, denounced what he termed “the recent shift of policy towards Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount,” as draconian and totalitarian.
“The treatment of Jews on the Temple Mount bespeaks utter contempt, insensitivity to religious feelings and a brutal quashing of the most basic human rights,” he said.
“It is inconceivable that Jews are treated as criminals for expressing a desire to pray at their holiest site.”
Melanie Lidman contributed to this report.
A previous version of this article stated that it was illegal for Jews and non-Muslims to pray on the Temple Mount.