Deputy Religious Services Minister Eli Ben-Dahan Jews must be allowed to pray on the Temple Mount and that his ministry is preparing regulations for Jewish prayer at the site.
Access for Jewish and other non-Muslim visitation at the Temple Mount is strictly controlled, and police prohibit any non-Muslim prayer at the site, as well as any outward demonstrations of religious worship, in accordance with the demands of the Wakf Muslim religious trust, which administers the area.
The increasing numbers of Jews that have been visiting the site in recent years has generated increased Arab opposition to the phenomenon.
In a video message to a conference held by Liba, an organization lobbying for Jewish prayer rights on the Temple Mount, Ben-Dahan said on Tuesday that he supported the wishes of anyone wishing to pray at the site.
He said that the ministry was drawing up guidelines for Jewish prayer and that he hoped they would be implemented.
“We have prepared regulations that provide for suitable arrangements for prayer on the Temple Mount,” said Ben-Dahan. “I believe and expect that the prime minister and the government of Israel will adopt these regulations and validate them, and allow all Jews who want to go up to the Temple Mount to pray there to do so.”
Ben-Dahan criticized the situation in which Jews are prevented from praying at the Temple Mount, saying that “the reality where there is discrimination between Jews and non-Jews in which Jews are the only ones not allowed to pray on the Temple Mount is illogical and unreasonable, and it is forbidden for us to accept it and allow this situation to continue.”
Speaking on Reshet Bet radio station on Thursday, Ben-Dahan said that his ministry is not able to make the required administrative changes but that he hoped the government would approve them.
Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said unambiguously that he would not do so.
“I wont allow it. Any change to the status quo on the Temple Mount will not be approved,” the minister said. “The status quo for Jews and Arabs will not be changed. I understand people are trying to change things behind my back but I will not allow it.”
Ben-Dahan protested Aharonovitch’s comments and said it was unthinkable that a Jew could not recite psalms “or mumble the smallest prayer without police descending on him and ejecting him from the holiest site for the Jewish people.”
He said that he wished Aharonovitch’s office “was operating with any kind of efficiency,” referring to several recent Arab riots on the Temple Mount against Jewish visitors that have led to further closures of the site to non-Muslims.
It appears unlikely that any change to arrangements on the Temple Mount, including the current police ban on Jewish prayer, will be made.
The issue was debated in the Knesset back in February, but the Prime Minister’s Office said it would not be changing the status quo.
The right for Jews to pray on the Temple Mount has been upheld by the High Court of Justice but the police maintain that such activities endanger public safety, thereby entitling them to prevent Jewish prayer at the site.