Photo of the Gate of Mercy structure from Facebook pages of Muslim worshipers - June 2, 2019.
(photo credit: REGAVIM)
Right-wing NGO Regavim claimed that the State admitted to the High Court of Justice that it is aware that the Waqf has illegally turned the Mercy Gate area on Temple Mount into a mosque, but is opposed to its closure.
The organization said on Friday morning that in response to their urgent submission earlier this month, the State said that "the Knesset [had] refrained from introducing symbols of prayer" to the Mercy Gate compound. Police contradicted this, specifying that "the Waqf has installed a loudspeaker for the muezzin," the person appointed at a mosque to lead and recite the call to prayer, “and inserted prayer mats into the compound.”
The police said that “the work also included the installation of a number of lighting fixtures, replacing a cabinet, changing carpets and repairing cracks in the building. The Israel Police, as well as the political echelon, are constantly monitoring every change that has taken place in the compound, while implementing a policy of informed enforcement.”
Regvim also claimed that “the state sought to reject the demand for an interim injunction preventing further work on the site, claiming that the Waqf had only done a few ‘minor jobs’ and that ‘no signs of prayer were allowed into the area.’”
In March it was revealed that the Jordanian Waqf, which manages the site, rejected the Israeli court order to close the site and stop its renovations of the historical site. Regavim submitted a petition about the matter, but the High Court gave the Waqf 90 days to respond.
However, earlier this month, the eve of Jerusalem Day, Regavim again “submitted an urgent request to the High Court of Justice for an interim injunction to close the Mercy Gate building on the Temple Mount, based on documentation of the activities of the Muslim Waqf in recent days,” it said in a statement at the time.
In February, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed authorities to prevent the opening of a mosque at Mercy Gate, but this was not adhered to and construction continued.
The statement also highlights that the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court issued an order to close the compound, which prohibits the Waqf from operating in the building, but the police do not enforce the order.
“The Waqf continues to renovate the compound and de facto turn it into another permanent mosque on the Temple Mount,” Regavim said.
Commenting on the matter, Regavim attorney Avi Segal said in a statement that “unfortunately, the state is simply not telling the truth, but the police described in detail in its position the works [being done on Mercy Gate], which cannot be called minor.”
“What is more significant than installing a speaker for muezzin and placing new carpets?” he questioned. “The Waqf is not using hints, it is making the place a mosque, plain and simple."
"According to the law, it is forbidden to drive even one nail into an old building without the approval of the Ministerial Committee," Segal stressed. "And after all the details given by the police, the state [still] claims in the same breath that there is no place to issue an interim injunction to stop the work [taking place].”
“This is simply outrageous," he concluded.
Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman contributed to this report.
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