Court upholds prayer rights outside Temple Mount gates

The judge ruled that the girls had every right to pray at the site and rejected a request by the police to place a restraining order on them from the Old City for 90 days.

March 26, 2018 01:47
2 minute read.
Court upholds prayer rights outside Temple Mount gates

A general view of Jerusalem shows the Dome of the Rock, located in Jerusalem's Old City on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount December 6, 2017.. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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In a ruling published on Sunday, a judge in the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ruled that three girls who were arrested for praying outside one of the gates to the Temple Mount in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem were within their rights to do so.

The judge ruled that the girls had every right to pray at the site and rejected a request by the police to place a restraining order on them from the Old City for 90 days.

The incident took place on Thursday, March 8, and involved three religious, 14-year-old girls who went to pray outside the Forgiveness Gate, north of the Temple Mount, at 19:30 at night.

The police claim that the girls’ intention in praying at this specific site and this time was to disturb the peace and create a provocation, since the Islamic prayers on the Temple Mount finish at this time and many hundreds of Muslim worshipers leave the site and pass that spot on their return home.

The police also pointed out that all three girls had conducted similar activity in the days and weeks before the incident in question and had been issued restraining orders by the police, which they had violated on March 8.

The girls’ lawyer and far-right activist, attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir, argued in court that they had not violated any law in praying at the site and that their right to freedom of worship had been harmed when the police arrested them.

Ben-Gvir argued that the girls were not and should not be responsible for any violation of the public order, and that only those who seek to harm or infringe the rights of citizens who are not committing any crime should be arrested.

“This [phenomenon] began on the Temple Mount, is continuing into the Old City, and what is the next stage? Someone will take out a prayer book on Jaffa Street and will be told that this is a provocation?” challenged Ben-Gvir.

Judge Shmuel Harbest agreed.

“It is the right of every person in our country to pray in any place they want, including the streets of the city as long as they do not harm the rights of others in that place,” ruled the judge. “This is how it is in Jerusalem, Eilat, Tel Aviv, Haifa and every other place in the country.”

Harbest said that he did not see how the presence of the girls at the site could impede the freedom of movement or of worship of other citizens and residents who were also present, meaning the Muslim worshipers, and said it was “the responsibility of a democratic state” to allow the girls to be present at the site and pray there unimpeded.

Ben-Gvir welcomed the ruling, saying that the judge had prevented the country from sliding down a slippery slope and demonstrated that the police had no right to halt someone from praying.

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