US’s Orthodox Union supports freedom of prayer for Jews on Temple Mount

"We urge all parties involved to abide by the law and by current regulations at the Temple Mount to reduce tensions at this volatile holy site," says Peace Now.

 Palestinians in front of the Dome of the Rock on Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City (photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinians in front of the Dome of the Rock on Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Orthodox Union, one of the US’s oldest and most prominent Jewish organizations, on Monday backed the Temple Institute’s campaign to demand equal freedom of prayer and visitation rights for Jewish visitors at the Temple Mount.
In the campaign, the institute demands MKs “stop anti-Jewish thuggery and racism on the Temple Mount” and insists that Jews cease being harassed by Muslim worshipers at the contested holy site.
The debate recently came to a head when a Jew was allegedly attacked by Muslims when he attempted to drink from a public water fountain there, and the police did not arrest those who attacked him.
Moreover, the institute alleges that Muslims have also shut down water during Jewish visiting hours.
“It has been reported that Muslims have now begun to shut off the water to the public drinking fountain for the duration of the three hours that Jews are allowed onto the Temple Mount in the morning, reopening the taps as soon as the Jews leave,” the institute wrote on its website.
“Ministers of the government of Israel, do you or do you not represent the democratic and Jewish values of the State of Israel?” it added. “Members of the Israel Knesset, do you or do you not intend to uphold the law in the Land of Israel and guarantee the basic freedom and dignity of all citizens?”
In response, on Monday the Orthodox Union called upon rabbis in the United States to support the campaign and educate their congregants about government-sanctioned religious inequity at Judaism’s holiest site, which is overseen by the Wakf Muslim religious trust.
Well advocating for changing the status quo, the Orthodox Union was careful not to endorse any particular position on Jewish prayer at the holy site.
 “The OU was neither endorsing entry upon the Har Habayit nor addressing the dispute surrounding the halachic permissibility of ascending the Har Habayit," The religious organization said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Americans for Peace Now responded to the OU’s support for the Temple Institute’s campaign for greater access to the Temple Mount with an endorsement of the current status quo.
“We reject and condemn violence and harassment, particularly at a holy site,” a spokesman told The Jerusalem Post.
“Muslims understandably feel threatened by visits to the al-Aksa compound, organized by an institute that strives to rebuild the Jewish Temple at a site that is the third holiest to Islam. We urge all parties involved – Muslims, Jews, and others – to abide by the law and by current regulations at the Temple Mount to reduce tensions at this volatile holy site.”
Agudath Israel of America, the OU’s haredi counterpart, likewise disagreed with the OU’s position.
Leading religious scholars “have made clear that it is forbidden to Jews at present to enter the premises,” said spokesman Rabbi Avi Shafran.
Only when the Messiah comes will Jews, “duly purified and prepared,” ascend the mount.
Prayer is not the only issue regarding the Temple Mount on American Jews’ minds.
Without addressing the issue of Jewish prayer at the contested site, Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center told the Post that he feels that the current status quo has to be changed inasmuch as the Wakf allows anti-Semitic incitement to be spread there.
Citing a recent case in which a preacher at the al-Aksa Mosque blamed the Holocaust on European resentment of the Jews’ alleged use of Christian blood in their Passover matzot, Cooper said that it is hard to understand “how Israel would allow the kind of anti-Semitic incitement that goes on” there.
Israel “would have preferred a status quo, but when you have a status quo where Jew hatred runs rampant, that is not acceptable either,” he asserted, calling for Israel to take up the issue seriously with Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.
Well advocating for changing the status quo, the orthodox union was careful not to endorse any particular position on Jewish prayer at the holy site. 
 
 “The OU was neither endorsing entry upon the Har Habayit nor addressing the dispute surrounding the halachic permissibility of ascending the Har Habayit," The religious organization said in a statement.