Discreet Jewish prayer services on the Temple Mount are continuing despite comments by Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev earlier this week that non-Muslim prayer is not permitted.
On Wednesday, 118 Jews visited the site, 80 in the alloted morning hours and 38 in the afternoon, according to the Committee of Temple Organizations.
On Sunday, Bar Lev held a meeting with senior police officials and issued a statement to the press afterward noting the so-called status quo on the Temple Mount since 1967 in which non-Muslim prayer has been banned by the police and government policy.
“In accordance with this situation, the Temple Mount will be open for visitation by non-Muslims but not for prayer,” continued the statement, with Bar Lev himself saying, “It is important to be strict over the continuation of the customary situation as the government of Israel established in 1967.”
Since then, however, 108 Jewish visitors went up to the site on Monday and 118 on Wednesday.
The Temple Mount was closed to non-Muslim visitors on Tuesday because of a minor Muslim holiday.
Asaf Fried, a spokesman for the Committee of Temple Organizations, said that the situation at the site for Jewish visitation and prayer was unchanged since Bar Lev’s comments.
“The Temple Mount is calm and quiet, every Jew who comes up can pray quietly, and this continues on the Temple Mount all the time,” said Fried.
A spokesman for Bar Lev said the minister’s comments on Sunday did not include “quiet prayer” since the police could not enforce a ban on prayer that is said “in someone’s heart.”
For many years since the Temple Mount and the Old City of Jerusalem were captured by Israel in the Six Day War, Israeli government policy has been to prevent Jewish prayer out of a concern that allowing it would spark severe violence by Palestinians and create tensions with neighboring Arab countries.
For several years, however, the police have allowed Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount to pray quietly and discreetly in a minyan (quorum) of 10 men and more, in an unobtrusive area of the site.
Prayer shawls and tefillin are not permitted in such services, however, nor is prostration or bowing of any kind.
The Wakf Islamic religious trust, which runs the site, is fully aware of these prayer services, as is the Jordanian government.
A recent ruling earlier this month by the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, which seemingly gave legal standing to such prayer by annulling a police decision to ban an individual from the site for praying, was hotly protested by the Jordanian Foreign Ministry, as well as the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.
The ruling was subsequently overturned by the Jerusalem District Court.