Police arrest Jewish Temple Mount 'infiltrators' dressed as Muslims

Police have arrested members of a Jewish group who disguised themselves as Muslims in order to freely enter the Temple Mount.

  Jewish visitors on the Temple Mount on Wednesday. (photo credit: TEMPLE MOUNT ADMINISTRATION)
Jewish visitors on the Temple Mount on Wednesday.
(photo credit: TEMPLE MOUNT ADMINISTRATION)

Police have arrested two members of a group of Jewish Israelis who pretend to be Muslims in order to "infiltrate" onto the Temple Mount and pray after the group was uncovered in a report by Channel 13.

Jews are forbidden by Israel Police regulations from praying or bringing religious items on the Temple Mount. While the High Court of Justice has ruled that Jews have the right to pray at the site, it has also ruled that the right is superseded by the potential risk to national security it poses.

The group learns Arabic and Muslim traditions and dresses in Muslim religious attire in order to enter the Temple Mount freely and then pray on the Temple Mount. A video report by Channel 13 showed an instructor teaching youths how to dress and act in order to enter the Temple Mount freely.

"There are five basic things that we will learn and invest in. The first is language. The second is behavior. Within the area of the Old City, we do not act like Jews. There is an east Jerusalem street culture that we need to act according to. We will also learn about Islam itself, the verses and the surah that they say in prayer," said the instructor in a recording published by Channel 13.

Police work intensively to combat the group, often bringing them to court and even jailing them for a number of days.

 SECURITY FORCES guard Jews visiting the Temple Mount on Tisha Be'av, a day of mourning the destruction of the Holy Temple (credit: JAMAL AWAD/FLASH90) SECURITY FORCES guard Jews visiting the Temple Mount on Tisha Be'av, a day of mourning the destruction of the Holy Temple (credit: JAMAL AWAD/FLASH90)

In a closed discussion with Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev, Shin Bet officials stated that they "are concerned about an 'extreme scenario,' in which a large group of Jews will conduct a coordinated attempt to enter the Temple Mount in order to hold open and full prayer which will lead to a violent flare-up at the site," according to Channel 13.

The two members of the group who were arrested will be brought to the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on Thursday for a hearing to extend their arrest. Police intend to place charges of intent to harm the feelings of a person or to exaggerate his religion, meaning they could face up to three years in prison.

"This is an outrageous arrest appropriate for dark regimes," said attorney Nati Rom from the Honenu organization to Channel 13. "A person is photographed for an article without his identity being concealed and without having committed any criminal offense and Israel Police not only interrogate him, but do so in custody at his home, instead of inviting him for questioning in an orderly manner."

In October, the Jerusalem Magistrates Court ruled that quiet prayer was allowed on the Temple Mount, although a few days later the Jerusalem District Court accepted an appeal by Israel Police against the ruling, stating that any "religious/ritual activities having external, visible characteristics" were forbidden on the Temple Mount.

The judge refused to issue a decision concerning the exact definition of "religious/ritual activities having external, visible characteristics" nor whether the definition has room for any flexibility.

At the time, Bar Lev expressed strong opposition to Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, saying that "a change in the status quo will endanger the public peace and could cause a flare-up."

Quiet Jewish prayer at the site has seemingly been unofficially allowed since 2019, when police stopped halting Jewish prayer as long as it was quiet and in an isolated area of the Temple Mount.