WATCH: Regular Jewish prayers being held daily on Temple Mount

Police deny changes at the site, but video footage suggests blanket ban on non-Muslim prayer not enforced.

Prayer service being recited on the Temple Mount
Hebrew prayers are being recited daily on the Temple Mount with a quorum and with prayers said out loud, a revolution in the status quo at the holy site that has developed quietly over recent months in a sea-change from the prior blanket ban on non-Muslim prayer.
A group of regular worshipers comprised of Temple Mount activists visits the site every day for morning and afternoon prayers, and are joined by other visitors to the site who wish to pray.
Only certain parts of the morning prayer service are said at the site, while the afternoon prayers are recited in a slightly abridged form.
The prayer services are said discreetly and at a quickened, although not rushed, pace.
The regular group of worshipers recite the majority of the morning prayer service outside of the Temple Mount since this service needs to be said while wearing a prayer shawl and tefillin, which is not currently possible at the site.
But the repetition of the central “Amidah” (standing) section of Jewish prayer services is said out loud, along with other parts of the morning prayer service, taking about 15 minutes in total, according to Asaf Fried, a spokesman for an association of Temple Mount activist groups.
On Mondays and Thursday, when the Torah is read, the relevant portion is chanted by an individual from memory.
Prayer books may not be brought up to the site, but worshipers use digital versions on their cellphones.
The Hallel service said on Jewish holidays and the days marking the new moon is also recited by the prayer group.
The prayer services take place with a quorum of at least 10 Jewish men at the eastern side of the Temple Mount in front of the eastern gate of the Dome of the Rock Muslim shrine.
Until recently, police have prevented Jews and other non-Muslims from praying conspicuously on the Temple Mount out of a concern that such activity would stoke tensions and lead to violence from Muslim worshipers.
In the past, the police would routinely eject or detain any non-Muslim seen to be praying at the holy site, and this stance was mostly backed by the courts, which ruled that although in theory Jewish prayer was legal on the Temple Mount the police were entitled to prevent it due to security considerations.
But all this has changed in recent months.
According to Elishama Sandman, a spokesman for the Yeraeh Temple Mount visitation advocacy group, the prayer services have been taking place at least since Passover this year.
In August, Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan said that in his opinion “there is in an injustice in the status quo that has existed since ’67,” in reference to the general police prohibition on prayer at the Temple Mount.
“We need to work to change it so in the future, Jews with the help of God can pray at the Temple Mount,” he continued, adding however that this should be brought about via “political agreements, and not by force.”
Sandman said that the new situation was very welcome in light of the many years in which Jewish prayer has been completely banned and during which the police would remove a person from the Temple Mount for even the slightest sign that they were praying.
“As we have seen the Jewish people are coming back en masse to the Temple Mount, we have gradually seen a change in the police attitude to those visitors, so these new changes are very much in the merit of the increase in Jews coming to the site,” said Sandman.
He said however that the various Temple Mount activist groups are “not satisfied” with the new situation, and hope eventually that the prayer services can be more organized, and that prayer will be possible with prayer shawls, tefillin, prayer books and a Torah scroll.
“The ultimate vision is of course that the Temple be rebuilt on the Temple Mount,” he said.
A police spokesman said in response to a request for comment that “There are no changes on the Temple Mount situation as regards to the status quo.”
Requests for comment from the Internal Security Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office were not immediately answered.
Temple Mount activists have also recently embarked on a campaign to have the site opened for non-Muslim visitors on Shabbat.
Non-Muslims are currently not able to visit the site on Fridays and Saturdays, although prior to the year 2000, visits on Saturdays were possible.
Following Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount that year and the outbreak of the Second Intifada, the site was totally shut to non-Muslims. When it reopened in 2003, visits on Saturdays were not permitted.
This is still the situation today, but a group of some 30 activists has for the past few weeks held prayers outside the Chain Gate, one of the entrances to the Temple Mount complex inside the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.
The group includes women and children, and they walk to the Old City from various neighborhoods in Jerusalem, some an hour’s walk away. Members recite the Mussaf Shabbat service outside the gate and then hold a kiddush, where they eat kugel, herring and cookies, says Akavia Lerner, 53.
Lerner says that in the past, he used to go on long walks on Shabbat in Jerusalem, including going up to the Temple Mount, and says that there is no reason why Jews should not be allowed to pray at the site on Shabbat.
“Its not easy to go up to the Temple Mount during the working week. People are busy. So Shabbat is often the best time, yet it’s not permitted,” he said.
“How can it be that Jews can’t go up on Shabbat to this place? Where is our sovereignty?” he asked.
Lerner said that he and the other activists hoped that the greater demand there was for visits on Shabbat, and the more people who joined the prayer service outside of the Chain Gate, the more likely it would be that the Temple Mount would eventually be opened on Shabbat.