Orthodox tourists claim police prejudice

Say police discriminated against them by preventing entry to Temple Mount.

temple mount 224.88 (photo credit: Areil Jerozolimski [file])
temple mount 224.88
(photo credit: Areil Jerozolimski [file])
A group of Orthodox Jews visiting Israel from Los Angeles said Israeli police discriminated against them on religious grounds by preventing them from entering the Temple Mount Sunday. But police said the group failed to produce identification and were, therefore, not authorized to enter the Temple Mount area until they produced it. A group of eight, all congregants of the Sha'arey Zedek Synagogue, San Fernando Valley's largest orthodox synagogue, who were in Israel for a Bar Mitzva, blamed the police for discrimination. "About 30 seconds after we were detained a group of about 50 non-Jews were allowed to enter without ID," said Rabbi Aron Tendler, the rabbi of the synagogue. "The policemen at the entrance to the Mount told us that gentile tourists are usually not required to show ID, only religious Jews." A police spokesman rejected Tendler's accusation that police discriminated against the group because they were orthodox Jews, but admitted that police do conduct "selective" ID checks. "We try to single out potentially extremist elements," said the spokesman. "But the checks are not made to discourage anyone from entering the mount." The police spokesman added that it was impossible to check every person who enters the Temple Mount because it would cause delays. The group's tight itinerary prevented it from retrieving IDs and returning to the Mount, said Yossi Maimon, the group's tour guide. Tendler, grandson of the famous halachic authority Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, said that he and his congregants did not bring ID or other valuables with them because they had been at the mikveh [ritual bath] and were afraid that while they were immersing themselves their valuables would be left unguarded. According to Jewish law, it is necessary to purify oneself in a mikveh before entering the Temple Mount. Also, Tendler felt that it was preferable from a halachic point of view to leave all mundane items outside the Temple Mount out of respect for the holiness of the place. "We had no intention of making a political statement," said Tendler, who ventured that perhaps it was Bershert [Yiddish for 'it was meant to be']. "But nevertheless the incident left me incredulous. The holiest place to the Jewish people does not belong to us." Tendler said that one of the non-Jewish tourists who was allowed to enter the Temple Mount without ID was incredulous also. "You mean they let us go up but they are not letting you go up even though this is a Jewish state?"