Temple Mount: Court upholds ban on Jewish prayer

The court overturned a ruling by a lower court earlier this week which caused a great deal of controversy.

Jews visit the Temple Mount on Tisha B'Av, 2019 (photo credit: HAIM KROIZER/JOINT HEADQUARTERS OF TEMPLE MOUNT ORGANIZATIONS)
Jews visit the Temple Mount on Tisha B'Av, 2019
(photo credit: HAIM KROIZER/JOINT HEADQUARTERS OF TEMPLE MOUNT ORGANIZATIONS)

The Jerusalem district court upheld the ban on Jewish prayer on Temple Mount overturning a ruling by a lower court issued earlier this week that appeared to have allowed such activity.

“There is no need to overstate the sensitivity of the Temple Mount, which is one of the most explosive places in the Middle East if not the whole world,” wrote Judge Einat Avman-Moller late Wednesday night."

"It has to be weighed against other interests such as the preservation of public order, public peace and security."

Judge Einat Avman-Moller on Jewish prayer on Temple Mount

There has been pressure in recent years from right-wing activists and politicians to allow Jewish prayer at the site, known to Muslims as Al-Haram al-Sharif. It's a move that has sparked protest in the international community, especially among Palestinians and in the Arab world.

A Jerusalem Magistrates Court ruling by Judge Zion Sahrai, which appeared to uphold the right of Jews to pray silently at the site, sparked outrage and caused Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to appeal.

Avman-Moller accepted the appeal and upheld the right of the police to press criminal charges against three minors who threw themselves onto the ground of the Temple Mount and uttered the prayer Shema Yisrael.

 THE DENIAL PHENOMENON of the Palestinian Authority, that Jews have no connection to the Temple Mount or Jerusalem, increases. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90) THE DENIAL PHENOMENON of the Palestinian Authority, that Jews have no connection to the Temple Mount or Jerusalem, increases. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Is Temple Mount under Israeli sovereignty?

She also upheld the right of the police to impose a 15-day ban on the three from visiting the site.

Sahrai had tossed out the police charges, explaining that no criminal activity had occurred. Uttering Shema Yisrael on the Temple Mount, he said, did not constitute criminal activity.

He clarified that this ruling was limited solely to this specific case, and was not meant to be interpreted at a policy level. He based his ruling in part on a statement by police chief Kobi Shabtai, which said that all residents of Israel and the Palestinian territories could pray there. The minors, Sahrai explained, would have understood based on that statement that their actions were legitimate.

Avman-Moller disputed the idea that a statement by the police chief could have more weight than the clearly known rules of the site that prohibit such activity.

The restrictions were explained to the minors prior to their entry, but they still threw themselves on the ground, prayed and yelled at the police, she wrote.

Attorney Nati Rom, who represented the minors on behalf of the right-wing organization Honenu, said the ruling brought into question the independence of the judiciary.

In the aftermath of Sahrai’s ruling, there was “an insane campaign of pressure and threats” that came from politicians, the media and terror organizations that “violated the independence of the judiciary.”

He referenced the famous quote, “The Temple Mount is in our hands,” uttered by Lt.-Gen. Mordechai “Motta” Gur after IDF forces captured the Temple Mount during the 1967 Six Day War.

Fifty-five years “after we liberated the Temple Mount,” Rom said, “it is not clear that it is still in our hands.”