Photo Credit: Olivier Fitoussi /Flash90
Attorney Itamar Ben Gvir arguing with police officer, June 17, 2008.

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Monday issued a precedent-setting ruling that crying “Am Yisrael Chai” (the nation of Israel is alive) on the Temple Mount is not considered prayer and thus may be performed publicly in the holy compound. Judge Mordechai Burstein ruled that the plaintiff, attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir, was detained illegally after calling out the popular slogan on the Temple Mount and that he is entitled to compensation from the police to the tune of 6,000 shekel ($1,700).

“This is a beautiful gift from the court for Independence Day,” Ben-Gvir said outside the court room, but added: “The time has come to allow the Jews to pray in the place the cherish the most.”

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About two and a half years ago, Ben-Gvir entered the Temple Mount after waiting an hour and a half in a segregated queue for non-Muslims. When he entered, Waqf employees began to call out at his group of Jewish visitors, “Allahhu Akbar.” Ben Gvir called back at them, “Am Yisrael Chai.” A police officer standing nearby detained Gvir for questioning claiming that he had violated the law.

Ben Gvir was detained for three hours, following which he filed a suit against the Waqf and Israel Police on the grounds that he was segregated against at the entrance to the Temple Mount and then detained illegally by the officer.

A year and a half ago, the court ruled against the Waqf, which did not file a defense and was ordered to pay plaintiff 50,000 shekel ($14,200).

The judge ruled that “an examination of the plaintiff’s conduct shows that there was no reason to detain him and that the detention was unlawful. Plaintiff was entitled to appeal to the police and complain against the Waqf. In the course of the tour and afterwards the cries of “Allahu Akbar” were heard, and there was nothing wrong with calling out [in return] “The nation of Israel is alive” and no offense involved.”

The judge added that Ben-Gvir had not been warned before his detention and that in any case there was no cause for it, especially after “one of the Muslim female visitors had cursed a Jew in Arabic and told ‘Go away, dog,’ and when the Jew asked police for her information, the police refused to take down her information and did not bother to detain the woman.”

At the same time, the judge rejected plaintiff’s claim of discrimination at the entrance to the Temple Mount via the separate queue for Jews and tourists, ruling plaintiff had failed to prove arbitrariness in the exercise of discretion and abuse of the Jewish visitors.

One thing is clear – the next group of Jewish visitors on the Temple Mount must send us the video of their proud A cappella of Reb Shlomo Carlebach’s classic:

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