The issue of whether or not to allow Jews to pray on the Temple Mount is bound to come up for heated discussion before the elections March 17, but a rarely shown photograph proves that Jews once managed to pray there with a minyan, the minimum of 10 men needed for public prayer.
Jewish Home Knesset Member Uri Ariel and Likud MK Moshe Feiglin have been the most prominent legislators insisting that Israel change the “status quo” and allow Jews to pray at the holy site.
The official status quo, as reported here several weeks ago, has been replaced by a new status quo in which Jews still are not allowed to pray on the Temple Mount but also are restricted in their visits, even without praying.
The police implemented the new and unofficial status quo by limiting the number of Jews at the site and often closing it to Jews for reasons of “security,” meaning they don’t want to deal with Muslim rioters.
The 1995 peace treaty between Israel and Jordan not only does not specifically prohibit prayer by non-Muslims but also leaves it open as a possibility.
Paragraph 3 of the treaty states:
The Parties will act together to promote interfaith relations among the three monotheistic religions, with the aim of working towards religious understanding, moral commitment, freedom of religious worship, and tolerance and peace.
Regardless, the government policy not long after the Six-Day War in 1967 was to ban Jews form praying there. However, visiting was common.
Amos A., now in his 60s, told The Jewish Press that his father took him to all of the holy sites where Jordan had barred Jews. ”We went to the Patriarchs Cave in Hevron, Rachel’s Tomb at Bethlehem and the Temple Mount. No one said a word.”
He added that he and his father did not pray on the Temple Mount.
At that time, the Chief Rabbinate ruled that it is forbidden for Jews even to visit the Temple Mount, because of all kinds of issues of impurity and prohibitions of any Jew to walk on the ruins over the area where the High Priest entered only once a year, on Yom Kippur.
Very few rabbis were willing to question the opinion of the Rabbinate at the time, but that has changed in recent years. There now is an increasing number of prominent national religious rabbis who permit walking in certain areas of the holy site. Some also permit praying on condition of immersion in a ritual bath beforehand
Around 1980, give or take year, a group of 10 Jewish men, some posing as tourists, formed a minyan and prayed on the Temple Mount, as seen in the photograph above.
Yisrael Medad, a resident of Samaria, a former activist and now a blogger whose writing also appears on The Jewish Press, was one of the 10 men who formed a minyan.
The prayer service took place between 1979 and 1981, as he recalls. The picture shows nine men, with Medad on the far right. The 10th men was the photographer.
“It was one of the very, very few times that Jews have prayed on the Temple Mount,” Medad told The Jewish Press. “The group sneaked in and was able to pray until a Muslim guard was getting very upset and told us to stop. We motioned to him to wait because we were in the middle of the Amidah prayer,” the silent prayer in which interruptions are not allowed.
Medad said the guard “may have simply thought we were just looking around and not praying, but when he realized what was happening, he called the police, who hauled the men away.”