Thus, we must entertain the likelihood that Jews did pray on the Temple Mount at various times since the destruction. Certainly, however, since about the 1600s, Jewish prayer has not been held at the holy site. This was the “status quo” – until the Six-Day War of 1967.
This miraculous war brought about the unification of Jerusalem, our return to the Western Wall, and, for the first time since Bar Kochba, Jewish control over the site of the Holy Temple. One of the first things Israel did with this prize was, at the initiative of then-defense minister Moshe Dayan, to relinquish most of it, giving day-to-day control back to the Muslim Waqf (religious trust).
Still, however, some Jewish visitation rights were ensured. In fact, Dayan instituted the following rules after the Six-Day War (based on research by Jerusalem expert and Keep Jerusalem Advisory Board member Nadav Shragai):
- Jews are permitted to visit the Temple Mount, but forbidden to pray there.
- Israel’s police maintain law and order in the sacred compound.
- Israeli sovereignty and law is applied to the Temple Mount, as to the other parts of Jerusalem.
Other rules added later stipulated that Jews and other non-Muslims would enter the Mount only via the Mughrabi Gate, located at the center of the Western Wall, and that flags may not be unfurled on the Mount.
The situation today would be barely recognizable even to Dayan. For one thing, the “unrestricted Jewish visits” have been replaced by strict hours: Jews may ascend for three hours in the morning and one in the afternoon, only five days a week. Even these few hours are often removed from the Jewish itinerary when Arab incitement and unrest portends violence in the area.
In addition, religious Jews may not visit in large groups, and are often forced to wait for hours until those in front of them in line have completed their visits. Even then, they frequently are not allowed in.
Want to wave a flag? If it’s a Hamas or Palestinian Authority banner, no problem; the ban is enforced only in the case of Israeli flags.
Thus, when Israel is pressured to retain the “status quo” on the Temple Mount, it should respond, “Fine – we’ll take the ‘status quo’ as set by Moshe Dayan in 1967” – restoring full Israeli sovereignty to the holy site, full authority to Israel’s police to act to maintain law and order, and the option of full Jewish accessibility.
This is crucial not only for the sake of emphasizing and actualizing the intrinsic and historical Jewish rights and bonds to the Mount, and not only in order to guarantee freedom of religion for all. Most essentially, it is a key step in guaranteeing the integrity of Jerusalem and strengthening it as the eternal capital of Israel and the Jewish people.
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