Photo Credit: Maayan Berebi / TPS
Jews on the Temple Mount on the first day of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan 2022, under police protection from Arab extremists on the site.

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court handed down a ruling on Sunday that it is permissible for Jews to recite the “Shema Yisrael” prayer and to bow on the Temple Mount,” Israel’s Channel 12 News reported Sunday night.

The Palestinian Authority Foreign Affairs Ministry responded to the ruling with a swift, brief statement that warned, “Giving Jews the opportunity to pray in al-Aqsa is a declaration of religious war and crosses all red lines.”

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Tom Nisani, director general of the “In Our Hands for the Temple Mount” organization, said in a statement responding to the decision, “We have always said there is no law that prohibits Jews from praying — that is, to say, ‘Shema Yisrael’ and other passages — on the Temple Mount…The judge simply ruled according to the laws of the state. This is another milestone, on the long path to the return of the Temple Mount to the People of Israel.”

Temple Mount activist Arnon Segal called on Israelis to come to the Temple Mount “from tomorrow” following the announcement. “From tomorrow, free prayer on the Temple Mount for the Jews. Come one and all. After immersion in the mikveh and without leather shoes,” Segal wrote.

The decision was handed down after an appeal to the court over the arrest last week of three boys who were arrested by Israel Police for reciting the “Shema” and bowing during a visit to the Temple Mount. The boys received a 15-day restraining order barring them from the Old City of Jerusalem following their arrest.

Israel Police claimed in an application for restrictive conditions that the boys’ conduct could lead to a ‘violation of public peace.’

For years, Jews have been barred from bringing religious articles on to the Temple Mount, considered one of the holiest in the Jewish faith and third holiest in Islam. Jews have been barred from bowing, praying and in some cases in past years, even arrested for doing as much as simply moving their lips soundlessly, in fear of provoking the Arab extremists on the site and elsewhere.

“In my opinion, it is not possible to say that bowing and reciting Shema constitutes a reasonable suspicion of conduct that might lead to a breach of peace, as required by law,” Justice Tzion Sharai wrote in his ruling.

The judge substantiated his decision by quoting a statement last month during the holy Islamic month of Ramadan by Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai.

“The Temple Mount is open,” Shabtai said. “The Israel Police allows all residents of the country and the territories who come to the Temple Mount to pray and observe their worship.”

Referring to Shabtai’s words, Justice Sharai wrote, “In these circumstances, a public statement by the Commissioner of Police that clearly and unequivocally states all residents of the state are allowed to ascend the Temple Mount and practice their religion, implies a call to all those who wish to do so.

“As a result of the public call by the Commissioner of Police and in accordance with the Law on the Protection of Holy Places, [the three boys] cannot be suspected of committing a criminal offense,” the justice wrote.

In response to the ruling, Honenu Attorney Nati Rom – who filed the appeal – said the organization is “very happy with the decision.

“The time has come for the Israeli police to start enforcing and arresting rioters and people who commit crimes in Jerusalem, to protect the city’s residents, and to stop dealing with esoteric problems while blatantly violating the religious freedom of the Jews on the Temple Mount,” Rom said.

“The Israel Police knows that this is not a criminal offense, so they are trying to claim all kinds of different and strange offenses against those who ascend the Temple Mount. We are happy with the clear court decision; it is time for police to stop harassing Jewish visitors to the mountain.”

The current Israeli government apparently wasn’t happy with the ruling. The government released the following statement:

“There is no change, nor is any change planned, on the status quo of the Temple Mount.

 The Magistrate Court’s decision is focused exclusively on the matter of conduct of the minors brought before it, and does not include a broader determination regarding the freedom of worship on the Temple Mount.

With regard to the specific criminal case in question, the government was informed that the State will file an appeal to the District Court.”

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.