Photo Credit: Hozrim La'Har on Facebook
Hozrim La'Har activists pray on the Temple Mount (as Jews) on Rosh Hashanah, 2021.

Two “Temple Mount Mista’arvim” who were arrested in their homes by the Jerusalem Police Wednesday will be brought before a judge on Thursday. The detainees are Temple Mount activists who last week starred in a Channel 13 News report that put to shame the Jerusalem Police and the discriminatory policy it enforces at the Temple Mount compound. Meet the Temple Mount Mista’arvim…

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The video is in Hebrew, but here’s the gist of it: The Hozrim La’Har (Returning to the Temple Mount) movement has been training Jewish activists to pose as Muslims – and pious Muslims at that – so they can enter the compound through the gates the Arabs use at all hours of the day and night – instead of the single gate that’s open to Jews for a restricted number of hours.

If you subscribe to Netflix and watched the show Fauda, you know about the Mista’arvim, counter-terrorism units of the IDF, Border Police, and Israel Police who operate undercover in Arab cities in Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip. These units are specifically trained to assimilate into the local Arab population to gather intelligence and make arrests. The Mista’arvim course takes four months and covers everything from learning Arabic, becoming thoroughly familiar with Arab traditions and ways of thinking, to dyeing the cadets’ hair, picking dark contact lenses, and picking a passable Arab attire.

Hozrim La’Har Chairman Refael Morris teaches all of that to his group of activists who are eager to pray on the Temple Mount and enjoy the unlimited access that Muslim believers do. In some ways, the risk they would endure, standing in a long line of Muslims with their prayer rugs on the ground before them, is even bigger than those Duvdevan fighters who can rely on their weapons should they be discovered. Imagine getting caught davening the Amida prayer inside a mob of hundreds of Arabs…

The police are aware of this group, which isn’t trying to conceal its activities. Several attempts of the members to pray disguised as Muslims have been thwarted, but a few have made it and prayed to Hashem the way you’re supposed to at the Temple Mount: prostrated before His Holiness, just as we do on Yom Kippur.

The two detainees, one of them was Refael Morris (he was picked up during his child’s birthday), were interrogated at the Jerusalem Police Station on suspicion of entering a place of worship or burial without permission, a violation of the Penal Code. The Police want them prosecuted for unauthorized entry to a place of worship with the intention of harming a person’s feelings or degrading his religion, an offense punishable by 3 years in prison. The cops searched Morris’s home. Were they looking for prayer beads? How many years do you serve for hoarding religious items belonging to a different religion?

The court will have to decide whether a Jew needs permission to join a Muslim prayer crowd and whether praying with his fellow monotheists constitutes an attempt to hurt their feelings or degrade their faith. If the court allows this to go on, it should make for a fantastic Supreme Court petition on the nature of prayer and the boundaries the state may impose on the spiritual pursuits of an individual living in a democracy. Delicious.

The detainees are represented by Attorney Nati Rom of the Honenu legal aid society, who said it’s all about the cops’ bruised egos after the Channel 13 report. “This is an outrageous arrest that befits dark regimes. A person is taped for a report without concealing his identity and without having committed any criminal offense and the Israeli police not only interrogate him but do so at his home, instead of summoning him for interrogation in an orderly manner,” Rom said.

“The detainees did not violate public order at all and did not violate the law at all,” Rom said. “It’s, unfortunately, the police who violate public order and the law, shut mouths, violate freedom of expression, and trample on every human right.”

Incidentally, this reporter is not a rabbi and so I should not be made to answer the obvious question: how can a Jews set foot as they are, carrying the tumah of the dead, in the parts of the Temple Mount compound where the Holiest Sanctuary once stood. They dip in the mikvah, but there’s the whole part with the ashes of a red heifer they must be sprinkled with – and Jewish history is currently fresh out of red heifer ashes. But you know, I shared the video with a Haredi friend of mine who said in response: “Awesome!”

Update: The court was about to release the two on Thursday afternoon, on condition they stay away from the Temple Mount and Old City and don’t contact others in the video for 30 days, as well as posting financial guarantees. To prevent their release, the police appealed the court’s decision. The court will decide later in the day how it plans to proceed.

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.