Photo Credit: Yaacov Ben Moshe/TPS
Jews on the Temple Mount on Tisha B'Av. July 30, 2020

Israeli Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev declared Sunday after a meeting with top security officials that the Temple Mount in Jerusalem — site of the two fallen Holy Temples and one of the most sacred sites in Judaism — will remain open for visits by non-Muslims, “but not for prayer.”

The site, known in Arabic as ‘Haram es-Sharif’ (the Noble Sanctuary), is the third holiest site in Islam.

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The meeting included Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai, Jerusalem District Commander Doron Turgeman and other senior police officers as well as representatives from the Foreign Ministry, the National Security Council and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).

In a statement issued by Bar Lev’s office following the meeting, the public security ministry said:

“During the meeting (on Sunday) the ‘status quo’ was presented to Minister Bar Lev regarding everything to do with Jewish and Muslims prayer on the Temple Mount as determined by the Israeli government in 1967, in accordance with which Jews prayed at the Western wall and Muslims on the Temple Mount.

“In accordance with the [1967] status quo, the Temple Mount will be open for visits by non-Muslims but not for prayer.”

Israel Police “stringently upholds the status quo on the Temple Mount,” which is holy to both Jews and Muslims, the statement said.

“In everything that is connected to visiting and prayer on the Temple Mount, it is important to be strict regarding the continuation of the status quo as the government of Israel established in 1967, immediately after the Six Day War, and adopted by Israeli governments ever since.

“There is a clear interest for the State of Israel to preserve cooperation with the Jordanian Waqf,” the statement added.

Discreet Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount began around 2018, with the tacit approval of then-Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan. The Israeli High Court of Justice has upheld Jewish rights to pray on the sacred site – in theory – but also allowed Israel Police wide discretion in determining whether such a right is pre-empted by the threat of violence by Muslim worshipers.

In a response, Tom Nisani of the ‘B’Yadeynu Lema’an Har HaBayit’ (In Our Hands for the Temple Mount’ organization, “Minister Bar Lev certainly knows that the status quo in a democratic state is freedom of religious for its citizens and not clear discrimination and activity against Jewish citizens seeking to exercise their religious rights.

“It is difficult to escape this,” Nisani said. “I suggest that the minister and police cooperate with the citizens of their country and not with a foreign and hostile power that attacks police officers and citizens on the Mount.

“As a matter of fact, this very announcement is an invitation for more pressure and more surrender,” Nisani added.

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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.