On Sunday morning, Haaretz reporter Nir Hasson tweeted a video of National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir leaning on a short wall on the Temple Mount, reading from his smartphone, with the accusatory headline: “Praying.”
— نير حسون Nir Hasson ניר חסון (@nirhasson) May 21, 2023
Indeed, on Sunday, Minister Ben Gvir visited the Temple Mount for the second time since taking his post, and said: “We are the owners of Jerusalem and the entire Land of Israel.” Jordan condemned the visit, calling it a “flagrant violation” of the status quo.
The status quo, established by the Jordanian Wakf agency in the summer of 1967, after the then-Defense Minister gave it the keys to the Temple Mount, prohibits Jews from praying on the Temple Mount. However, in recent years the police have stopped enforcing the prohibition and refrain from arresting Jews who pray in the eastern corner of the compound. Waqf guards who tried to interfere with the prayers were arrested and removed from the compound. Like Ben Gvir in the video, visiting Jews don’t carry siddurim which the police would confiscate, but read the prayers and psalms quietly from their mobile phones.
It was Rosh Chodesh Sivan, five days before the festival of Shavuot, and Ben Gvir proclaimed: “Happy to go up to the Temple Mount, the most important place for the people of Israel. It should be said that the police are doing a wonderful job here and once again proving who is the landlord of Jerusalem. All the threats of Hamas will not help, we are the owners of Jerusalem and the entire Land of Israel.”
Ben Gvir then reminded his partner and ally in the coalition, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, without calling him by name: “We need to remember our brothers in the Negev and the Galilee. In the upcoming budget, we must invest in the Negev and the Galilee. Jerusalem is our soul, the Negev and the Galilee are our soul, we must invest, we must operate there, we must be the owners of both the Negev and the Galilee, and the basis for it is the budget.”
Last Wednesday, Ben Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit MKs abandoned the plenum, allowing two opposition bills to be passed in a preliminary reading, over what Otzma members explained was not a single incident but their response to a deep crisis that exists between ben Gvir and Smotrich over the promised and undelivered higher budgets promised the Ministry of the Negev and the Galilee, under Otzma Minister Yitzhak Wasserlauf.
Jordan’s state news agency Petra reported that “dozens of Jewish extremist settlers, led by Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, on Sunday stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque / al-Haram al-Sharif compound in occupied East Jerusalem, under the heavy protection of Israeli escort.
“The settlers carried out today’s raids through al-Magharebah Gate in successive groups, toured the mosque’s yards, listened to explanations about the purported ‘Temple Mount’, and provocatively performed their Talmudic rituals in the eastern section of the compound.”
I say, if you must perform your Talmudic rituals, might as well be provocative about it.