Photo Credit: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett attends a plenum session in the Knesset, July 12, 2021.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Sunday thanked Minister of Internal Security Omer Barlev and Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai for their excellent management of the ascent of the Jews to the Temple Mount on the occasion of the Tisha B’Av fast. About 1,600 Jews went up to the mountaintop. Bennett stressed, in a statement that his spokesman also distributed in Arabic, that freedom of worship on the Temple Mount will be fully preserved for Muslims as well, come their Feast of the Sacrifice on Tuesday.

Who can imagine a more ecumenical, democratic, accepting statement, embracing all the people of God in the holy city, on the holy mountain… And, naturally, everything went horse-puckey in a matter of minutes.

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There was this one: “The presidency of Palestine strongly denounced and categorically rejected statements by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, in which he said that freedom of worship of Jews and Muslims must be preserved at Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites located in occupied Jerusalem.”

Joint Arab List MK Ahmad Tibi arguing with police outside the Temple Mount on Tisha B’Av, July 18, 2021. / Jamal Awad/Flash90

There was Bennett’s own Minister for Regional Cooperation, Issawi Frej, who announced at the beginning of Monday’s cabinet meeting that he objects to Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount. Mind you, Frej is a far-left socialist and not a frequent visitor at his local mosque, but still insisted: “I support the prayer of every person everywhere, but the Temple Mount has a status quo and should be respected. Period.”

Minister Barlev, another socialist in the Bennett government, announced: “If Jews pray on the Temple Mount – it is clearly against the law. In the past, too, there were Jews who ascended the Temple Mount under the guise of touring and praying. It is against the law. ”

The minister is wrong. There is no law against Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, there’s a 54-year history of contradictory orders by a long list of governments that, after all is said and done, try to mitigate a situation whereby a hundred thousand Arabs are ready, willing, and able to storm the Temple Mount with judgment day violence should their ownership of the compound be put in question, while on the other side there are a few thousand Jews ready to show up.

According to the Temple Organizations Headquarters, regular daily prayers are being held on the Temple Mount for several months now, and there’s a daily morning Kollel. They have been kept out of sight and news reports on this wonderful phenomenon have been discouraged. Now there’s no more hiding the fact that Jews are, indeed, praying on the Temple Mount, under police protection, and that this hasn’t harmed any Muslim’s concentration on their own prayers as long as no one told them.

The Islamic Movement’s Ra’am party announced: “The Al-Aqsa Mosque (which is how Muslims refer these days to the Temple Mount – they used to call it Bait al-Maqdis-literally Beit Hamikdash, the Hebrew name of the Holy Temple – DI) is an exclusive right of Muslims and no one else has any right to it.” The Islamic Movement and the Ra’am Party warned against the entry of a large number of Jews to the compound which constitutes their invasion and the violation of the sanctity of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Ra’am chairman MK Mansour Abbas said that his party sent a clear message to Prime Minister Bennett regarding this “invasion” during Tisha B’Av, and the Islamic Movement and Ra’am warned about serious consequences “in the mosque plaza that is fully Islamic-owned in all its 35.5 acres.” They also warned “of the singing of the national anthem Hatikva in the Al-Aqsa Mosque plaza.” One of those singers was Yamina MK Amicha Chikli.

Former Ra’am chairman and member of the religious al-Shura council Masud Ghnaim said: “A government that’s deepening the occupation of the Al-Aqsa Mosque should go to a thousand hells.”

Jordan, which views itself as the custodian of the Temple Mount, is not too happy either. Between the Temple Mount Jewish prayers and Bennett’s remarks, and Bennett publicly revealing that he and Jordan’s king Abdullah secretly held a meeting the other week, something the Jordanians still haven’t publicly acknowledged, Bennett’s batting a thousand.

And so, on Monday, the prime minister’s office issued a clarification saying that Bennett meant that Jews were allowed to visit the Temple Mount but not pray there – he chose the wrong words, the anonymous official source explained.

He sure did, and he will deserve every humiliation he must now endure from the folks in the right-wing opposition parties—not so much the Haredi parties who are officially against visiting the Temple Mount in principle (despite their constituents having set up regular, twice-daily Temple Mount minyan and a morning Kollel as well), but MKs Smotrich and Ben-Gvir, oh, can I hear it coming.

We just received the first—but by no stretch the last—attack by Otzma Yehudit chairman MK Itamar Ben Gvir: “This morning we received another clarification of how a coalition based on Mansour Abbas is being run. The Islamic movement demands and Bennett folds. Yesterday, Bennett emphasized the right of worship for Jews as well, and this morning this right ‘disappeared.'”

“But this will not help Bennett or Abbas,” Ben-Gvir continued with his favorite daily sport, dumping on Naftali. “The pilgrims to the Temple Mount will continue to pray on the mountaintop and express their connection to the holiest place for the Jewish people despite the rage of the members of the Islamic Movement and their partner – the Prime Minister of Israel.”

Could the right-wing bloc embarrass Bennett into ordering the cops to turn a blind eye on the Jews who pray on the Temple Mount? This issue is way more important to Bennett’s voters than most because Jews should be allowed by right to pray wherever they wish, and especially in the liberated courtyard of our Holy Temples.

Also, the start of the blessed practice of praying regularly again on the Temple Mount—which was crushed by the Labor government in 1968 (Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren built a little shul up there)—is credited to Benjamin Netanyahu, under whose rule those prayers have been renewed (Attorney Aviad Visoli: We Held Mincha Prayer with a Minyan on Temple Mount Tuesday). Say what you will about Bibi, when he does the right thing the sky sometimes opens.

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.