Photo Credit: Sliman Khader/Flash90
Arabs conclude Friday prayers outside the Gate of Mercy, March 1, 2019.

On Wednesday, in response to a petition submitted by the Regavim movement to the High Court of Justice, demanding the immediate closure of the mosque that had been established in recent months at the Sha’ar HaRachamim (Lit. Gate of Mercy, a.k.a. Golden Gate) on the Temple Mount, the state asked the court to reject the demand for an interim order to stop the work at the site.

Current photo of the Gate of Mercy structure from a Facebook page of a Muslim worshiper sent by Regavim, June 2, 2019.

The state claimed that the Jordanian caretaker agency Waqf has so far carried out only “a few minor jobs” in the forbidden area, and that “the introduction of prayer paraphernalia to the place has been prevented.”

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But the police stated that the work was not so minor, and included “replacing a muezzin’s loudspeaker, installing a number of lighting fixtures, replacing an electrical cabinet, replacing carpets, and repairing a number of cracks in the structure.”

Police added that the work took place when mass prayers were being held in the compound, with no police presence. Police also noted that as far as it knows, no ceiling fans had been installed, and reported that it, as well as the political echelon, “regularly monitor every change in the compound, while implementing a policy of informed enforcement.”

The Regavim petition, filed on the eve of Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day), documents the Waqf’s steps to permanently turn an historic structure at the Temple Mount’s Gate of Mercy into a mosque, carrying out construction work that has irreparably damaged the ancient building. The work is in violation of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s instructions to enforce the closure of the building (see: Regavim Warns Islamic Waqf Inaugurates New Mosque on Temple Mount).

The sealed Mercy Gate at sunrise, November 29, 2010. / Keren Freeman/FLASH90

The Gate of Mercy was sealed by the Muslims in 810, reopened in 1102 by the Crusaders, and walled up by Saladin after regaining control over Jerusalem in 1187. Jews believe the gate was sealed because of the tradition that this is the gate through which the Anointed One will enter Jerusalem.

Last March, the Magistrate’s Court in Jerusalem, at the State’s request, issued an order to close the Gate of Mercy compound, prohibiting the caretaker agency Waqf from operating in the building. But, according to Regavim, the police have not enforced the order, and the Waqf continues to renovate the compound, turning it into a de facto fifth permanent mosque on the Temple Mount.

Arabs take part in Friday prayers outside the Mercy Gate, March 15, 2019. / Sliman Khader/Flash90

Nevertheless, according to the minutes of the High Court’s Wednesday hearing, citing the state’s claims, so far, 29 Waqf activists involved in violent incidents in the Sha’ar HaRachamim compound have been removed by administrative order; 19 people were detained for opening the compound; and police have prevented the introduction of obvious prayer paraphernalia.

Entrance to the new mosque near Mercy Gate / Regavim

“Unfortunately, the state simply does not tell the truth,” said attorney Avi Segal of the Regavim movement. “The state claims that it has ‘prevented the introduction of prayer paraphernalia to the place,’ but the police describe to the court in detail works that cannot be considered minor. Are there any more obvious prayer paraphernalia than installing a loudspeaker for the muezzin and rolling out new rugs? The Waqf is not just hinting, it is physically turning the place a mosque, plain and simple.”

Segal stressed that “according to the law, it is forbidden to even stick a nail in an ancient structure without the approval of a ministerial committee. Yet, after all the details provided by the police, the state still claims that there is no need to issue an interim order to stop the work.”

“The state is yelling that the Emperor is wearing no clothes, while at the same time refusing to dress up. It’s just a scandal,” Segal said.

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