Court rules Jewish prayer allowed on Temple Mount, if silent

Previously, Israeli government policy regarded audible or silent prayer on the Temple Mount as a provocation.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

An Israeli court recognized for the first time on Wednesday that Jews have a right to pray at the holiest site in Judaism, albeit silently.

Jerusalem Magistrate Court Judge Bilha Yahalom ruled that Rabbi Aryeh Lippo, a man banned from the Temple Mount by local police because he prayed there, has a right to return to the compound.

“His daily arrival at the Temple Mount indicates that this is a matter of principle and substance for him,” she wrote.

After watching a video of Lippo and others praying silently at the site, Yahalom wrote that the act was not disruptive and there were no grounds for police to interfere with his quiet worship.

“The [police] does not dispute that the appellant, like many others, prays on a daily basis on the Temple Mount and this activity in itself does not violate police instructions,” she added.

The issue of Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount has long been contentious. Because of its proximity to the Al Aqsa Mosque and the fact that the compound is legally under the Islamic guardianship of Jordan’s Wakq, Muslims have long objected to the presence of Jews at the site.

Previously, Israeli government policy regarded audible or silent prayer on the Temple Mount as a provocation.

Police officers were authorized to physically remove Jews suspected of praying from the area, for fear of conflict with Muslims at the site.

Attorney Moshe Polsky of the NGO Honenu, who represented Lippo in his lawsuit to overturn the ban, welcomed the decision.

“It’s unacceptable that Jews in the Temple Mount area aren’t allowed to whisper or pray even silently, when Muslims on the Temple Mount are allowed to do everything – pray, make demands, play soccer, and riot while the police do nothing to stop it, and Jews are made to feel like strangers in this holy place,” he told Arutz Sheva.

Maor Tzemach, chair of the advocacy group Your Jerusalem, told World Israel News that the decision was a step in the right direction.

“The right to freedom of worship is a fundamental right in a democracy,” said Tzemach.

“The State of Israel has taken care to maintain this right, permitting [Muslims] to hold prayers there without interference, even during times when that allowed terrorists to harm Israeli citizens,” he said, referencing incidents in which Muslim worshippers on the Temple Mount pelted Jews praying at the Western Wall with rocks, fireworks, and other projectiles.

“I congratulate the court on finally allowing some type of prayer for the Jews on the Temple Mount.”