Public Security Minister Avi Dichter announced on Tuesday the government's official policy regarding Jewish prayer on the site of the Holy Temple: "Jews may pray on their holiest site - but only in their heart; no lip-moving allowed."
Dichter explained that government policy on the Mount is dictated by the wish to ensure that bloodshed not occur. He said that Jews moving their lips in prayer on the Mount, which the Moslems have sanctified as their own, can be seen as a Jewish provocation that could lead to bloodshed.
Knesset Members Aryeh Eldad and Uri Ariel - both of the National Union party and both residents of Kfar Adumim in the Jordan Valley - had submitted a request to pray on the holy site, and Dichter's response was the result.
Though the two had pledged not to perpetrate "group prayer" or "demonstrative prayer," both of which have been banned for Jews at the Temple Mount, Dichter said that the "outer trappings" of private prayer - namely, moving of lips - render even that forbidden. In his response to the MKs, Dichter noted that the only option for Jews who wish to pray on their most sacred site "is to exchange thoughts with his G-d in his heart."
The New Jewish Congress responded with barely-controlled fury, issuing this statement:
"Minister Dichter's comments demonstrate his, and this government's, total disconnect from the reality of the Temple Mount, from the Jewish people, and from the government's obligations towards both. This is yet another indication that the government of Ehud Olmert has ceased to be a Jewish government altogether, having not the slightest connection with the Jewish people."
Just two weeks ago, the government did nothing when Fatah allowed Hamas to broadcast its anti-Jewish incitement directly from the Temple Mount. The New Jewish Congress noted the irony of the juxtaposition of the loud and clear Hamas broadcasts and the banned silent Jewish prayer emanating from the same site - that of the Holy Temple.
"In reality," the statement continued, "the Jewish people enjoy freedom of religious expression, including prayer and Torah study, everywhere - except on the Temple Mount, their only holy site."
"Minister Dichter's comments convey hatred and discrimination towards the Jewish people," the New Jewish Congress stated. "In due time, this government will be held accountable for its actions and will stand trial in a Jewish court of justice that will be established by the Jewish people."
Request for Communal Jewish Prayer
Just last week, four top Temple Mount activists and New Jewish Congress leaders - Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, Rabbi Yosef Elbaum, Prof. Hillel Weiss, and Rabbi Chaim Richman - penned a letter to Prime Minister Olmert asking for specific days on which Jews would be allowed to pray atop the Temple Mount.
The letter states that while now, Jews are degraded on the Temple Mount, "it is our position that if the stature of the Jews on the Temple Mount were to change positively, then the standing of the State of Israel would immediately improve. This would effect a positive change for the benefit and security of all its citizens."
Noting that the very day of mourning prayers for the six million Holocaust victims was also the day on which Hamas incitement to violence and death to Jews emanated from the Temple Mount - "we view [this juxtaposition of] events as a horrific failure of this government" - the signatories wrote, "We demand that the Government of Israel allow the Jewish people to have freedom of religious expression on the Temple Mount. Additionally, the government must establish special fixed days for Jewish communal prayer in fixed locations on the Temple Mount. This move will serve as evidence of Jewish sovereignty on the Mount."
The specific days on which the Jews should have rights to pray communally atop the Temple Mount, according to the writers, are: Passover Eve [a day on which Jews are commanded to bring the Paschal lamb - a right that Israel's High Court of Justice has recognized, in case #2955/07], Passover, Sukkot, Shavuot, Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, Chanukah (first day), Israel Independence Day, Jerusalem Day, and the three fast days commemorating the destruction of Jerusalem (Tisha B'Av, Tevet 10, and Tammuz 17). In addition, once every seven years, at the Hakhel Ceremony concluding the Shemittah (Sabbatical) year, Jews should be allowed to pray at the holy site.
"If you do not accept our appeal and demand," the letter concludes, "we shall understand that the chasm separating the Jewish people - whose values have remained unchanged since time immemorial - and the current composition of the Government of Israel, as reflected by its policies, is immeasurably widening and deepening with each passing day."
No response has yet been received.