Temple Gate Tour: Without Prayer

Police permission has finally been attained for a tour around the Old City Temple Mount gates – but the restrictions make it nearly unfeasible.

Hillel Fendel, | updated: 13:05

atop the Temple Mount
atop the Temple Mount
Israel news photo

The “El Har HaMoriah” (To Mt. Moriah) Institute has finally received police permission to hold a tour around the Temple Mount gates in the Old City – but the restrictions make it nearly unfeasible.

Following protracted negotiations between the Institute and police officials, a meeting was held last week in which the final details were hammered out. The restrictions appear to outweigh the permits, however – and first among the “don’ts” is "Don't pray."

Institute officials sense that the theme of the police permit appears to be the free rein Moslems have in and around the Temple Mount gates, while the Jews must behave as unwanted visitors who must be barely seen or heard. Some groups have banded together to fight this approach; this coming March 16 has been designated "International Temple Mount Awareness Day;" click here for details.

The hours of the tour are restricted, as are the number of participants – to 15. The Jews must obligate themselves not to disturb the Moslem worshippers and others passersby, and may not even sit on stools while the guide is providing an explanation. The guides, whose identities must be provided to the police in advance, may not sit at all, and they are responsible to prevent “provocations vis-à-vis the local population.”

The tour must not enter the cemetery next to Mercy Gate, nor the adjacent Arab school, nor may the participants come within two meters of Cotton Gate.

Most importantly, according to Institute officials: “There will be no group or individual prayers at the entrance way at any hour.”

And in conclusion: “The police can cancel the tour at any given moment according to [their] evaluation of the situation.”

Maya Shukri of El Har HaMoriyah wrote a letter of complaint to the local police, asking for “clarifications” on several issues. She said that it would be unfair for the police to be allowed to cancel the tour at a moment’s notice, and that at least three days’ advance warning should be required. She also asked that the term “provocations” be explained, “in order to prevent misunderstandings.”                  

Shukri dedicated most of her letter to the ban on prayer: “This blanket ban is unclear, especially when it refers to prayer at the closest point to the Holy of Holies of the Jewish Nation.” The actual Holy of Holies itself – currently occupied by the Dome of the Rock – is forbidden for entry according to Halakha (Jewish Law). This is because everyone is considered to be in a de facto state of Halakhic impurity today, as the procedures for.ritual purification are not available. 

“The ban on prayer reflects neither the status quo nor the government decision on Temple Mount prayers, which forbid Jewish prayer only atop the Temple Mount plaza… For instance, at the monthly March Around the Gates, and on Sabbath eves, prayer and song is permitted. In light of this, I would ask you to explain the blanket prayer ban you have imposed, including the legal basis on which it relies – or, alternatively, to rescind the ban.”

The El Har HaMoriyah Institute is not planning to back down on their rights to pray at the Temple Mount gates. “We are not giving up,” Shukri said. “We will begin a publicity campaign to win over public opinion, with the participation of security figures, lawyers, archaeologists, Knesset Members, Cabinet Ministers, and Arab-affairs experts. Many of them have agreed to support our cause in the past… Both on the right and the left, no one understands the police; the Committee Against the Destruction of Temple Mount Antiquities has left-wing members, but they are also working to allow Jews to visit the Temple Mount – and left-wing MKs are involved in this struggle as well.”





top