An at-times angry discussion in the Knesset Wednesday on the rights of Jews to pray on the Temple Mount saw a top official of an Islamic organization that funds and manages prayer services on the Mount say that the Muslims would give up their control of the Mount – when the Messiah comes.
Rian Kamal, the head of the Alaqsa Fund, which raises money for services, facilities, and other projects for Muslim worshippers on the Temple Mount, spoke at the Knesset hearing on demands by Jewish groups that Jews be allowed to ascend the Mount and pray openly. Currently, Jews are allowed to visit the Mount, but are forbidden from praying. The law is enforced by Israeli police, with Jews often shadowed by a member of the Waqf, who closely watches the Jewish visitor to ensure that his or her lips are not moving in prayer.
According to Kamal, 90% of rabbis are opposed to Jews' ascending the Mount altogether. “I have a good solution,” he told MKs. “According to the Jewish religion, the Holy Temple is to descend from Heaven when the Messiah comes. Let us allow the place to remain Muslim until that time, and afterwards we will surrender our prayer rights in the area.”
MK Miri Regev, chairperson of a special Knesset committee discussing the issue, said that Jews had no plans to surrender their rights to the Temple Mount. “Why does it bother you that Jews would pray on the Mount?,” she asked Kamal, who responded that he was not allowed to pray at the Kotel. “This is a religious issue, not a political one,” he added.
Speaking at the session, Manhigut Yehudit official Michael Puah said that police acted in a discriminatory manner against Jews who sought to visit the Mount. “We cannot tolerate this racist discrimination. It is unthinkable that I would have to stand at the entrance to the Mount and seek entry, only to be denied it because I am a Jew. This is contrary to the very nature of the State of Israel,” he added.
According to the Foreign Ministry, any change in the status quo on the Mount would likely cause an international incident that would put Israel in a very poor light. Speaking at the session, Freida Yuval, deputy head of the Jordan desk in the Foreign Ministry, said that allowing Jews free worship on the Mount would “awaken the entire world,” and bring about another intifada, similar to the one that began after Ariel Sharon ascended the Temple Mount in 1999, or engender riots similar to those that took place after the opening of the Kotel tunnels.