The Knesset Interior Committee's Subcommittee on Temple Mount Issues, led by MK David Tzur, held its first meeting Monday. During the meeting, MKs discussed what rights, if any, Jews had on the Temple Mount.
Speaking at the meeting, Temple Mount rights activist Rabbi Yehuda Glick, who is on a hunger strike because of a police order preventing him from visiting the Mount, said that “Jews on the Temple Mount are subject to being arrested for illegal assembly just for being there, to being victims of riots, and to being forced to flee becase of unrest.”
Glick was detained several weeks ago on the Temple Mount after he videotaped a Muslim man who hurled obscene curses at him. After Glick took photographs on the Mount and shared them on the internet, police confiscated his cellular phone and detained him. Only when he agreed to stop sharing photos did police give back his phone. Since then, he has been banned from the site.
“The Temple Mount is the center of my life,” he told MKs. Glick, a professional guide who takes groups up to the Mount, said that “April is my busiest month. I was supposed to lead 20 groups on a visit, and I had to cancel them all. I am on a hunger strike because I expect the members of the committee to do something about this.”
Subcommittee chairman Tzur said that he disapproved of the ban against Glick. “It's the easy way for police,” whom he said really didn't want to confront Arab unrest and challenges to Jews who ascend the Mount. “I will discuss this with the heads of Jerusalem police,” he said. “I think more needs to be done to ensure that these visits are successful, and that police treat them in a professional manner.”
A spokesperson for the far-left NGO Ir Amim, which supports keeping Jews off the Temple Mount, said that Glick and other groups advocating Jewish visits to the site wrapped themselves in the cloak of freedom of worship, but really had a much more radical agenda – the construction of the Third Temple.
In response, Shai Malka of the Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership) faction of the Likud said that “I and Jews all over the world pray for the rebuilding of the Third Temple. We have never tried to hide this. But I do not see how our prayers threaten the rights of anyone else. Apparently you believe we Jews do not have the same rights as anyone else, and this says a great deal about Ir Amim and how the group operates.”
Despite being the holiest site in Judaism, Jewish access to the Temple Mount is very limited - including a blanket ban on Jewish worship there - in what activists condemn as a capitulation to Muslim extremism. Israeli police, in an attempt to appease the Muslim Waqf which was left in charge of the compound after the 1967 Six Day War, ban Jews from praying or performing any other form of worship.
Police sometimes close the Mount to Jews altogether in response to Muslim riots - for days or weeks at a time - despite evidence that such violence is usually planned in advance for the specific purpose of forcing Jews out.
The Waqf's campaign to "Islamize" the Temple Mount by purging any Jewish connection to it has also extended to the vandalism and destruction of ancient Jewish artifacts at the site, which once housed the two Holy Temple of Jerusalem.