Exclusive: Status Quo Changed at David's Tomb
In a Knesset Interior Committee meeting on Monday chaired by MK Miri Regev (Likud), it was revealed that Christians received permission to hold fixed prayers in the David's Tomb Compound, in a breach of the status quo that threatens Jewish prayer rights.
Rabbi Simcha Hacohen Kook, chief rabbi of Rehovot and rabbi of the Hurva Synagogue in Jerusalem's Old City, took part in the Committee meeting and told Arutz Sheva about the serious implications of what was revealed.
"Last Thursday the Israeli government announced there is a status quo. In practice, last Sunday they let them (the Christians) pray from 8 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon non-stop; Jews who wanted to pray there were not allowed to enter the David's Tomb Compound," revealed Rabbi Kook.
In early June, just weeks after Pope Francis visited Israel and controversially led Mass prayer services at the site, it was revealed that Christians were regularly holding fixed prayers at the Compound, in the "Room of the Last Supper" on the second floor and even in the very room of King David's Tomb marker.
The institution of regular Christian prayers at the site has been raised by rabbis as a breach that could prevent Jews from entering the holy site altogether, given that Jewish law forbids entering a Church and using a building used for idol-worship - a category which Catholic worship, with its use of effigies, falls under according to Jewish law.
"Today we are close to the situation in which no Jew will be able to enter David's Tomb. Already today there are rabbis who claim that if there's a church above it's forbidden to pray below," noted Rabbi Kook.
Rabbi Kook said Regev "reminded in the discussion that this is how it was at the Temple Mount too; at the start they let them enter and today Jews can't pray there, and while it's an issue of halakhic (Jewish legal) debate, the reality speaks for itself."
"According to the Basic Laws (of Israel) it is forbidden to change anything in holy sites, particularly if that harms another religious, and here they're bringing crosses into the tomb of King David," remarked the rabbi.
"How are we not embarrassed before King David, it's awful, what have we come to? King David who unified all of the people of Israel, and here we are disconnecting from the entire Jewish world, because if we throw King David aside like this, how can we complain about others?" reasoned Rabbi Kook.
The Committee demanded to publicly expose the entire negotiations with the church that led to the permission being granted, according to the rabbi, who added "the Committee won't let them advance any negotiations on this, unless everything will be exposed before the Committee."
"We are obligated to know every single detail that comes up in the discussion with the pope and others, we have to debate first, before it's put on the table" as established fact, argued Rabbi Kook.
It is worth noting that Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich's promised Regev in her capacity as chair of the Committee in mid-May not to change the status quo at King David's Tomb.