Daily Israel Report

Supreme Court Quickly Retracts Permission to Pray at Holy Site

The Supreme Court has ordered a change to its ruling allowing Jews to pray on the Temple Mount on the Sukkot holiday. The Jews may visit, but not pray there.

By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 10/23/2005, 9:40 AM / Last Update: 10/23/2005, 12:07 PM

A ruling had been issued allowing members of the Temple Mount Faithful to ascend to Judaism's holiest site and pray there during the weeklong Sukkot holiday. The ruling went a step further than previous rulings of this type, and permitted the Jews to actually pray there - until it was noticed by the alert State representatives.

The Moslem Waqf, which controls the holy site's day-to-day operations, has long objected to Jewish prayer at the site. Israel's police, government and courts, unwilling to take a chance of violence breaking out, have gone along with the Waqf's dictates.

The Temple Mount Faithful petitioned the Court on the eve of the holiday, asking to be allowed to conduct a "cornerstone laying" ceremony. The Court permitted the group to ascend to the holy spot for a limited time, in a manner that would not clash with Moslem commemorations of the month of Ramadan. The ruling specified that the Jews could pray there.

When the "mistake" was noticed, very shortly after its issuance, representatives of the government asked Deputy Chief Justice Mishael Heshin to replace the word "prayer" with the word "ascent." Justice Heshin wrote in response, "The State claims that several 'mis-writes' were noted in the ruling, and it therefore asks that we correct that which needs to be corrected. We read the claims of the sides, and after having become convinced that in fact several 'mis-writes' had occurred, as the State claimed, we will correct that which needs correcting."

Thus, instead of reading, "...enable Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount," the ruling now states, "...enable Jewish ascent to the Temple Mount." Further on in the ruling, the words, "permission to the Jews to pray on the Temple Mount" was replaced by "permission to the Jews to ascend to the Temple Mount."

"It was clear from the beginning that it was a mistake," said Yehuda Etzion, a leader of the Temple Mount Faithful group and a veteran of many court struggles for the right of Jewish presence and prayer there. "We never thought for a moment that they meant to permit us to pray at our holiest site."

The Temple Mount was open for Jewish visitors only from 7:30-9:00 this morning, and will be open at the same hours tomorrow, the eve of the last day of the Sukkot-Simchat Torah holiday.