David Feiglin on the Temple Mount
David Feiglin on the Temple MountTemple Institute

The head of the Shvut Yisrael Yeshiva in Efrat was booted off the Temple Mount Sunday morning - for the “crime” of closing his eyes. In a Facebook post, activist Arnon Segal wrote that the story was “definitely the winner of the day” among stories of abuse of Jews who attempt to visit the holiest site in Judaism.

The visit started out “quiet,” Segal quoted Rabbi Shaul Yonatan Weingroth, as saying. “Other than the usual catcalls by Arabs, which we are used to, my companion and myself anticipated a quite visit. We were accompanied by 4 police officers and 4 Waqf (Muslim clerical) officials, who kept a steady eye on us to ensure that we did not violate the 'no praying' rules.”

Everything was fine, Segal quoted the Rabbi as saying, “until we sat down on the east side of the Mount, in the area called the 'House of Study.' I must have nodded off, and immediately a police officer came up to me and demanded that I accompany him off the Mount.

“We went outside the compound, and I asked him what happened – and he accused me of praying. When I asked him how he knew I had been praying, he said that 'your eyes were closed and you were moving your head.' This, of course, is prayer, and is prohibited.”

Despite it being the holiest site in Judaism, severe restrictions - including a ban on praying - are placed on Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount.

Before Jews are allowed on the Mount, they are given a briefing on what they are allowed or not allowed to do – and the Rabbi told the officer that no mention had been made of “head movements with eyes closed. But that was irrelevant, he said. 'I said no praying and that includes anything' that can be construed as prayer.

“I then asked him what synagogue he prayed in, and where in the Code of Jewish Law it said that such actions constitute Jewish prayer,” Segal quoted the Rabbi as saying. “But he said 'never mind what synagogue I pray in, you can't move your head.'”

The officer, added the Rabbi, was Druze.

Rabbi Weingroth wasn't the only Jewish visitor to complain about absurd restrictions Sunday. In a Facebook post, the Temple Mount Institute said that Jews who visited the Mount were told they could not bring bottles of water with them – for fear that they might drink the water and make a blessing first, as religious Jews do.

“The temperature in Jerusalem today was 77° Fahrenheit,” the Institute said in its posting. “Jews were forbidden by the police to bring bottles of drinking water with them onto the Temple Mount. The police provided no explanation for the blatant violation of a person's most basic right to drink water on a blazing hot day, but, based on past precedent, the police 'reasoning' is that an observant Jew must make a blessing before drinking water, and the police have been tasked with the enforcement of the illegal ban of Jewish prayer (or blessing) on the Temple Mount.

“Who will take responsibility if a Jew, G-d forbid, drops dead of heat stroke on the Temple Mount? The police? The Waqf? The Prime Minister of Israel? The King of Jordan? Have the police lost their last ounce of reason? Of humanity?

“Apparently not,” said the Institute. “Recent photos of a police tour of the Temple Mount show many of the officers armed with their own personal water bottles. At least they care about the well being of their own, if not of the citizens with whose protection they have been charged.”