Temple Mount
Temple MountPhoto by Garrett Mills/FLASH90

Police have begun using a new legal weapon in their efforts to restrict Temple Mount activists from the Jewish holy site.

Four young men and two young women who were arrested Monday while going around the gates of the Temple Mount were charged with "obstructing free access to holy places", according to a police representative's report at a hearing on Wednesday.

The six came in groups of two to the gates of Temple Mount, and by their own admission had sought to pray there. According to the police, some of them shouted during a confrontation with police, and it seemed from their words that they intended to enter the Temple Mount.

The police representative admitted that they had not passed the barriers set up by police near the gates. Despite this the police claim that their behavior constituted a disturbance of public order, disturbance of police activities and obstruction of free access to a holy place. Specifically, they maintain that the presence of the six young Jews near the gate prevented Muslims from entering the Temple Mount.

Attorney Nati Rom, who represented the six via the Honenu organization, claimed that they had not committed any offense and that the police had arrested them unlawfully.

The youths claim that the policemen had misrepresented the incident in their report, and that they simply had attempted to pray near the entrance of the Temple Mount and had stood at the side without obstructing the walkway.

The police requested that four of the detainees be prevented from entering Temple Mount for 15 days and the other two be prevented access to the Old City for 30 days.

Judge Yael Yitav ruled that two males and two females should be prevented access to Temple Mount for 7 days, another one was given a 21-day distancing and the other one was distanced from the Old City for 30 days.

Attorney Rom said after the hearing that the police's use of the clause about obstructing access to holy places with a maximum prison sentence of five years was absurd and outrageous.

"The Israeli police itself continuously and systematically prevents free access of Jews to Temple Mount, the holiest place for Jews. In recent times the police have even prevented prayer at the gates. I call on the police 'to follow the path of the rulings' as Judge Drori says, and not to harm the basic rights of these young people."

Temple Mount organizations say that they are shocked at the preventing of Jews from praying at the gates of Temple Mount. "Jewish prayers took place at the gates of Temple Mount throughout the generations, even under the Turkish government. We support the activists of the 'Return to the Mount' organization who are devotedly fighting the decrees against Jews on Temple Mount and around it."