A Jerusalem judge has backed the right of Jews to engage in silent prayers on the Temple Mount, marking the first time a court has endorsed Jewish prayer on the holy site since authorities quietly began rescinding their de facto ban on all non-Muslim prayers.
On Tuesday, Justice Bilhha Yahalom of the Jerusalem Magistrates Court ruled that silent prayers on the Temple Mount cannot be construed as a criminal act, and ordered police to drop a restraining order imposed on Rabbi Aryeh Lippo, who had been barred from the Mount over his silent prayers.
“His daily visits to the Temple Mount indicate how important this is for him,” Justice Yahalom wrote in her decision.
Attorney Moshe Polski, a lawyer for the Honenu organization who represented Rabbi Lippo in the case, lauded the court for its ruling.
“We welcome the court’s decision, which effectively endorses what has already been happening on the Temple Mount over the past year, and is a de facto permit to Jews who already visit the Temple Mount and want to pray.”
“It is unthinkable that Jews of all people should be banned from whispering prayers even silently on the Temple Mount, while Muslims on the Temple Mount can do whatever they want – pray, give religious lectures, play soccer, and even to riot, while the police do nothing to prevent any of this, but Jews are made to feel like outsiders in this holy place.”
“We hope that from now on, the police won’t bar worshippers who are already on the Mount, a move which impinges on their basic civil liberties.”
While Israeli authorities have for years barred even silent prayer by non-Muslims on the Temple Mount – removing worshippers suspected of whispering prayers – this year, police have frequently turned a blind eye to discreet Jewish prayers on the holy site.
Over 1,600 Jewish visitors to the Mount were permitted to pray during the Tisha B’Av fast this July, sparking criticism from the United Arab List, a coalition member which condemned the prayers and warned they could spark a “religious war”.