On Monday, the eve of the Sukkot holiday, the High Court of Justice handed down a ruling officially permitting Jews to pray on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount on Wednesday, between 7:30-9:00am. The court’s decision was in response to a petition filed by the Temple Mount Faithful organization. The ruling stipulated that in order to prevent a confrontation with Muslims, prayers must conclude by 9:00 o'clock, when Islamic worshippers usually arrive.

The decision sets a precedent, as it permits Jews not only to visit the Mount but also to pray there. Such a position has not been taken by the court since at least 1976.

When worshippers arrived on the scene on Wednesday morning at the appointed time, however, the police did not allow them to enter the area, telling them that they were unaware of the High Court ruling. This was in spite of the fact that according to the conditions laid down by the court, the police do not have the authority to unilaterally decide to cancel the permit based on security concerns, as has generally been the case in previous rulings.

“I don’t recognize such a ruling at all,” stated one of the officers at the Temple Mount police station. In the end, officers allowed only three groups to enter the Temple Mount, but they informed them that prayer was strictly prohibited. One of the visitors later told Arutz Sheva that when he asked a policeman if he could pray at the site, the officer replied, “If you intend to pray, it’s better that you don’t go up at all because we’ll only bring you down again.”

However, according to some of those present this morning on the Mount, in practice, the police did not interfere when two groups of Jews ascended the Mount in succession and read from printed pages of the morning prayers. Those who were allowed to enter could only do so from 7:45 till 08:15, in contravention of the High Court ruling.

When the ruling was issued, Justices Cheshin, Beinish and Jubran agreed with the petitioners that a sweeping decision preventing Jews from praying on the Temple Mount only rewarded terror. However, they felt that it was important to take into account the possible dangers that such a visit could precipitate. When Commander Ilan Franco, police commissioner of the Jerusalem region, pointed out that the Arabs only visit the Temple Mount after 9:00am, the judges therefore ruled that the site could open for Jewish prayer before that time.

Originally, the Temple Mount Faithful wanted to visit the Temple Mount from 9:00-10:30am, from where they wished to hold a procession to the Shiloach spring in David’s City, where they wanted to hold a gathering. They also wished to lay a foundation stone for the next Temple at the Givati parking lot near the Temple Mount. However, the court accepted police opposition to the laying of the foundation stone due to concerns that this could lead to rioting. Despite lawyer Naftali Werzberger’s assertion that the police did not have any concrete information of any planned riots, the risk was considered to be too great.