May 19, 2014 Monday 19 Iyyar 5774
by GIL HOFFMAN
Jews ascend Temple Mount, but are watched closely to ensure that they do not pray there in order to maintain the status quo.
The Jewish people will be allowed to pray freely at their holiest site, Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, according to a controversial bill proposed by Labor MK and former Jerusalem city councilman Hilik Bar.
Currently, Jews are allowed to enter the Temple Mount but are watched closely to ensure that they do not pray there so as to not violate the status quo of the site as a Muslim prayer area with two large mosques. Visits to the mount by rightwing politicians have led to rioting and arrests.
Bar, who sponsored the bill together with Likud MK Miri Regev, wants prayer for Jews to be legalized and set in a way that would not harm the Muslim religious Wakf and would be sensitive to Islam. The head of the Knesset’s two-states lobby, Bar said sponsoring the bill did not make him any less of a proud left-wing MK.
“The love for the Jewish religion, the Torah, historic and Zionist values, and for Jerusalem and its holy sites is not the property of the Right even if sometimes tries to paint that picture,” Bar said. “The Right was allowed to take ownership of Zionism, Judaism and the attachment to Jerusalem for too long.
Labor and I are part of the Zionist Center-Left that sees our holy sites as the basis of our existence and the essence of our history.”
Bar said Jews and Muslims praying at the same site was part of the coexistence and religious freedom that the Left believes in. He said the bill could be implemented gradually and carefully to allow people to adjust to it, noting that the Supreme Court had ruled that Jewish prayer should not be limited without concrete warnings of an immediate security risk.
“The time has come once and for all to neutralize the explosive political issue of Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount,” Bar said. “There is no reason that every time a rightwing MK ascends the mount to pray there will be a political drama with a third intifada threatened. There needs to be a new order in which everyone respects the rights of the other side.”
Regev said Jews should be allowed on the mount with prayer shawls, phylacteries, and the four species on Succot.
Labor leader Isaac Herzog said he opposed the bill and would try to persuade Bar not to advance the legislation.