10/19/2011, Tishrei 21, 5772
Isn't it about time the Temple Mount should be open for Jewish worshipers? I was detained by police for bowing down in prayer there. In what other democracy would a citizen be interrogated for praying?
From David Haivri
The Israeli government can and should allow Jews freedom of prayer on the Temple Mount.
Yesterday I was detained by the Israeli police, and charged with "disorderly conduct that might cause riots."
What I had actually been suspected of was bowing down in prayer on the Temple Mount.
The authorities are concerned that Jews praying on the Temple Mount could kick off local Muslims' anger and that they might use this as an excuse for staging protests and riots. In their opinion, these fears are reason enough to strip law-abiding citizens of the very basic right of freedom of religion and prayer.
It is simply unacceptable that such a policy exists at all and it's even worse that it's based on fear of a threat that might rise by a party who might choose violence as a tool to establish facts on the ground. This is a clear case of government policy being influenced by concern over threats.
The State has a responsibility to protect its citizens' rights and not to cave in to bullies.
Ten of the eleven gates of the Temple Mount are closed to Jews and open to Muslims at all times. Jews are permitted to enter the site only via the Mugrabi Gate on the south side of the Western Wall - and only during four hours daily on weekdays.
Jews who wish to enter the Temple Mount must go through a security check and clearance that is not mandatory for other visitors.
While non-Jews walk in freely with little or no security check, Jewish visitors are treated to pat-downs by police, who check their pockets and bags for prayer books and then warn them not to pray on the Mount. Once Jews get through all of this, they are followed by teams of police and Muslim Wakf guards who watch to see if they might be breaking the rules and praying without permission.
These special regulations for Jews are degrading and should be stopped.
A Jew who is suspected of breaking the rules by daring to whisper a prayer is likely to be arrested and brought in for questioning by the Israeli police.
In what other country would you expect a citizen to be interrogated for praying? Can you imagine the police officer saying, "You have the right to remain silent, anything you say can be used against you in a court of law..." and then "you are suspected of praying . . . "?
This is no joke - I have personally have had the honor of going through this ordeal.
Israel should apply its efforts to maintaining law and order by arresting and questioning those who present a threat of disorderly conduct or rioting - and not those law-abiding people who simply wish to pray.
If the police would shift their focus from restricting Jewish visits and prayer on the Temple Mount towards monitoring those who pose a threat to that freedom, they would be able, in a few actions, to stabilize a workable reality on the Temple Mount in which Jews could have free access to pray on the holy mountain.
Instead of intimidating worshipers by patting them down for prayer books and warning them not to pray, they should be patting down those suspicious figures that might be inciting violence against the worshipers. Incitement coming out of the Mosque should be monitored if it becomes a platform for harassment of Jewish visitors to the site.
Reassignment of resources used to police the Temple Mount could easily bring changes that would allow Jews freedom of prayer at the holy site, as would be expected of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic country.
It is time to bring about that change, and to stop the discrimination against Jews in our homeland and holy city, at our holiest site.
Ed. Note: There are prominent rabbis, including Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed, head of Beit El yeshiva and the former Chief Rabbi, the late Rav Avraham Elkana Shapira of Merkaz Harav yeshiva, as well as many hareidi-religious rabbis, who oppose Jews ascending the Temple Mount for halakhic reasons, saying that the location of areas that are forbidden to Jews except for priests and the High Priest, are not unequivocally known. That has no bearing on the treatment of Jews whose rabbinic authorities feel differently and who do ascend the mount.