Elul 4, 5769, 24 August 09 08:40
by Maayana Miskin
The Arab League reacted with fury on this week to reports that a small group of Jews had prayed on the Temple Mount on Sunday. Secretary-General Amr Moussa termed the spontaneous prayer gathering "a violation of international law."
Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, head of the Temple Institute in Jerusalem, led the guided tour on the Temple Mount. While guards on the mount have a policy of preventing Jewish prayer or religious gestures such as kneeling or bowing, Rabbi Ariel's group managed to briefly pray at the site.
"This is the first time since 1967 that Jews have conducted prayers on Al-Aksa during the month of Ramadan," Moussa declared. "We condemn this act," he added, in the name of the 22 countries belonging to the League.
The prayer session was "a serious blow to the holiness of the site," Moussa claimed, adding that Jews should not be allowed to pray at the site "whether it is Ramadan or any other time of year."
The Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City is the site on which the Temple and Second Temple once stood, and according to Judaism, is the holiest place on earth. For approximately 1,000 years, the mount has housed the Al Aksa mosque.
Rabbi Chaim Richman, another Temple Institute leader, said Moussa was misinformed. Rabbi Ariel's prayer was not the first of its kind – in fact, Jews pray on the Temple Mount whenever they can, he said, and always have.
"There's a positive commandment for Jewish people to pray on the Temple Mount," Rabbi Richman explained. "I was on the Temple Mount on Wednesday, and I prayed."
Far from being a violation of international law, Jewish prayer at the site is a fundamental human right, he said. "We go there out of a deep desire to express the most basic human right that we have, which is to pray to G-d."