While the US is rocked by anti-racism protests, a situation exists in Jerusalem that is even more racist than the US before the civil rights movement. The water fountains on the Temple Mount were reserved for the exclusive use of Muslims while Jews were not permitted to drink at all. But thanks to a group of determined Jews, that situation is slowly changing.
Following Israel’s capture of the Temple Mount in the 1967 Six-Day War, the Israeli government handed day-to-day control of the area to the Muslim Waqf religious authorities, overseen by the Jordanian government. Israel retains security control of the area. The conditions established at the time gave the exclusive right to pray at the site to the Muslims.. Jews were prohibited from bringing any religious items or books onto the Temple Mount.
In addition to prayer, Jews were prohibited from drinking at the site and, as a result, prohibited from using the water fountain in the Temple Mount Compound. For many, this prohibition was disturbingly reminiscent of the racist policy of ‘separate but equal’ in the pre-Jim Crow days in the southern US. But the situation on the Temple Mount was even more egregious as Jim Crow allowed for separate water fountains for blacks whereas on the Temple Mount, there were no fountains designated for use by Jews.
Michael Miller, a tour guide at the site and an activist of the “Students for the Temple Mount” movement, was detained by police on Monday after videoing a young Jewish man drinking from the fountain.
“Even up to one year ago, Jews were not even permitted to touch the faucets and the police physically prevented Jews from approaching the fountain,” Miller said. “Jews who attempted to do so were arrested and detained.”
“There was a concern that this would provoke Muslim violence. Christians were allowed to drink from the fountain because there was also a concern because before a Jew drinks water, he has to say a blessing, thanking God, and this was strictly forbidden. This was too much like prayer, which the Muslims find offensive. Even mumbling, moving your lips, closing your eyes, or holding your hands in a prayer-like manner would get a Jew arrested and ejected, sometimes even banned.”
Miller explained that the current policy is that the police must either allow Jews to use the water fountain or they must provide them with bottled water. The situation is currently at an ambiguous in-between state.
“There is nothing illegal or any official policy prohibiting Jews from using the fountain. That would be absurd and indefensible. But at the same time, the police are trying to prevent the Muslims from rioting so they keep it low-key. Jews are now being permitted to drink and even eat on the Temple Mount but not in sight of the Muslims. If it becomes too obvious, the police will take people aside but they can’t kick us off or arrest us.”
A case concerning this injustice was brought in 2017 to the Israeli High Court by the Friends of the Temple organization, headed by Yaakov Hayman. Iris Edri, the lawyer representing Jewish rights, emphasized that during the American Civil Rights movement, the police protected black children on their way to learn at white schools because of the principle of equality.
“If there is violence, the police should relate to the source of the violence, and not the victim,” Edri told Breaking Israel News. “On the Temple Mount, the police are relating to the Jews as an enemy, as a security threat.”
“Jews are by inclination sheeplike but we have the Biblical requirement not to be,” Hayman said, citing the Book of Numbers.
They crouch, they lie down like a lion, Like the king of beasts; who dare rouse them? Blessed are they who bless you, Accursed they who curse you! Numbers 24:9
“ When Jews stop act like the Bible tells us too, things begin to change in a Biblically positive direction,” Hayman said. “More Jews are going up to the Temple Mount all the time. The barriers are going to fall. It is inevitable and it is prophesied.”
Rabbi Mordechai Makover, the former director of the Temple Institute and head of the Mikdash (Temple) Educational Center, sees the recent developments as a mixed blessing.
“It is undeniable that recently we have seen many positive and necessary developments on the Temple Mount,” Rabbi Makover said. “In order to perform the Temple service, Jews must eat and drink on the Temple Mount. It has deep spiritual significance connected to bringing sustenance and peace to the world.”
But Rabbi Makover also warned that these developments might represent a harmful precedent and the beginning of a path that can only end in disaster for the entire world.
“It is destructive and demeaning that we are only ‘permitted’ these basic things by the Muslims,” Rabbi Makover said. “It is as if they are the masters when we are forbidden from having any master besides Hashem, especially in His house. This is the wrong path. The main message here has to be that no other nation or religion can establish the rules in God’s House of Prayer.”
“Are the Muslims the masters that permit the slaves to drink? God brought us out of Egypt and we serve him. He provided water in the desert, He provides water for the entire world. Hashem is the master of all the water.”
The Israeli High Court established equal rights for Jews to pray at their holiest site in a 2015 case decided in favor of Rabbi Yehudah Glick, a former member of Knesset, stating that it was the duty of the police to protect the right of Jews to pray on the Temple Mount. It is only recently that this right is being upheld in practice, though in a semi-clandestine manner with the grudging acceptance of the police.
Miller reported that Jews are now permitted to pray quietly in a quorum in areas that are out of sight from the Muslims. This is done in accordance with the Health Ministry guidelines. If Muslims appear or complain, the prayer is stopped and the Jews are removed from the site.
Anti-Jewish inequality is still very much the status quo on the Temple Mount despite the law mandating against it. Jews are required to undergo rigorous security and background checks before entering whereas Muslims refuse to pass through metal detectors of the type found outside every public building in Israel. Jews must be accompanied by police as they perform a strictly limited circuit of the site. Jews are also limited in the times they visit and their time on the site is also strictly limited.