Jews barely got a chance to act on the court ruling allowing them to pray silently at their holiest site before the court reversed its decision in what Hamas declared a victory that could be credited to their missile attacks.
The story began when last Wednesday when Justice Bilha Yahalom of Jerusalem’s Magistrate Court accepted an appeal by Temple Mount activist Rabbi Aryeh Lipo against the police ban on prayer on the Temple Mount. Lippo had been banned from the site for 15 days by the Israeli police after he was caught praying silently during a visit on Yom Kippur.
Israel’s High Court has ruled that Jewish prayer at the site is legally protected but the police may impose restrictions based on security considerations.
The Israeli police appealed the decision.
“The State of Israel advocates freedom of worship and prayer for all, however, in view of the security implications, the status quo must be upheld that the prayer of Jews on the Temple Mount will take place next to the Western Wall and the prayer of Muslims will take place in al-Haram al-Sharif,” Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev said on Friday, using the Arabic name for the Temple Mount.
The ruling was decried by the Palestinians.
The Waqf, the custodial authority which managed the edifices on the Temple Mount, called the ruling a “flagrant violation” of the compound’s sanctity and a “clear provocation” for Muslims worldwide.
“This decision also has no legitimacy because we do not recognize Israeli law on al-Aqsa,” mosque director Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani told AFP.
Hamas, the ruling party in Gaza recognized by many countries around the world as a terrorist organization, called the move a “blatant aggression against the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and a clear declaration of a war that goes beyond political rights to an aggression against religion and sanctities”. The group said in a statement that the “resistance is ready and prepared to repel aggression and defend rights.”
On Friday, thousands of Palestinians arrived at the Temple Mount for morning prayers and took the opportunity to hold a massive angry protest.
On Friday, the court accepted the police’s appeal.
Aryeh Romanov, the judge ruling over the case at the Jerusalem District Court, stated on Friday that the rules on the Temple Mount forbid “religious/ritual activities having external, visible characteristics,” stressing that the fact that the police officer noticed Lipo praying proved that his prayer was visible and therefore forbidden.
“The fact that someone noticed that the respondent was praying is apparent proof that his prayer was visible, for if it was not visible – no one would have noticed it,” stated Romanov.
Romanov also ruled to reinstate the police ban on Lipo that prohibited him from visiting the Temple Mount.
Abdul Rahman Younes, a columnist for the Hamas publication Felesteen News, published an article on Friday, declaring the court ruling to be a Hamas victory:
This retreat did not come out of nowhere,” Younes wrote. “The Palestinians took the initiative – because they are the most worthy and capable – and stopped it at its own end after they rose up against the Occupation and clashed with it in all locations, with their backs protected from the south, because they know that there are people standing at the missile positions waiting for the decisive moment. Because they know that silence about this decision or allowing it to pass will waste their right to Al-Aqsa, so they cut off the prayers before they begin.
Yaakov Hayman, the chairman of the Temple Movements, was highly critical of the ruling, which he saw as ultimately dangerous.
“The Israeli establishment is more opposed to the return of the Temple than the Arabs,” Hayman said. “They describe it as an ‘explosive situation.’ It isn’t. But it is transformative. If the Jews return to the Temple Mount, even if we don’t build the Temple, it will change the country and there will be no more secular government or secular courts.”
“The court does not make any sense,” Hayman said. “The police are supposed to enforce the law and protect the rights of the citizens. If they have enough strength to rip Jews out of their homes in Gush Katif, they have the strength to protect the court-ordered Jewish right to pray on the Temple Mount. They would rather deny Jews their rights rather than deal with Arab violence.”
“The government has given up so much, allowed so much illegal Arab building, allowed so much Arab violence, allowed them to infringe on the human rights of Jews, that the only way out will have to be extreme. God forbid, it may even take a war to fix the situation. And it didn’t have to come to this.