May 18, 2022

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On Friday, the Waqf, the Muslim trust that has custodial responsibility for the Temple Mount, removed a man from the Temple Mount on suspicion that he was a Jew disguised as a Muslim. 

Initial reports in Palestinian media claimed the man was an Israeli Jew caught attempting to enter the Temple Mount. The Palestinian Safa news agency reported that Muslim guards stopped a Jewish Israeli as he entered the Temple Mount via the Council Gate. He was taken to a guard room and, according to the report, a conversation with him made it clear that he was not a Muslim and he refused to show any documents proving his identity. The guards removed the man from the Temple Mount.

Subsequent reports noted that the guards had admitted the man was a Muslim foreigner. The guards stated that they became suspicious due to the man’s failure to answer their questions.  Al-Qastal news reported that the man, Murtaza Chopra, was a French Muslim of Pakistani descent who is currently in Israel, studying at the Department of Archaeology of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Al-Qastal reported that the guards may have also been confused due to Chopra not speaking Arabic well.

The Muslim guards blamed their confusion on reports in Israeli media claiming that extremist Jewish groups are disguising themselves as Arabs in order to enter the Temple Mount as Muslims. 

They are referring to a Channel 13 report that came out last month making allegations that Jews were preparing to do so. Shortly after the report, the police imposed restrictions on two members of a group alleged to be about to enter the Temple Mount disguised as Arabs. Their legal defense argued that the report was inaccurate. He also noted that restricting Jewish access to the site was in violation of the 1967 Law for the Preservation of Holy Places. The two men were acquitted.

Jews are prohibited from entering the Temple Mount Compound on Friday and Saturday and are limited to just a few hours on other days. Jews are also restricted to all but one entrance at which they undergo strict security checks. Jews are limited to small groups accompanied by police and to specific areas. Arabs have unrestricted access to the Temple Mount and do not undergo any security checks. 

The police have begun to allow Jews to pray quietly on the Temple Mount in partial accordance with the law that requires equality of religions at the site.