During a recent interview with Galei Yisrael radio, Education Minister Naftali Bennett stunned supporters by stating that he upholds the discriminatory status quo on the Temple Mount which forbids Jewish prayer. This position contradicts the Supreme Court, which has ruled no less than 19 times that the Temple Mount must be open for all denominations to visit and pray there.
However, the Jordanian Islamic Waqf which oversees day-to-day operations at the Temple Mount vehemently prevents all non-Muslim visitors not only from praying but even from having in their possession any Jewish or Christian item of religious significance, like a cross or a Bible.
Bennett’s statement seems to fly in the face of the platform of his political party, the Jewish Home. Identified as a Zionist party, its platform states that members stand for Jerusalem as “the eternal capital of the Jewish people and the state of Israel solely, and will not be divided.”
Additionally, regarding the religious atmosphere of Israel, the Jewish Home proclaims that it will “fight for the Jewish identity of the state on every level: culture, character, personal status, society and legislation, as a Jewish and democratic state.”
“I’m in favor of the right of every Jew to ascend the Temple Mount,” Bennett stated during the interview. “As a youth in the 80’s I would go up there a lot.” Yet, he continued, “I’m for preserving the status quo, and at this point it is correct not to allow the prayer of Jews on the Temple Mount.”
The “status quo” Bennett refers to is an agreement signed in 1994 as an official peace treaty between Israel and Jordan. Article 9 of the agreement specifies the standards for “places of historical and religious significance” shared by both Israel and Jordan, including the Temple Mount.
Rights given by the agreement include mutually free access to places of religious and historical significance, with the caveat that Israel respect the present special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in Muslim Holy shrines in Jerusalem.
The agreement also states that “The Parties will act together to promote interfaith relations among the three monotheistic religions, with the aim of working towards religious understanding, moral commitment, freedom of religious worship, and tolerance and peace.”
Yehudah Glick, an advocate for freedom of prayer upon the Temple Mount and founder of the Temple Mount Heritage Foundation, told Breaking Israel News upon hearing of Bennett’s announcement, “Prayer in an internal activity of spirituality between man and God. No policeman or soldier can prevent a person from praying in his heart. Even in the concentration camps of Auschwitz, Jews were not prevented from praying. Certainly, no one should be stopped from praying at the holiest site in the world.”
It seems that Bennett, along with the Waqf and many others throughout the world, does not have a clear understanding of what “upholding the status quo” actually implies. Even Bennett noted, “The Temple Mount is the national and religious center of Judaism and the state of Israel, and we must preserve our sovereignty there.”