Israeli police are enforcing extra-legal policies on the Temple Mount that discriminate against non-Muslims to a degree that is even more racist than what was seen during the era of the Jim Crow laws in the US. Jews visiting their holiest site are prohibited from the most basic human right of accessing restrooms.
For years, non-Muslims have been segregated and forced to enter the Temple Mount through a single gate, the Mughrabi Gate, which is not accessible to the disabled. Israeli Jews undergo background checks and body searches. No non-Muslim religious objects may be brought into the site and no visible symbols of Israeli nationalism may be displayed. Non-Muslims are only permitted to access the site via one gate that is open four hours a day and closed on Fridays and Saturdays. Jews may only walk along a specified path and only while accompanied by a police escort.
While Israeli law mandates religious freedom and equality at all religious sites, non-Muslim prayer is severely limited on the Temple Mount, and Jews may not bring religious items used in prayer, such as tefillin, lulav, a shofar, or a Torah scroll. While these restrictions contravene Israeli law, the police enforce them by claiming security concerns. Non-Muslims are not permitted equal rights at the site lest the Palestinians riot.
But even more shocking are the restrictions enforced by the police on the Temple Mount that violate basic human rights and dignity of non-Muslims. Non-Muslims are not permitted to use the bathrooms available on the Temple Mount that are available for use by Muslims.
Beyadenu, a Temple Mount advocacy group, submitted an official complaint with the Israeli police through Israeli lawyer Daniel Shimshilashvili to demand that non-Muslim visitors to the site be granted equal rights and be permitted to use the restrooms.
Tom Nisani, CEO of Beyadenu, commented on the strong reasons behind the complaint.
“We cannot live in a nation where violating human dignity is a commonplace and daily occurrence,” Nisani told Israel365 News. “Restriction of movement, restricting the freedom of expression, restricting access to specific ethnicities and religions happen every day on the Temple Mount. We will act to change this reality by enlisting the Jewish people to fight for the Temple Mount to change this reality, one ugly policy at a time.”
Nisani emphasized that by restricting the bathrooms according to race, the Israeli police are mimicking the police in the US who enforced the racist Jim Crow laws.
“Fighting for equal rights on the Temple Mount is the same as the civil rights movement in the 1950s,” Nisani said. “But it is worse because the Jews are doing this to ourselves.”
Nisani quoted Martin Luther King Jr. who called for ending discrimination:
“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”
The complaint filed with the police calls for the “immediate allowance for ascenders to the Temple Mount to use the restrooms or install additional restrooms”. The complaint cited reports of visitors to the Temple Mount who were asked to leave in order to use the facilities rather than use the restrooms at the site. They were frequently required to remain with the group rather than leave the site, sometimes waiting for long periods of time of over an hour, until the tour of the site was concluded before being permitted to go to the restrooms.
“Needless to say, this absurd situation not only goes against basic human laws, including the law of human dignity and freedom, but from a moral point of view, it is difficult to accept a reality in which a person, sometimes an elderly person and sometimes a child, are prevented from using the facilities for a long time,” the complaint notes. “ Frequently, this is a person who suffers from medical problems and can be harmed from being prevented from using the restrooms. This is also humiliating and presents the possibility of the person defecating or urinating on themselves.”
The complaint cited Section 2 of Israel’s Fundamental Law: Human Dignity and Freedom:
“No one harms the life, body, or dignity of a person, regardless of who he is”
“The situation in the field today is that there are two toilet facilities on the Mount, one – in the north of the Temple Mount near the Gate of the Tribes and the other – in the west of the Temple Mount. As mentioned, non-Muslim pilgrims to the Temple Mount are not allowed access to them, which constitutes an injury both to the bodies of the immigrants who are not authorized to access the facilities, in complete violation of the aforementioned law.
In addition, the Law on the Prohibition of Discrimination in Products, Services, and Entrance to Entertainment Places and Public Places, 2000, explicitly states that discrimination of the type described is illegal discrimination, as stated in section 3 (a) of the law under the heading “Prohibition of Discrimination.”
“Anyone whose occupation is providing a public product or service or operating a public place shall not discriminate in the provision of the public product or service, in granting entry to the public place or in providing a service in a public place, because of race, religion or religious group, nationality, country of origin, sex, sexual orientation, outlook, party affiliation, age, personal status, parentage or wearing the uniforms of the security and rescue forces or wearing their symbols”
The lawyer for Beyadenu, Daniel Shimshilashvili, noted that the complaint had been filed more than one month ago and there has yet to be a response from the Israeli police.
“There is no law, there could be no law, that prohibits non-Muslims from having equal access to bathroom facilities,” Shimshilashvili said. “This is an illegal policy carried out by the police.”
“This touches on a basic physical need and, to be candid, it is humiliating to have to bring a lawsuit for the right to use the bathroom. This is precisely what the blacks suffered in the US before the civil rights movement.”
“We filed the complaint at the end of June and if the police do not respond, we will be forced to file a petition with the courts,” Shimshilashvili said.
Until recently, Jews were also prohibited from accessing the water fountains on the Temple Mount.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 Israel365 News. “On the Temple Mount, the police are relating to the Jews as an enemy, as a security threat.”
Additional restrictions on non-Muslims include, no bringing or eating food while visiting the Temple Mount. One reason for this prohibition is that Jews are required to bless before eating or drinking and this may be seen as a form of prayer. Jews have been arrested in the past for blessing before drinking water at the site.