On Tuesday afternoon, a religious Jewish man was arrested for making a blessing over a sip of water on the Temple Mount. The incident comes after a landmark change in Temple Mount policy which left advocates for universal access on the Mount hopeful that non-Muslims would eventually be permitted not only to visit but to pray at the holy site.
The 21-year-old man asked a police officer escorting him to allow him to take a drink from a public water fountain. Fearing harassment from the groups of Muslim women hired by Hamas to scream at Jewish and Christian visitors, the police officer said no and gave the visitor a water bottle to drink from instead.
Religious Jews make a “bracha” (blessing) of gratitude to God every time they eat or drink. The man said the customary blessing over water and drank from the bottle. He was then immediately arrested by the police officer for praying on the Temple Mount.
In a similar incident on Tuesday morning, a boy who had gone up to the Temple Mount to celebrate his Bar Mitzvah was removed by police when he said the “Shema” prayer aloud.
Israeli courts have repeatedly reaffirmed the right of Jews to pray on the Temple Mount, which is the holiest site in Judaism. However, the site is under the control of an Islamic Waqf, and large groups of Muslim agitators, often paid by Hamas, are allowed ascend every day to harass and verbally – and sometimes physically – attack the Jewish and Christian visitors who go up.
In late August, the Israeli police began forbidding entrance to these agitators during morning visiting hours, allowing hundreds of Jews and Christians to ascend peacefully without being followed, screamed at, harassed or abused by the Muslim groups. However, the agitators are still allowed in during afternoon visiting hours.
A lawyer for the Temple Mount rights group Honenu is working to get the man released. Honenu put out a statement condemning the arrest, saying, “The saga on the Temple Mount continues. Almost every day Jewish visitors are detained and arrested on bizarre suspicions that cross new red lines. To arrest a Jew because he made blessing on the water [he was about to drink] is a scandal, and if this was going on outside of Israel, one could easily argue that this was anti-Semitism.”