Court Rules Jews Can Recite ‘Shema Yisrael’ Prayer on Temple Mount

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Photo by Maayan Baribai/TPS on 7 April, 2022
By Aryeh Savir/TPS • 23 May, 2022

Jerusalem, 23 May, 2022 (TPS) — A Jerusalem court ruled Sunday evening that Jews are legally permitted to recite the Shema Yisrael prayer and prostrate themselves while visiting the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

The ruling was given in response to an appeal filed with the court following the recent arrest of three Israelis who bowed and recited the Shema while visiting the Temple Mount. The appeal was filed in response to a ban the police placed on the entry of three into Jerusalem’s Old City.

Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court Judge Zion Saharai ordered the police to cancel all restrictions on the three, noting that they acted in accordance with the law relating to the holy sites.

“In my opinion, it is not possible to say that bowing and reciting Shema – in the circumstances of the case before me – raises a reasonable suspicion of conduct that may lead to a breach of peace, as required by law. It is difficult to state that a situation in which the recitation of Shema Yisrael on the Temple Mount would constitute a criminal offense of an act that could lead to a violation of peace,” he said in his ruling.

The three were represented by Nati Rom of the Honenu legal rights organization.

“The time has come for the Israeli police to start enforcing and arresting rioters and people who commit crimes in Jerusalem, protect the city’s residents, and stop dealing with esoteric problems while blatantly violating the religious freedom of the Jews on the Temple Mount,” he stated.

“The Israel Police knows that this is not a criminal offense, which is why they try to tack on all kinds of different and strange offenses on the Temple Mount. We are pleased with the clear court decision. The time has come for the Israeli police to recover and stop treating Jewish visitors on the Temple Mount in a racist way,” said Rom.

The Government Secretariat stated in response that “there is no change, nor is any change planned, on the status quo of the Temple Mount.”

The court ruling “is focused exclusively on the matter of conduct of the minors brought before it, and does not include a broader determination regarding the freedom of worship on the Temple Mount.”

The state will file an appeal to the district court, the government added.

The Temple Mount organizations welcomed “the positive process that is occurring on the Temple Mount.”

Activist Assaf Fried said that “Israel’s return to the Temple Mount is an existing and intensifying fact, and after the police, the court also recognizes it and gives it its legal stamp.”

Tom Nisani, CEO of the “Beyadenu – for the Temple Mount organization, stated that “we always said – there is no law forbidding Jews from praying, saying Shma, and other acts on the Mount. Today, another judge flatly rejected the police’s arguments and ruled based on Israeli law. This is another milestone in a long path ending with the return of the Temple Mount to the People of Israel.”

Jews’ visits to the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site, are limited in time, space, as well as the number of visitors at any given time. While Jews’ rights to worship at the site have improved in recent years, much remains wanting, and the full freedom of worship has yet to be granted by the State of Israel to Jews visiting the Temple Mount.

While Muslims enter the holy site freely, Jews are screened by metal detectors, undergo security searches, and are banned from bringing Jewish religious objects to the site.

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