Group Again Demands Action on Har HaBayis Soccer Games

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israeli security forces stand guard on Har HaBayis. (Reuters/Muammar Awad)

Despite declarations of officials that they will bring an end to the phenomenon, Arabs continue to desecrate the holiness of Har HaBayis by playing soccer and other sports in the open plaza on the mount, the Honenu legal rights organization said in a letter this week to Jerusalem police chief Yoram Halevi. The letter demands that police immediately crack down on the trend and find a way to end the games, Channel 10 reported.

This is the second time in several months that Honenu has sent police a letter demanding action on the matter. In response to the previous letter, police promised to enforce the strictures of kedushah that the site deserves. Even though Gedolei Yisrael have ruled time and again that Jews cannot ascend Har HaBayis, the fact that Arabs have free access to the holy site does not give them license to act in a disrespectful manner, Honenu wrote in its previous letter — and police agreed, promising to take steps to stop the games.

“We have sharpened our directives and have instructed officers to fulfill the requirements of the High Court ruling and prevent soccer games, except, as the ruling stated, in the area of the schools located there,” police said in their response.

So far, though, no action has been taken. Witnesses who did enter the Har HaBayis compound recorded footage of soccer games taking place outside the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which they submitted to Honenu.

“We once again request that police act forcefully against these games, which take place at all times. Police should go as far as charging those participating in these games with crimes,” Israeli activist attorney Chaim Bleicher, who works with Honenu, wrote police this week.

The issue of Muslim soccer games has been an ongoing one. According to a High Court ruling from three years ago, such games are prohibited because of the holiness of the site. The only place games are permitted are next to two Muslim schools that are located on the site. According to the witnesses, the games have moved from the schools to the main square, outside the Al-Aqsa Mosque. In a statement, Bleicher said that Honenu “will continue to make efforts to ensure that the holy site is not desecrated.”