Israeli Court Lifts Ban on Jews Accused of Violating Status Quo at Al Aqsa Compound

Orthodox Jewish men daven as as Israeli police officers guard at the entrance to the Al Aqsa Mosque, in Jerusalem’s Old City on April 19, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

YERUSHALAYIM (Reuters/Hamodia) – A lower Israeli court on Sunday overturned a police order barring three Jews from the Al Aqsa mosque compound on Har Habayis after they prayed there, in violation of understandings with Muslim authorities, questioning the legal basis of such enforcement.

Removing the ban, Judge Tzion Saharai said that while he had no intention of interfering in law enforcement at the site, “the appellants’ conduct does not raise worry of harm befalling national security, public safety or individual security.”

Police had no comment. Eran Schwarz, a lawyer whose firm represented the appellants, said he expected police to contest the ruling. Magistrate’s courts can be overturned by district courts, with Israel’s High Court a final course of appeal.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas issued a statement calling Sunday’s ruling “a grave assault against the historic status quo … and a flagrant challenge to international law.”

The informal understanding with Muslim authorities is that Jews may visit the site but not pray there. The leading poskim have long stressed that halacha forbids any Jew from entering the area.

The three appellants were banned from the Old City for 15 days in a previous ruling that quoted police as saying their actions disrupted its officers’ duties and threatened public order.

Saharay also cited Police Chief Kobi Shabtai in comments from last May that officers would ensure freedom of religion for “all residents of the country and the territories” at the flashpoint holy site.

“A public statement made by the head of police that clearly suggests that all residents of the country are allowed to enter the Temple Mount and pray there is an invitation for anyone interested in doing so to come,” Saharay wrote in his ruling.

The judge noted, however, that his decision bears strictly on whether the appellants can be barred from returning to the site. It does not establish anything regarding the permissibility of Jewish prayer in general at the compound, and does not interfere with the task of the police in maintaining order.

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