On Wednesday, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court heard the appeal of Aryeh Lipo, a Jewish visitor to the Temple Mount who had been removed and distanced from the complex for 15 days after a police officer ordered him to stop praying during a visit on Yom Kippur.
After watching a recording of the incident, Justice Bilha Yahalom ruled that the appellant’s behavior did not violate the law or police instructions on the Temple Mount, as he was praying without a crowd and quietly in a way that was not external or visible. The ruling stated as well that Israel Police did not dispute that Lipo, like many others, prays on a daily basis on the Temple Mount.
The justice additionally dismissed the notion that Lipo posed any danger or committed any violation with his quiet prayer, despite claims by police to the contrary.
While the High Court of Justice has ruled in the past that Jews do have the legal right to pray on the Temple Mount, police have cited security concerns to impose a blanket prohibition on Jewish prayer.
Jewish visitors to the site are informed upon entry that prayer and religious items such as prayer books or prayer shawls or forbidden in the complex, although, since late 2019, Jewish visitors have been able to pray quietly, in certain parts of the site, relatively undisturbed.
Bar Lev announced on Friday that Israel Police would appeal the ruling because “a change in the status quo will endanger the public peace and could cause a flare-up.”
“The State of Israel advocates freedom of worship and prayer for all, however, in view of the security implications, the status quo must be upheld that the prayer of Jews on the Temple Mount will take place next to the Western Wall and the prayer of Muslims will take place in al-Haram al-Sharif,” said Bar Lev.
Palestinian media additionally claimed on Friday that Israeli security forces prevented some worshipers from reaching the al-Aqsa Mosque for dawn and noon prayers, although hundreds of worshippers were reportedly present at the mosque for dawn prayers.
The worshipers at dawn reportedly chanted “With our blood and souls we will redeem you, al-Aqsa,” a chant often used amid tensions surrounding the Temple Mount.
On Thursday, the Hamas movement called the ruling a “clear declaration of war” and a “blatant aggression against the blessed al-Aqsa Mosque” on Thursday.
“The battle of the sword of Jerusalem was not and will not be the last chapter of the confrontation under the title of Jerusalem, and the resistance that was promised and fulfilled confirms that it is ready and prepared to repel aggression and defend rights,” warned Hamas.
Friday also marks 31 years since the 1990 Temple Mount riots, in which about 20 Palestinians were killed and 19 policemen, a number of Western Wall worshippers and over 100 Palestinians were injured in violent riots on the Temple Mount during the Sukkot holiday.