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Jewish girls detained while praying in Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem

Thursday, July 18, 8:41 Two Jewish girls praying close to the gates to the Temple Mount were quickly deemed to be ‘disturbing the peace’ and detained, despite being granted permission by policemen at the site, even though such permission is not required by law. The girls had originally wanted to pray at the site on the eve of Tisha B’Av (this year after sunset on Monday, July 15) but found that the entrance to the Muslim Quarter was blocked due to security considerations concerning the Muslim holiday of Ramadan. They were told by policemen that the following day they would be allowed to return to the site and pray. On Wednesday, July 17 in the early afternoon hours the girls arrived near the gates to the Temple Mount. They asked the policemen at the site if they could pray there and were answered in the affirmative, so they prayed. Within a short time border policemen arrived at the site and informed them that they were being detained for the misdemeanor of ‘disturbing the peace’, because their prayer was liable to enrage the Muslim public at the site. According to the girls they were verbally abused during their detention by the border police and the abuse continued even in the interrogation room at the Kisleh Police Station, where they were subjected to derogatory epithets and vulgar language. At the conclusion of the interrogation the interrogator, a policewoman, demanded that the girls sign on a restraining order banning them from entering the entire Old City of Jerusalem as a condition for release. After the girls refused to sign and after consulting with the police officers in the station, the interrogator announced that because of the “pluralistic” policy of the Israeli Police the girls would be required to sign on a restraining order banning them from only the area close to the Temple Mount. The girls refused to sign on that order as well. In response to their refusal the interrogator informed the girls that they would be detained overnight at the Russian Compound detention center and in the morning would be brought to court. The girls, who asked to consult with a Honenu attorney, spoke to attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir and gave him their version of the incident. Ben-Gvir spoke to the officers at the station, demanded the release of the girls and said that if they were not released then he would file an urgent request for a court deliberation on the serious violation of the detainees’ rights. Additionally Ben-Gvir said that failure to release the girls would result in a civil suit being filed against the officers at the station. Subsequent to Ben-Gvir’s conversation with the officers the girls were unconditionally released. On Thursday, July 18 in response to their detention and release the girls said that, “The frequent incidents of harassment by the police prove how important it is to have a Jewish presence at the site.” Attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir, who represented the girls on behalf of Honenu, responded to the incident. “Apparently the Jerusalem Police work in stages. At first they prohibited Jews from praying on the Temple Mount and when they saw that the public and their elected officials remained silent they banned Jewish prayer in what is known as the ‘Muslim Quarter’. Tomorrow if we continue to remain silent they will ban Jewish prayer in all of the Old City. After all, such prayer could enrage the Muslims. It is time that we stop the silence and in the legal arena I will recommend to the girls that they sue the policemen for damages.”

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