Updated: Jan 24, 2022
Thursday, July 26, 2018, 13:39 On the Tisha B’Av fast commemorating the destruction of the Holy Temple, which was observed on July 22 this year, the police distanced from the gates of the Temple Mount dozens of worshipers who had arrived from Yeshivat Torat HaChayim, because their prayer might cause disturbances and rioting among Muslim visitors to the site. In response Honenu Attorney Menashe Yado, who is representing the worshipers, sent a letter to Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan, requesting that he change the enforcement policy of the police on the matter. The worshipers are of the opinion that the police gave too much weight to concerns of Muslim rioting, over the rights of Jews to pray at the gates to the Temple Mount, particularly on the day of the Tisha B’Av fast. In the letter Yado described the incident: A group of yeshiva students from Yeshivat Torat HaChayim in Yad Binyamin arrived at the gates to the Temple Mount to pray on the day of the Tisha B’Av fast. The worshipers wore tefilin and prayer shawls, and were praying aloud when the police decided to remove them. The police used substantial force to distance them several hundred meters from the site, despite the fact that their presence was legal. Video clips documenting the incident were sent with the letter. Yado mentioned in the letter that, “Decisive backing by the police of Jewish prayer near the gates to the Temple Mount will send a message to the Muslims that Jews have rights in the Old City of Jerusalem and will allow Jews to realize their national, religious and basic legal rights.” Yado also stated that the goal of the police was to prevent unrest in the area. However the very act of publicly distancing the worshipers sends a message to the Muslim population that Jews are forbidden to pray at the gates to the Temple Mount, which is liable to create a disturbance. In conclusion, the letter denounced the conduct of the policemen during the incident: “The police acted in a confrontational manner which created unrest between the worshipers and the policemen, at a site where it would have been appropriate to allow the Jewish prayer and to create a supportive atmosphere.” And a request was made to Minister Erdan that lessons would be learned from the incident: “A policy should be set, taking into proper account the rights of Jews to realize their nationalist feelings and freedom of worship at the gates to the Temple Mount, on Tisha B’Av and in general.” Honenu Attorney Menashe Yado stated that, “When he began his term, Minister Erdan announced his intent to strengthen Jewish presence on the Temple Mount. He made a statement and he acted on his word. During his term the policy became one of policing that recognizes the fact that the Temple Mount is in our hands and gives meaning to this fact while respecting the status quo on one hand and recognizing the rights of Jews on the Temple Mount on the other.” Yado explained that the goal of his letter to Minister Erdan is to “direct his attention to the fact that outside of the gates to the Temple Mount the norms which he dictated are not being upheld, and Jews are not able to pray there as they should, not even on the day of Tisha B’Av, a day clearly meant for prayer, calling out [to G-d] and expressing anguish. We hope that Minister Erdan will continue the positive and correct trend that he started about the Temple Mount, and will act to allow Jews to prayer near the gates to the Temple Mount.” Yado added that, “We hope that our letter to Minister Erdan will draw attention to the fact that the Israeli Police, in our opinion out of excessive concern for violence from extreme Islamic groups, did not allow dozens of Jews to pray and call out [to G-d] near the gates to the Temple Mount on the day of the Tisha B’Av fast. “We reason that it is within Minister Erdan’s power to cause a change in the perception of the police in this matter, and to shake up the police so that they will carry out their duty and protect the right of Jews to express their nationalist feelings near the gates to the Temple Mount, on Tisha B’Av, a day of calling out to G-d, and also on every day. To that end we wrote him the letter and we believe that he is able to enact a change, all the more so as he has proven in the past that he is on the right track in this matter,” concluded Yado. In addition to the Yeshivat Torat HaChayim students, three activists from the Students for the Temple Mount movement were detained at the entrance to the Temple Mount. In recent years there have been several instances of Jews detained while attempting to pray either on or near the Temple Mount on Tisha B’Av. See here for a 2017 case of a detainee tasered in the Old City of Jerusalem. See here for the report of the closings of two cases, one from 2015 and the other from 2016, each of which involved police brutality. See here for a 2013 case in which two Jewish girls were detained while praying near the gates to the Temple Mount, even though police at the site granted them permission to do so.