Israeli Magistrate’s Court Judge Xian Sahrai ruled Sunday that the three Jewish youths were not violating security conditions while reciting a Jewish prayer in a rival holy area known as the Temple Mount to Jews and the Haram al-Sharif to Muslims.
Police charged the three with security breaches for reading Shema, barring them from entering the Old City of Jerusalem for 15 days.
Under the so-called Ottoman Treaty of Jerusalem, only Muslims were allowed to pray inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
After Israel occupied them in the 1967 war, Israel and other states agreed to maintain the status quo in these holy sites.
In his judgment, Judge Sahrai wrote: “In my opinion, it is not possible to say that bowing and praying – in the case before me – raises a reasonable suspicion of conduct which may lead to violation of the law. Peace.”
He made it clear that the ruling should not be taken as a decision on the right of Jewish prayer in the area. “I cannot sign my decision without clarifying that it does not interfere with the work of the police in enforcing public order on Temple Mount in general, or that it does not constitute a resolution on freedom of worship at Temple Mount. These issues do not exist. This decision is discussed.”
The Israeli prime minister’s office said Sunday night that “there has been no change in the status of Temple Mount or any change is planned.”
The prime minister’s office said in a statement that the magistrate’s court’s decision focused exclusively on the conduct of minors and did not include a broader resolution on freedom of worship at Temple Mount.
Israel’s state prosecutor is appealing the ruling, and Israeli police have issued a statement reiterating that the court’s decision will not change access to the holy site:
Nevertheless, the Islamic-Christian Committee of Jerusalem and its sanctuary warned that the court’s decision violated the existing treaty on holy sites: Wide. “
The Islamic Trust, which is accused of operating the compound, also condemned the ruling, saying “all these decisions are illegal to be imposed by the occupying forces in order to justify the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque.”
Some religious nationalist Jewish groups have been demanding that Jews enter the Temple Mount area for prayer. There have been several incidents of Jewish visitors praying in the disputed area, sparking outrage from Muslim authorities and forcible removal by Israeli police.
On Monday, far-right Knesset member Itamar Ben Gavir tweeted a video of two Jewish men trying to enter Temple Mount after a prayer shawl but were turned away by police. In his post, Benvi quoted the court’s verdict: “This morning, I am very worried about the fate of democracy !!! To my surprise, the police do not respect the court’s decision, which in fact allows Jews. Pray at Temple Mount and pray is not a crime.” The police are sending messages of anarchy and, unfortunately, telling the youth not to take the verdict seriously ৷ terrible. “
Tensions are already high in Jerusalem. As a controversial annual event, Jewish religious nationalist groups plan to cross some holy sites in the Old City this week to mark Jerusalem, Israel’s national holiday. Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups have threatened retaliation if the plan goes ahead.