Harman Patil

Temple Mount entry restrictions

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Temple Mount entry restrictions

Temple Mount entry restrictions are restrictions on entering the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem, which is a holy place for Muslims, Jews and Christians. While it has formally recognized that the responsibility for the site, an Islamic religious endowment, lies under the management of the Jordanian government through the Waqf in Amman, the Israeli government imposes entry limits to Temple Mount for political and security reasons. In addition, Jewish law imposes restrictions on entering Temple Mount.

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Restrictions during the Ottoman Empire

For centuries an absolute ban on non-Muslim access to the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount existed. The situation was relatively free of tensions as Jews acquiesce in the exercise of Muslim authority over the site.In 1839, following the Tanzimat reforms in the Ottoman establishment and legislation, non-Muslims were permitted to enter Temple Mount, but in order to do so they had to obtain special permit from the governor Jews who managed to obtain permission to visit the site at that time, such as Moses Montefiore and Baron Rothschild, had themselves carried across the site by Muslims, in order not to violate the rabbinic prohibition against Jews setting foot on the holy ground of the area.

Under the British Mandate and Jordanian rule

Article 13 of the Mandatory Charter conferred on Britain by the League of Nations explicitly denied its governing body the right to either interfere with the site or the administration of purely Muslim holy places. Jewish requests for access to their holy places during the period of British rule of Palestine were focused on the Western Wall, not on the Temple Mount, which was, in any case, off-limits according to the Jewish prohibition against entering the latter. The struggle between Muslims and Jews was concentrated on the latter's desire to secure regulated access to the wall on the mount's western side. As early as 1920, rabbi Avraham Yitzhak ha-Kohen Kook stated that though in other hands, the Temple Mount would eventually come into Jewish possession, a declaration which was interpreted by the mufti Amin al-Husseini as evidence of a political plot to wrest control of the Haram itself. In the ensuing period, the Temple Mount became something of a "state within a state" which the British authorities would not enter even when it became the centre for the Arab Revolt, until the mufti fled the site. The King's Order-in-Council issued by the government authorities of Mandatory Palestine in 1934 regulated the legal situation of the site by confirming the religious status quo regarding sovereignty reigning from Ottoman times.

At the conclusion of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount lay behind the lines held by the Jordanian Legion. From that date until Israel captured the site in 1967 during the Six Day War, Israeli Muslims were unable to enter East Jerusalem and access the Haram al-Sharif. This restriction was sometimes imposed by the Israeli government.

1967 to the present

With the Israeli capture of the Old City in 1967, a wave of passionate feelings, expressing long repressed frustrations over both the humiliating conditions imposed on prior worship at the remnant of the Temple which was the Western Wall, and a certain desire for revenge, according to Meron Benvenisti, was unleashed. Accounts were immediately settled by demolishing an entire Muslim quarter adjacent to the Temple Mount. However, Israeli government took several measures regarding the Temple Mount designed to reassure the world that it had no intention of making the issue of where the Temple Mount's sovereignty lay until this could be determined in final status negotiations. Among these was a directive prohibiting an Israeli flag to be raised over the site, and the decision to refrain from extending a number of Israeli laws, including that governing Holy Places, to the Haram ash-Sharif, and the assignment of administrative authority to the Islamic waqf.

Halakhic restrictions

After Israel captured the site 1967, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel announced that entering the Temple Mount was forbidden to Jews, in accordance with a halakhic prohibition against temei ha'met (Impurity by contacting the dead, cemeteries etc.). The ancient ban on Jews, other than a high priest, entering the zone of the Holy of Holies was confirmed, with the consideration also that, since the exact location of the Second Temple was unknown, any Jew walking through the site would be at grave risk of inadvertently treading on the ground of the Holy of Holies in error.

According to Maimonides, all must still show the same respect (fear) for the Temple which it commanded before its destruction. He added that, "(n)o one may enter it except the places that one is permitted to enter." There is an ongoing ideological and halakhic debate whether it is permissible or forbidden to enter the Temple Mount. On one side stand those (mainly Haredi) who prohibit the entry to all persons in all areas of the Mount, in fear that a visitor might enter the Temple location. On the other side, there are those who do not see, based on the same halakha, any wrongdoing in Jews entering the Temple Mount while observing the halakhic purity laws, and getting only to certain areas of the Mount. Additionally there are others (mainly Religious Zionists) who even see visiting the site as a Mitzvah, meaning prayer there should be considered a religious duty.

Israeli restriction policy

Jewish prayer on Temple Mount is completely forbidden. Jews may enter only to visit the place, and only at limited times. Muslims are free to pray on Temple Mount, however, Christians and Jews may only visit the site as tourists. They are forbidden from singing, praying, or making any kind of "religious displays". During times of political tension and fear of riots, on Fridays and some Jewish or Muslim Holy Days entry to the Haram area is restricted to Muslim men over a certain age, which varies according to decisions taken by security officials. The restrictions do not concern Muslim women, who can enter regardless of their age.

Public discourse

A number of Jewish movements demand "freedom of prayer to Jews on Temple Mount": "The Temple Mount Faithfuls" led by Gershon Solomon. This movement holds that the Temple Mount is the key to sovereignty over the entire Land of Israel. Other movements are: "The Temple Institute" established by Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, and "The movement for the establishment of the Temple" founded by Rabbi Yosef Elboim of the Belz Hassidic sect. The main activity of these movements is to encourage private visits by Jews on the Temple Mount.

References

Temple Mount entry restrictions Wikipedia


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