Jewish Prayer at Contested Holy Site in Jerusalem Sets Off Alarms

JERUSALEM — Reports of Jewish teams praying at a risky Jerusalem holy website, in contravention of a longstanding ban, have shined a highlight on the erosion of a fragile, decades-old association meant to maintain the peace.

The Israeli authorities denied on Monday that there had been any coverage change, however gave the impression to be sending combined messages. A tv report over the weekend by Israel’s N12 information channel revealed the proliferation of quiet prayer gatherings in the courtyards of the sacred compound revered by Jews because the Temple Mount, and by Muslims because the Noble Sanctuary, because the police seemed on.

Some non secular Jewish teams who yearn to rebuild a Jewish temple at the contested location, the place the Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock are situated, are actually overtly promoting the holding of day by day prayers at the positioning.

Further questions on a coverage shift arose on Sunday, when a whole lot of Jews marked the holy quick day of Tisha B’Av, which commemorates the destruction of the primary two Jewish temples, by ascending the mount, a frequent flash level in the Israeli-Palestinian battle.

Israel’s not too long ago put in prime minister, Naftali Bennett, of the right-wing Yamina celebration, issued a stunning assertion in Hebrew and English in which he thanked the Israeli authorities for efficiently managing that day’s occasions “while maintaining freedom of worship for Jews on the Mount” — a phrase that instructed a radical change in the coverage banning Jewish prayer and instantly raised alarms.

After a protest from Jordan, the custodian of the positioning, and amid rising tensions inside Mr. Bennett’s fragile and numerous coalition, which features a small Arab Islamist celebration, his workplace walked again the assertion on Monday morning. It issued a clarification saying there had been “no change in the status quo regarding the Temple Mount.”

Referring to Sunday’s assertion, his workplace added: “The press release referred to the freedom to visit. Everything remains as it was.”

The confusion comes at a fraught time for the brand new authorities, which is in the method of rebooting relations with neighboring Jordan, an necessary regional ally, after years of tensions below the lengthy rule of Israel’s former prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Raam, the Islamic celebration in the governing coalition, denounced current occasions on the mount, together with what it referred to as the ascent of greater than 1,600 Jewish “settlers” on Sunday. It proclaimed the positioning to be “solely the property of Muslims” and warned that provocations may result in a “catastrophic” non secular warfare.

Palestinian girls arguing with an Israeli safety officer after clashes at the Noble Sanctuary, or Temple Mount, on Sunday.Credit…Ammar Awad/Reuters

Tensions in Jerusalem, together with a violent conflict when police raided Palestinian protesters at the Aqsa Mosque, contributed to the outbreak of 11 days of fierce combating in May between Israel and Hamas, the Islamic militant group that holds sway in Gaza.

Muhammad Hamadeh, the Hamas spokesman for Jerusalem affairs, referred to as on Palestinians to “march towards Jerusalem, mobilize and station” themselves in the courtyards of the Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem’s Old City in the run-up to Eid al-Adha, a serious Muslim vacation being celebrated this week.

In an effort to calm the environment, Yair Lapid, Israel’s centrist international minister, reiterated in Parliament on Monday that there had been no change in coverage and that Israel had so knowledgeable the Jordanian authorities and the Biden administration.

Israel captured the Old City, together with the remainder of East Jerusalem, from Jordan through the 1967 Middle East warfare and shortly annexed and claimed sovereignty in the world, in a transfer that was by no means internationally acknowledged. It permits the Waqf, an Islamic belief managed by Jordan, to manage the Muslim shrines on the mount, whereas sustaining total safety management.

Under the standing association, solely Muslims might pray on the mount. Non-Muslims can go to however not worship on the plateau. The subsequent holiest place for Jewish prayer is at the foot of the mount by the Western Wall.

Traditionally, most Orthodox Jews averted the mount itself for worry of treading on the spot the place the temples’ holy of holies as soon as stood. Increasingly, non secular Zionist Jews, together with a few of Mr. Bennett’s constituency, have made some extent of visiting the compound, staking a declare and arguing for prayer rights there.

Yeshivat Har Habayit, a Jewish seminary promoting day by day prayers and examine periods in the courtyards of the sanctuary, didn’t reply to requests for remark.

Bassam Abu Labda, a veteran Waqf official in Jerusalem, described the scenario as “very dangerous,” including, “The government is giving cover to the extremists.”

An Israeli police officer standing guard on Sunday as Jewish males visited the Aqsa Mosque compound. Credit…Mahmoud Illean/Associated Press

“Every day we have people making movements, performing prayers, lying on the ground and dancing,” Mr. Abu Labda stated.

Despite the Israeli denials of a coverage change, which may have seismic penalties, some officers left room for ambiguity.

A spokesman for the prime minister refused to touch upon whether or not Jews had been now permitted to hope on the mount, saying solely that this authorities was persevering with the coverage of the final authorities.

A lawmaker from Mr. Bennett’s celebration was filmed singing Hatikvah, Israel’s nationwide anthem, as a part of a small group in the sacred compound on Sunday together with one other former lawmaker from Mr. Bennett’s camp.

Ayelet Shaked, the inside minister from Yamina, on Monday retweeted a submit by the diplomatic correspondent for a right-wing newspaper declaring what he described as a “historic milestone” — that after a whole lot of years of prohibition, Jews had been once more praying overtly on the Temple Mount in a breakthrough facilitated by the federal government and the police.

The Israel Police additionally refused to remark immediately on the Jewish prayer gatherings, saying solely that they act to keep up order at the positioning and that the present restrictions had been based mostly on authorities choices and court docket rulings through the years.

Daniel Seidemann, a longtime advocate for a shared Jerusalem, stated there was “a de facto erosion of the status quo going on for years,” with Temple Mount activists testing the boundaries, first by transferring their lips in silent prayer, then whispering and swaying and now gathering in teams.

Yehudah Glick, a former lawmaker from Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud celebration and an advocate of Jewish prayer rights on the Temple Mount, stated that Jewish prayer there had lengthy been a actuality and instructed that Mr. Bennett’s mistake as a rookie prime minister was to have stated so out loud.

“Oy Prime Minister Bennett, didn’t they teach you that there are certain words that should never be uttered!! ‘Freedom of worship for Jews’ for example!!!” he wrote on Twitter.

Adam Rasgon contributed reporting.