Israel DID change the status quo on the Temple Mount/Haram el Sharif – two years ago

It didn’t happen now, but rather two years ago. That doesn’t justify incitement or murder. I don’t believe that Israel has any intention to allow fanatics to harm El-Aqsa or build the Third Temple.  However, it does mean that Israel is wrongly and dangerously abusing the power in our hands. I am fearful even to write this truth, given todays tense atmosphere, but the public should not be misled because misinformation leads to more dangerous mistakes.

In an article I wrote in February for the weekly page in “Makor Rishon,” edited by Arnon Segal, who supports Jews praying on the Temple Mount/Haram El Sharif (English translation here), I explained that the change in the status quo took place in the fall of 2013. The Israeli police, certainly with the permission of the government, changed the policy of preventing groups who advocate for Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount/ Haram El Sharif to go up. Up until that time, the ritual was that these groups appealed to the High Court, the Court permitted it — conditional on the approval of the police — and the police refused. They argued that this would be a provocative measure causing tension that would endanger the public and make the work of the police very difficult. From the day that armed officers began accompanying these groups, I began to receive text messages about conflicts breaking out.

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I am saddened by the fact that so many Muslims oppose Jewish prayer on this site, also so holy to Jews, by those who do not accept the Chief Rabbinate’s prohibition to go there. I share the vision of the prophets Isaiah and Micha that in the end of days all peoples will go up to God’s mountain, and there will be a House of Worship for all peoples to pray in, each in their own way. However, this must be done through mutual agreement and desire.

Not by might and not by power, but by my spirit says Adonai of Hosts” (Zachariah 4:6).

It is wrong for Israel, as the occupying and ruling power, to use our overwhelming power and authority to unilaterally change the status quo without speaking with the Waqf and other relevant Muslim authorities, and obtaining their agreement. We shouldn’t be rolling our eyes as if we don’t know what Muslims are talking about, and claiming that there has been no change in the status quo. As I said at the outset, this doesn’t justify incitement and violence, and I don’t believe that Israel has any intention of allowing fanatics to harm El-Aqsa. 

About the Author
Rabbi Arik Ascherman is the founder and director of the Israeli human rights organization "Torat Tzedek-Torah of Justice." Previously, he led "Rabbis For Human Rights" for 21 years. Rabbi Ascherman is a sought after lecturer, has received numerous prizes for his human rights work and has been featured in several documentary films, including the 2010 "Israel vs Israel." He and "Torat Tzedek" received the Rabbi David J. Forman Memorial Fund's Human Rights Prize fore 5779. Rabbi Ascherman is recognized as a role model for faith based human rights activism.
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