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Video of Jews reciting ‘Priestly Blessing’ on Temple Mount in Jerusalem renews controversy over site

Police have often attempted to prevent prayers at site, despite court ruling it permissible

Jewish reciting the Priestly Blessing on the Temple Mount (Photo: Screenshot)

A video of religious Jews performing the Priestly Blessing on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem was uploaded to social media on Tuesday by the Palestinian news site Al Qastal.

The video showed a group of religious Jews extending their hands and reciting the blessing from the biblical Book of Numbers 6:24-26, which God commanded the priest to say over the people of Israel.

With more Jews ascending to the Temple Mount each year, the subject of Jewish prayer being offered at the holiest site to Judaism has increasingly become a point of contention.

In 2021, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that “every Jew has the right to pray on the Temple Mount, as part of the freedom of religion and expression.”

However, the court also acknowledged the controversy over the site, which is under the authority of the Islamic Jerusalem Waqf organization. They admitted that the police have a legitimate right to limit prayers for “the public interest” in order to maintain public order.

“At the same time, these rights are not absolute, and can be limited to take into account the public interest,” the court stated.

For the past several years, security personnel have prevented the visible performance of prayers on the site, including issuing temporary bans on Jews caught praying publicly on the Temple Mount.

The Israeli government has also issued temporary restrictions on Jewish ascent to the site, particularly near Islamic holidays, as a way to reduce tensions between Jews and Muslims.

In April National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir opposed the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to ban Jews from entering the Temple Mount until the end of Ramadan, arguing that closing the Temple Mount to Jews after a wave of terrorism is “a serious mistake that will not bring peace but may only escalate the situation.” 

Over the years, increasing numbers of religious Jews have visited the Temple Mount on significant Jewish holidays and memorial days, such as Passover and Tisha B’Av, the day when Jews commemorate the destruction of the First and Second Temples.

All visitors of the Temple Mount are informed before entering that prayer and visible religious items like prayer shawls or prayer books are forbidden at the site.

Groups of religious activists have increasingly pushed against the restrictions, often conducting prayers at the site and begin filming in order to post videos on social media or religious websites.

Palestinian terror groups have threatened Israel over such visits, and many Palestinians remain sensitive to how prayer is conducted on the Temple Mount. Palestinian news sources and social media sites often accuse “Jewish settlers” of “storming the Al Aqsa Mosque.”

In an article in Al Qastal, a Palestinian researcher, Jamal Amr, accused the Israel government of trying to “Judaize Jerusalem.”

"The fascist settler government seeks to Judaize Jerusalem,” Amr claimed, “through the brazen policies of the occupation, by expanding the incursions and the number of intruders, controlling the mosque, imposing new rituals, and holding all Talmudic prayers.”

He told the site that “the settlers' performance of the semi-annual Priestly Blessing' prayer, known in Hebrew as 'Birkat HaCohanim', is a dangerous and unprecedented development in the courtyards of Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

Ziad Ibhais, a Palestinian researcher, accused Jews of trying “to impose a Jewish identity parallel to the Islamic identity in the mosque.”

While most Muslims today refer to the Temple Mount as al-Ḥaram al-Sharīf (Arabic for The Noble Sanctuary), it is also called Bait al-Maqdis, a transliteration of the Hebrew Beit HaMikdash (meaning The Holy House).

During the last 75 years, Palestinian leadership and religious leaders have moved away from using any terminology linking the Temple Mount to its Jewish history.

This attempt to deny the Jewish history in Jerusalem is part of an effort to delegitimize the Jewish claim to their homeland.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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