Jerusalem24– The Jerusalem District Court overruled late on Wednesday a previous decision by the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court allowing Jewish prayer inside the courtyards of Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of occupied East Jerusalem on so-called Jerusalem Day.
Jerusalem Day, celebrated on or around 29 May, is meant to celebrate the “unification” of Jerusalem after Israel occupied the eastern part of the city following the 1967 six-day war.
As part of a decades-old arrangement with Jordan, non-Muslims are allowed to visit Al-Aqsa under the supervision of the Waqf, a joint Jordanian-Palestinian Islamic trust that manages the affairs of the mosque. However, only Muslims are allowed to pray within the courtyards and prayer halls of the mosque.
In her ruling, Judge Einat Avman-Moller said, “The special sensitivity of the Temple Mount cannot be overstated.” The Temple Mount is the Hebrew name for the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. The judge further said that the right to freedom of Jewish worship there “is not absolute, and should be superseded by other interests, among them the safeguarding of public order.”
Israeli affairs expert Walid Habbas tells Jerusalem24, “We have to take this decision with a grain of salt.”
“What has been going on this last decade is that nationalist Orthodox Jews are trying, slowly, gradually to influence and change the status quo,” says Habbas. “This decision by the court was not the first decision: in fact there have been many decisions, sometimes to allow them to pray, sometimes to prevent them. But the criterion to allow them to pray is not a political criterion. What is at stake in this court is that allowing Jewish prayer inside Al-Aqsa Mosque will sooner or later provoke the Palestinians in Jerusalem and cause clashes. And this is something that Israelis can prevent.”
Israeli settlers storm the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on a near-daily basis under the protection of Israeli forces, with an increasing frequency since the beginning of Ramadan in early April.