By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
A policeman forbade a Jewish man from lowering his head on the Temple Mount out of apparent concern that he was praying.
In the short video clip shown on social media, an ultra-Orthodox man can be seen sitting on a fragment of a wall by himself, one arm on his knee and his head bent.
An Israeli officer taps him on the shoulder and asks him politely to please raise his head.
When the man asks him, “Is it forbidden to bend my head?” the policeman just repeats his request. When asked if this is policy or just a personal request, he ignores the question, takes two steps away and hovers in place, seemingly to ensure that the man obeys him.
Attorney Nati Rom, who posted the clip to his Twitter account, was outraged at the violation of the citizen’s rights.
“This is a very serious violation of the freedom of worship,” said the human rights lawyer, who works for the Honenu organization that is known for defending Jewish civilians and soldiers who are arrested when defending themselves against Arab attacks.
“It is inconceivable that in the holiest place for the Jewish people, the Temple Mount … in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, Jews cannot walk freely, they are forbidden to pray and here we see a policeman telling a Jew not to lower his head,” he told Hebrew media outlet INN. “On the other hand, ten thousand Muslims are allowed to pray there, incite against the State of Israel, have picnics and play soccer.”
The High Court of Justice has officially upheld the legal right of Jews to pray on the site where their Temple stood for hundreds of years some two millennia ago. They also gave the police the right to oversee security matters on the Mount.
Due to police anxiety that Moslems at the site will riot as a result of seeing overt prayer, they do not allow Jews to enter with religious items such as prayer books or prayer shawls. For years, officers also accompanied Jewish groups walking around the compound and arrested anyone who even moved his lips in a “suspicious” manner.
For the last few years, under Likud-led governments, the authorities relaxed somewhat and quiet, unobtrusive prayer has been allowed. Then, in October, Public Security Minister Omer Barlev of the Labor party declared that the old “status quo” should be maintained whereby only Moslems could pray on the Mount “in view of the security implications.”
Barlev did not address the issue of why the threat of mass violence should trump the right to inconspicuously practice one’s religion, rather than be treated as the criminal act it is.