A Jew is not allowed to pray in any overt manner whatsoever on the Temple Mount, even if he is just moving his lips in prayer, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter recently wrote MKs Uri Ariel and Aryeh Eldad (National Union-NRP).

In 1976, the Supreme Court ruled that it accepted the government's position that it was not opposed to individual Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, providing that it was not of a demonstrative nature that could lead to public disorder. High Court rulings in recent years have also been seen to support individual, as opposed to group prayer on the Mount.

Ariel and Eldad recently decided to test the State's position on this issue. They informed the police that "they intended to manifest this right" [to non-demonstrative prayer] by first coordinating the best time and place to enter and exit the Temple Mount complex.

The two MKs explained that all they intended to do was to pray, without informing the media of their plans, or wearing a talit or tefilin, or bringing a Torah scroll with them.

"It is not possible to arrest a person for 'conversing with his maker,'" Dichter replied, using the same terminology of the MKs' letter.

"However it is possible to carry out an arrest for expressions of outward and demonstrative signs [of prayer]."

This interpretation, Dichter continued, "is in line with the rationale that bans Jews from praying at the site, in light of serious concerns that this will serve as a provocation, resulting in disorder, with a near certain likelihood of subsequent bloodshed."

It was further explained to the two MKs that from the police's point of view, there is no substantive difference between the prayer of an individual and group prayer, since the threat to public safety is the same. Such act would be considered "altering the status quo at the site."

Dichter stressed that the state's decision to ban Jewish prayer from the Temple Mount does not distinguish between an individual praying and that of a group, and that this has been the basis of the status quo since 1967.

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