A Sephardic Jewish spiritual leader said Thursday that Jewish presence on the Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem was part of the reasons for the current deterioration in the security situation. "Of course this [Jews visiting the Temple Mount] sparked all the current tumult," Rabbi Shimon Ba’adani said.
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The Council of Torah Sages for the ultra-Orthodox Shas party recently shelved a letter in which it calls on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to issue a sweeping prohibition against the entry of Jews onto the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, based on the view that halakha, Jewish religious law, bars Jews from treading on the site of the two ancient temples that once stood on the site. The prime minister has since barred any lawmakers from visiting the site.
In an interview recorded for broadcast on Radio Kol Barama Thursday evening, Ba’adani took those Jews who have entered the Temple Mount compound to task for stirring up tensions. "Do not provoke the nations, even if we are in control here, there is a halakha. I don't know on whose authority they permit themselves to provoke and cause an armed struggle like is happening now they are forbidden.
“There may be other reasons,” he said regarding the escalation of tensions, “but that certainly aroused them.” He said visiting the site was "strictly prohibited" by the party's spiritual leader's past ruling.
The halakhic interpretation is accepted by ultra-Orthodox religious scholars and was the view of late Sephardi Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who was the spiritual mentor of the Shas party.
Regardless, he said that saving life trumps any mitzvah, and thus asked "Why enter the Temple Mount?"
The Council of Torah Sages sought to raise the issue with the prime minister in light of the current escalation in tensions.
Despite Netanyahu’s insistence that Israel has no intention of changing the status quo on the mount, which is under the day-to-day administration of a Muslim religious trust, the waqf, tensions have escalated over Palestinian claims that the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is on the Temple Mount, is under threat from Israel.
On Thursday, Netanyahu ordered members of his cabinet and members of the Knesset not to enter the Temple Mount. He took the step so as not to further escalate tensions rather than for the halakhic reasons embraced by ultra-Orthodox rabbis and a substantial portion of the national religious Orthodox rabbinical community.