Jerusalem Court Allows Jewish-prayer Activist Back to Temple Mount

Yehuda Etzion was restricted from the Temple Mount after lifting his hands in the air while at the site; judge says banning gesture was a 'slippery slope.'

File Photo: Police carry out Yehuda Etzion from the Temple Mount, after he allegedly prayed at the site, 2012.
Michal Fattal

A hardline activist who raised his hands in the air while visiting the Temple Mount compound did not violate the status quo at the site, a Jerusalem court said on Monday, reversing a lower court's decision to ban the Israeli man from visiting the compound for 15 days. 

Jerusalem District Court judge Ram Vinograd called the ban against Yehuda Etzion a "slippery slope" and accepted an appeal against the restriction filed on Etzion's behalf by the Honenu group. 

The judge said that the gesture was not sanctioned in the past, and that if police wanted to change the instructions on proper behavior at the site, it should have done so explicitly. 

"Under these circumstances, there's no need to discuss whether lifting the palms up constitutes an act of prayer, and it's enough that police hasn't prohibited this gesture until now," the judge said, NRG reported. 

According to Vinograd, prohibiting the gesture may also require a similar ban on wearing head garb or lifting one's eyes upwards at the Temple Mount, since these are also considered acts of piety by the Talmud. "Indeed, it's a slippery slope, and every step down it must be carefully considered," the judge said. 

Etzion, a former member of a Jewish terrorist underground and the founder of the Hai VeKayam group which advocates for Jewish prayer at the Temple Mount, said following the ruling: "From the start it was clear to me that even under the shameful status quo which bans prayer at the Temple Mount, there's nothing wrong with lifting the hands upwards," NRG reported. 

Honenu, the group which filed the appeal on Etzion's behalf, lauded the ruling and said it "hopes police will learn from the judge's statements and stop harassing Jews coming to the Temple Mount." 

An appeal filed by a second plaintiff, who was also restricted from the site, was not accepted. 

The holy site known to Jews as Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary) has played a major role in sparking the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian violence, when accusations that Israel was violating the status quo surfaced on Palestinian and Arab media. 

Israel has denied the accusations. Last October, Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians reached understanding aimed at easing tensions on the site, including the installation of cameras on the Temple Mount, which operating 24 hours a day would show that Israel was not changing the status quo on the Mount and not targeting mosques there.