No change to ban on Jewish prayer at mosque: Israeli PM

Filed on July 19, 2021
Photo: AP

The office of Israel’s new prime minister says he isn’t changing the norms at a contested site in Jerusalem to allow Jewish prayer there.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is not changing the norms at a contested site in Jerusalem to allow Jewish prayer there, his office said Monday, walking back comments that sparked angry reactions a day earlier.

Bennett, Israel’s new premier, had raised concerns on Sunday when he said Israel was committed to protecting “freedom of worship” for Jews at the hilltop compound.

Under a long-standing practice, Jews are allowed to visit — but not pray — at the site, which they revere as the Temple Mount and which Muslims hold sacred as the home of the Al Aqsa Mosque.

Despite Bennett’s phrasing, the status quo holds, according to an official in the prime minister’s office who was not authorised to speak publicly and demanded anonymity.

The clarification came after a tense day in which hundreds of Jewish pilgrims visited the compound under heavy police guard to mark Tisha B’Av, a day of mourning and repentance when Jews reflect on the destruction of the First and Second Temples.

Earlier Sunday, Muslim worshippers briefly clashed with Israeli security forces at the flashpoint shrine.

No injuries were reported, but the incident again raised tensions. It came just days before Muslims celebrate the festival of Eid Al Adha, or Feast of the Sacrifice.

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