Commentary by Rabbis Natan Tzvi Brinn and Yehuda Levi, and Dr. Melissa Jane Kronfeld
Rabbi Avi Shafran, director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America, recently wrote in Religious News Service that according to “Israeli law, non-Muslims may go up to the Temple Mount to visit, but not to pray or conduct rites,” and also that there are “complex” “religious reasons” for prohibiting prayer on the Mount.
There is no such law. The Israeli Supreme Court does allow the Israel Police to limit freedom to worship on Har Habayit if it might cause a “disturbance of public order” but, in practice, Jews are free to pray quietly and use a prayer book on their smartphones.
As for the “religious reasons,” Rabbi Shafran claims that “to enter such a holy place, Jewish law requires any Jewish man or woman who has had contact with or been under the same roof as a deceased person to undergo a purification ritual that involves, among other things, a perfectly red heifer that has never been worked in any way.”
This is inaccurate. Most of the Temple Mount complex does indeed have a purification procedure that is required before entry, but it is not the procedure that requires the ashes of the red heifer.
This is because there are two separate areas on the Mount. The more stringent procedure is required for the holiest area — the Shechina Camp, which is slightly less than 15% of the site. The less onerous purification is required for the Levitical Camp, which is the remaining 85%. This procedure requires only immersion in a ritual bath. These laws are universally accepted and clearly laid out in Maimonides’s Mishneh Torah.
Jewish visits to the Mount are “a provocation without a justification” and “a gift to Muslim extremists the world over who loathe Israel and search for anything they can portray as insulting,” according to Rabbi Shafran.
Where and who are these extremists? The highly regarded Muslim activist Noor Dhari, for example, supports Jewish prayer on the Mount and has stated that opposition to it is a political stance exclusive to eastern Jerusalem, Gaza and Jordan, rather than Islam itself... Click here to read the full article online.