Israeli police have been handed another loss in their attempts to distance Jews from the Temple Mount – the holiest site in Judaism – and thereby concede to the demands of the Jordanian Waqf that continues to hold de facto control of the holy site.
The Jerusalem District Court on Wednesday rejected a police request to distance two Jewish youths from the Temple Mount area for a period of sixty days.
The judge accepted the argument of Attorney Avichai Hajbi of the Honenu legal aid organization who was representing the youths, and went on to censure the police for their handling of the case.
One of the youths was arrested last Friday near one of the gates to the Temple Mount, with police claiming he attempted to blow a shofar (traditional ram's horn instrument), and that he struck an officer. He was released right before Shabbat began and summoned to a court discussion on Monday.
However, in court the officer who allegedly was struck did not testify to having been hit, while a female officer who was at the scene testified that the youth didn't hit anyone.
A police representative was forced to admit that there is no written police protocol forbidding blowing a shofar or carrying a shofar in the Temple Mount area.
"No evidence was presented that there is a ban on blowing a shofar or carrying a shofar in the Temple Mount area, and therefore I rule to reject the request," wrote the judge in ruling out the police request to distance the youth from the area for 60 days.
Two times wrong
As for the second youth, he was suspected of trying to visit the Temple Mount on the Tisha B'Av fast day mourning the destruction of the First and Second Temples at the site while wearing tefilin (phylacteries).
In the second case as well, a police representative was forced to admit that there is no written protocol forbidding Jews from visiting the Temple Mount while wearing tefilin.
Police claims were again debunked after it was charged that he bit an officer during his arrest; however, a video presented in court of the incident clearly showed that he committed no crime before the officers started assaulting and striking him.
"A video was shown to me…showing that the (youth) didn't do anything wrong before security forces evacuated him, and it should be noted they did so aggressively," wrote the judge.
The judge added that while it appears that afterwards the youth bit one of the officers that was holding him, that was not grounds to distance him from the Temple Mount and ordered his unconditional release.
"The court ruled clearly that the law relating to tefilin on one's head and a shofar in hand is the same as the law of a hijab and darbouka," said the attorney Hajbi, noting how religious freedoms apply to Jews as well as Muslims.
"The infuriating discrimination that the police conduct between Jews and Arabs on the Temple Mount must end, the sooner the better."
Honenu called the police's "pursuit against Jews asking to ascend the Temple Mount is infuriating and severe, and we will consider suing the police for empty arrests in both cases."
"We are shocked that the police invest efforts in arresting Jews whose only 'sin' is to blow a shofar or wear tefilin, instead of crushing Arab terrorism and incitement that runs rampant on the Temple Mount."