Israeli court upholds ban on Jewish prayers at Al Aqsa compound


Palestinians pray at Laylat al-Qadr during the holy month of Ramadan, in the compound that houses Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, known to Muslims as the Noble Shrine and to Jews as Mount of the Temple, in the Old City of Jerusalem, April 27, 2022 REUTERS/Ammar Awad/File Photo

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JERUSALEM, May 25 (Reuters) – An Israeli appeals court on Wednesday overturned a ruling by a magistrate who angered Palestinians by questioning the legality of banning Jewish prayers at a disputed Jerusalem shrine, as that the United States was warning its citizens against traveling in the vicinity.

The Al Aqsa Mosque compound, which Jews revere as a remnant of their two ancient temples, is in Jerusalem’s Old City and at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Under a decades-old “status quo” agreement with Muslim authorities, Israel allows Jews to visit provided they refrain from religious rites.

Three young Jews who received a restraining order after praying at the site successfully challenged the police decision in the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, which ruled on Sunday that their actions did not constitute a breach of the peace .

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This prompted protests and threats from the Palestinians and a promise from Israel that the status quo would be preserved. Read more A planned flag march by Israeli nationalists in the Old City on May 29 has further inflamed tensions.

The state filed a counter-appeal Wednesday with the Jerusalem District Court, which ruled in favor after dark.

“The special sensitivity of the Temple Mount cannot be overstated,” Judge Einat Avman-Moller said in her ruling, using the Hebrew name for a site Muslims know as the Noble Sanctuary.

The right to freedom of Jewish worship there “is not absolute and should be supplanted by other interests, among which is safeguarding public order,” she said.

In a statement to Reuters, Nati Rom, a lawyer for the defendants, said: “It is strange and regrettable that in the 21st century, in a Jewish and democratic country, the fundamental human rights of Jews are so violated.

With the increase in the number of Jewish visits, including during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan which this year coincided with the Jewish holiday of Passover, the Palestinians cried foul.

Jordan, a US-backed Israeli security partner that serves as Al Aqsa’s gatekeeper, has also expressed concern. Read more

The flag march, scheduled for Sunday, marks Israel’s capture of the Old City in a 1967 war. The annual event is resented by Palestinians who want the Old City for a hoped-for future state.

The U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem on Wednesday urged vigilance, adding a notice that U.S. government employees and their families “may not enter the Old City at any time on Sunday.”

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Written by Dan Williams; Editing by Bill Berkrot, John Stonestreet and Gareth Jones

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