A group of Jews has disguised themselves as Muslims in order to pray on the Temple Mount, Israel’s Channel 13 has reported. Raphael Morris, head of “Returning to the Mount”, said the group advocates for Jewish sovereignty on the Temple Mount.
“We are not prepared to accept the sanctions against Jews that exist on the Temple Mount”, he said.
Speaking to Channel 13, Mr Morris emphasised that Muslims can enter the holy site at any moment during the day or night, while Jews are permitted to be there at limited hours of the day and are accompanied by police, who make sure that they are not engaged in prayer.
The group teaches its members how to disguise themselves as Muslims. They dress in traditional Muslim outfits, carry prayer mats and beads, as well as Arab-language books about the Quran. Some members even dye their and beards black to make themselves look more like Arabs. On top of that, instructors teach members how to go through the motions of a Muslim prayer, while actually reciting Jewish liturgy.
Following the 1967 Six-Day War between Arab states and Israel, the latter captured the Old City and although the holy site is under Israeli control, an Islamic Waqf manages the Temple Mount and administers religious activities there. Thus, Jews are allowed to visit the site, but are not allowed to pray there.
It appears that members of “Returning to the Mount” do not fear that their are actions violate the law.
“The fact that the country doesn’t like it doesn’t mean that it is illegal”, said the group’s head, Raphael Morris.
One member of the group, who called himself Baruch (not their real name) said the following:
Yet, when it comes to the Temple Mount it seems that there is more at stake than simply arrest. The holy site is the epicentre of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This May, tensions over it sparked an 11-day conflict between the two sides, witnessing the worst spike in violence in years.
According to Gaza health officials, 254 Palestinians were killed, including more than 100 women and children during the conflict. Israel has stated that it killed 225 Hamas militants. The militant group has not given a death toll for its fighters. In Israel, 13 people were killed during the rocket strikes, including two women.
The news about Jews disguising themselves to pray on the Temple Mount has prompted concerns among Israeli security officials, who fear that group’s actions may spark violence between Palestinians and Israelis. Channel 13 said it had come under pressure from security officers, who told it not to broadcast the report about the group amid concerns that it may lead to an escalation of tensions.
Public Security Minister Omer Barlev said that every week individuals disguised as Arabs are slipping through the gates that are intended for use by Muslims only.
Asked about a potential altercation at the holy site one member of “Returning to the Mount” said the following: “For the sake of the Temple I am prepared to pay with my life”.