Knesset member Itamar Ben Gvir was until recently an outspoken activist for allowing Jews to pray on the Temple Mount, but he was wavering on the issue on Sunday — just as he is about to take responsibility for the Israeli police, the body that directs day-to-day affairs. day policy on the site.
Ben Gvir, who will soon bear the new title of Minister of National Security, avoided answering the question in an interview with Kan public radio if he intended to allow Jews to pray on the Temple Mount. Still, he vaguely said he would work to address the current situation in which Jews are not allowed to pray at the holy site, calling it “racist.”
The remarks represented a notable departure from his unequivocal rhetoric about the Temple Mount on the campaign trail, when he repeatedly stressed that Jews must show that they are “the owners of the place.” Ben Gvir is a regular visitor to the Flashpoint site.
“Will the Minister of National Security Allow Jews to Pray on the Temple Mount?” That’s what Kan journalist Kalman Liebskind asked Ben Gvir on Sunday.
“The Minister of National Security will seek clarification and will counter racist policies on the Temple Mount,” the MP replied.
Liebskind’s co-host, Asaf Liberman, noted that the person who should “clarify” the police position on the Temple Mount would be none other than the Minister of National Security.
“Itamar Ben Gvir would demand clarification from the Minister of National Security, who would call Itamar Ben Gvir to clarify,” Liberman joked.
Since much of the policy on the ground on the Temple Mount is dictated not by official government resolutions, but by the police stationed on site – from visiting hours for Jews to what pilgrims are allowed to do on the mount – the minister responsible for the police is said to have considerable power about those decisions.
Ben Gvir reiterated his opposition to a “racist policy” of restricting non-Muslim prayers, without explaining what a new policy would look like.
Pressed for demanding that Jewish prayer be allowed on the Temple Mount as a condition of joining the government of presumed new Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Ben Gvir also refrained from answering.
“Some things are between me and the prime minister,” he said.
In recent years, a group of far-right Jewish activists has been working to make the once fringe subject of Jewish visits to the Temple Mount a mainstream topic in right-wing and religious circles. While many leading rabbis forbid Jews from climbing the mountain because they could inadvertently enter forbidden holy ground — including the rabbinic leaders who support the two ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, which are about to join the next government – increasingly Orthodox rabbis have signed the practice.
Israel once strictly banned Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, but over the years the ban has slowly eroded, with individual silent prayer and occasional group services now not uncommon.
Activists on the Temple Mount claim that allowing Muslim prayers and banning public Jewish prayer at the holy site, the holiest site in Judaism, is discrimination. Opponents argue that allowing Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount would spark major protests and rioting by Muslims across the Middle East, as well as damage Israel’s diplomatic ties with Jordan, which has a special relationship with the Temple Mount .
There has been a record number of Jewish visits to the Temple Mount in the past year.