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Judge Rules Upraised Hands Permissible on the Temple Mount

January 4, 2016

“When people have a dispute, they are to take it to court and the judges will decide the case, acquitting the innocent and condemning the guilty.” (Deuteronomy 25:1)

The Jerusalem District Court ruled this past Monday that upraised hands on the Temple Mount is permissible, following the appeal of Yehuda Etzion who was arrested and banned from the holy site for lifting his hands there two weeks ago.  (Ynet)

Four members of the Israel Police arrested and carried the 64-year-old Etzion off the Temple Mount on December 22, the Tenth of Tevet, stating that his raised hands were a form of surreptitious prayer.

After Etzion’s arrest, the Magistrate’s Court imposed on him a 15-day ban from the Mount, approving a request from the police who cited him a “danger to the public.”  Etzion appealed to the Supreme Court to have the ban overturned, and the appeal was accepted.

“Under the circumstances, there should be no discussion of whether holding one’s palms upwards is an act of worship,” said the District Court’s presiding judge, Justice Ram Winograd, last week.  “If the Israel Police wish to modify the instructions for ascending the Temple Mount, it should do so explicitly.”

“Indeed, this is a slippery slope, and there is a need to think through every step before banning it,” added Justice Winograd to his comments on the ruling.

“I will note that taking this path, perhaps in the spirit of the verse in Isaiah Chapter 1 — [“When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you …”] — would warrant prohibiting lifting one’s eyes up to the sky, based on what is written in the Mishna, Tractate Rosh Hashanah, Chapter 3,” Winograd elaborated, “and perhaps it is necessary to ban head coverings on the Temple Mount since, pursuant to the Talmud, this is a dress that proves the fear of Heaven.”

Etzion was represented by legal-rights organization Honenu, which said his lifted hands expressed his fear of God but did not constitute prayer.  Etzion also attested after the ruling that, by raising his hands, “I wanted to express unity with the Temple Mount and the Almighty.”

“From the outset it was clear to me that even within the framework of the shameful status quo prohibiting prayer at the Temple Mount, there is nothing wrong with raising one’s hands up,” he said, adding that by his motion, he also recalled “the prayer of King Solomon, who lifted his hands upwards during prayer.”

“It is sufficient to note that the police did not prohibit this action until now,” Justice Winograd added, after seeing photo and video evidence of Etzion with raised hands on previous visits.

Dome of the Rock, Temple Mount tourists and pilgrims

The Dome of the Rock currently occupies the spot where many believe the Holy of Holies stood on the Temple Mount.  Some have suggested that the Third Temple could be built on an alternative location on the Mount, which is about 36 acres.

In the wake of the ruling, Etzion implored that the Israel Police actually implement the District Court’s ruling, to “allow Jews entry onto the Temple Mount and enable us to walk with our hands raised, and not make the judge’s ruling a mockery as it has treated other rulings of the courts.”

A judge of the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on March 2, 2015, ruled that Jews (and other non-Muslims) have the right to pray on the Temple Mount.  A de facto ban has been in place for over 40 years on all non-Muslim prayer to avoid confrontation with the Jordanian Islamic Waqf, which administers Judaism’s holiest site.

Meanwhile, a bill circling the Knesset is seeking the affirmation of religious rights of all people, stating that “freedom of worship and freedom of access of all religions to the holy places is a basic right in a democracy.”  (BIN)

In the latest legal effort to affirm the rights of all people to pray anywhere in Israel, MK Bezalel Smotrich (Jewish Home party) has submitted a “freedom of religion” bill to the Israeli Knesset.

If passed, the bill would clarify the law for “protecting the holy places, [permitting] freedom of worship for all religions with free and fixed access so that this fundamental right will be defined by law and will result in freedom of worship anywhere and to anyone.”

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