JERUSALEM, Israel – Videos and pictures surfacing online appear to show Jews praying on the Temple Mount – a simple act of worship they have been banned from doing there for decades.
Although two consecutive Jewish temples once stood on the Temple Mount and it is considered to be the holiest place in Judaism, the Muslim Waqf that controls the site today bars Jews and Christians or anyone else except Muslims from praying there.
The Jerusalem Post reports that the situation seems to have changed and Jews are now quietly praying on the Temple Mount in full view of the police, even though Israeli authorities insist there has been no change in the policy.
According to the Post, a group of 10 Jewish men ascended the Temple Mount on Thursday morning at the beginning of the non-Muslim visiting hours at 7:00 a.m. Rabbi Eliyahu Weber led the men to the holy site while singing, "Let us go up to the Temple."
Video Credit Jeremy Sharon
The men toured the stone compound surrounded by police before stopping to host an abbreviated morning prayer service.
Weber said the group made sure not to draw attention to themselves.
"If we would do this in the face of the Wakf officials, it would not be accepted, but that is not our goal," the rabbi explained. "Our ascent to the Temple Mount makes known God's name in the World."
A senior Waqf official told the paper he was unaware of any change in policy that would allow Jews to pray at the holy site, but warned such a policy could trigger violent protests and demonstrations from Muslim worshippers.
Non-Muslims are not allowed to pray on the holy site for fear of offending Muslim worshippers there. Historically, Israeli police would expel any non-Muslim seen praying on the Temple Mount to avoid offending the Muslims that could start disturbances.
But the Post reports Jews have been regularly praying on the holy site in recent weeks for morning and afternoon prayers.
Rabbi Weber said the end goal is to rebuild the Third Temple to usher in the Messiah.
"The ultimate goal is to be able to offer sacrifices in the Temple," Weber said. "We are not really dealing with that right now because there are many stages to this."
"The essence of our presence on the Temple Mount shows that this place belongs to the Jewish people," Weber explained."If we don't come, [it appears] that it doesn't interest us. The Temple Mount is ours, and we need to know the importance of being there."