An Israeli court has ruled that Jews are allowed to call out “Am Yisrael Chai” (the children of Israel live) while visiting the Temple Mount – because it is not regarded as a prayer.
Itamar Ben Gvir, a right wing Israeli activist, was detained for three hours by the police in 2015 after shouting the slogan. He had been responding to a Muslim woman who had called him a “dog” in Arabic and had shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is great).
The police claimed that Mr Ben Gvir had broken the law, which forbids Jews to pray on the Temple Mount. However, Mr Ben Gvir sued the police for wrongful detention, and on Monday the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ruled that he was right, and that “Am yisrael chai”, while a patriotic slogan, was not a prayer.
Speaking to Israel’s Chadashot news service, Mr Ben Dvir described the verdict as “a gift to the Jewish people on the eve of Israel’s 70th Independence Day.
“I believe that the time has come for the courts to rule that Jews are allowed to pray on the Temple Mount, just as Muslims are permitted to pray at the site,” he continued. “There can be no wrongful discrimination at the most important site for the people of Israel.”
Almost immediately after the recapture of the Old City of Jerusalem in 1967, Israel gave the Temple Mount (the holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam) back to the Islamic waqf (religious commission) which had controlled the site for centuries. Jews are not permitted to pray on the Temple Mount, and Jewish visitors to the site are regularly harrassed by Muslims.
The judge rejected a second claim by Mr Ben Gvir, of discrimination. The activist had charged that he and other Jews were made to wait for over an hour to visit the site, while other tourists were allowed to enter without any delay.