Israeli Military Orders Heavy Punishment for Desecration of Holy Places of Any Religion

The military command of the central area, which includes Jerusalem and the occupied west bank, issued an ordinance today providing punishment of up to seven years in prison for desecration of any holy place and up to five years imprisonment for any person who, without authorization, prevented access by any individual to his religious holy place. The Israel Government enacted general legislation for the holy places last month.

In a related development, it was indicated that the Israel Supreme Court will rule soon on a petition from a former member of the Jewish underground in pre-state days, who protested a ruling by Israeli authorities barring entrance by Jews to the Temple Mount in Old Jerusalem without permission from its Moslem guardians. The Mount, where the ancient Temple once stood, is now occupied by the Dome of the Rock, one of Islam’s holiest shrines.

A Ministerial Committee ruled last week that no Jewish public prayer meetings could be held in the portion of the Mount fenced off for Moslems. That ruling cancelled a prior decision by Brig. Shlomo Goren, the Chief Chaplain of the Israeli Army, who had announced that a Jewish public prayer would be held at the site on Saturday. The Cabinet decision was based both on Moslem sensitivities and on a ruling by the Chief Rabbis to the effect that no Jew could enter the Mount because he might inadvertently step into the holiest of holy sections where only the High Priest was allowed when the Temple was in function.

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