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Israel Supreme Court Opens Hearings on Request to Permit Group Prayer on Temple Mount

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Israel’s Supreme Court opened hearings yesterday on a request to permit Jews to pray in groups on the Temple Mount in East Jerusalem, site of the Mosque of Omar and the Al-Aska Mosque and reputed site of Solomon’s Temple. The suit was brought against the Government by 15 complaints, among them Shmuel Tamir, a Knesset member of the Free Center faction. They have requested that an order nisi be served on the Government to show cause why Jews should not be allowed to hold prayer services on the Mount. The Government permits individual Jews to visit the site but has barred groups to avoid offending world Moslem opinion. The Temple compound is regarded as a holy site by Moslems second in importance only to Mecca.

The Israeli Chief Rabbinate has forbidden any Jew to visit the site because they might inadvertently step over the “Holy of Holies” where, according to the Orthodox, the Holy Ark was kept in the ancient Temple. Police do not enforce the rabbinate’s ban but they do enforce the ban on public prayers. Five of the Supreme Court’s 10 justices are hearing the case, presided over by Dr. Shimon Agranat, president of the Court. State attorney Zvi Barniv, the only party heard yesterday, asked the Court not to intervene in the matter because it is one of state policy. Further hearings have been set for next week.

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