(JTA) — At his Knesset swearing-in speech, longtime Temple Mount activist and new Likud lawmaker Yehuda Glick called for an end to the ban on Jewish prayer at the Jerusalem compound.
Glick, who officially became a Knesset member Wednesday, filling a vacancy left by former Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon on the party’s list, has promised he will abide by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s directive, designed to defuse tensions there, barring Knesset members and ministers from going to the hot spot, which is holy both to Jews and Muslims.
During his speech Wednesday, Glick, 50, said, according to The Times of Israel: “As long as I’m here, I will do all that is in my power to end the injustice that takes place every day at the holiest place in the world, where police officers are under orders to check whether a 90-year-old Jew is, God forbid, moving his lips or not.”
The Temple Mount is under Israeli sovereignty, but, under a deal following Israel’s 1967 takeover of the site, is run by the Islamic Waqf, a Jordanian body. Muslims generally have full access to the site and the exclusive right to pray there. Jews can only ascend the mount during limited visiting hours and are forbidden from doing anything resembling worship such as kneeling, singing, dancing or rending their clothes.
Israel’s chief rabbis have ruled that it is against Jewish law for Jews to ascend the mount, the site of Judaism’s first and second temples, for fear they might inadvertently step over the “Holy of Holies,” where the Ark of the Covenant was said to be stored in the First Temple.
Glick visited the Temple Mount Monday morning, spurring Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to scold him later that day, saying “Don’t do that to me again.”
Netanyahu has repeatedly vowed to maintain the status quo at the the site, even as growing numbers of Jewish activists like Glick have visited it — something many Palestinians view as a provocation. Rumors that Israel planned to change the status quo helped trigger the wave of Palestinian stabbing attacks and other violence that began in October.
The American-born Glick lives in the West Bank settlement of Otniel and has long been a controversial figure; last year he survived a Palestinian assassination attempt.
Ahead of his appointment to the Knesset, he told JTA Sunday: “I’m sure that I will be involved in the Temple Mount … Just like I use the justice system and the courts, I think the political world has strong institutions to promote issues in a democratic society.”
In his speech Wednesday, Glick criticized Muslim officials at the Temple Mount for inciting violence and repeated his opposition to the establishment of a Palestinian state, though Netanyahu has said — as recently as this week — that he supports a two-state solution.
Glick described himself in his speech as “an official representative of the Yesha district,” using the Hebrew acronym for Judea, Samaria (the West Bank) and Gaza. He said he intentionally included Gaza in his statement, even though Israel evacuated its Jewish settlements there in 2005.
In another Temple Mount development, the chief rabbi of Safed said Jewish control of the Temple Mount is the “next step” in the process of Jewish spiritual awakening.
Noting the exponential growth in Jews making the annual Lag BaOmer pilgrimage to the grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai in northern Israel, and the hundreds of thousands of Jews who visit the Western Wall, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu on Wednesday told right-wing news site Arutz Sheva, “The nation of Israel is waking up inside.”
“They come because they want God, and it all brings us to an understanding that we’re elevating and the next step is the Temple Mount, and nothing less,” he said, according to Arutz Sheva. “We’ve been waiting for thousands of years, and none of us is giving up on it. No one is intending to go halfway, it doesn’t work. We want the real deal, and just like we received the Land of Israel and the nation of Israel went up to the land despite all the skeptics, the nation of Israel will go up to the mountain of God’s abode, soon and in our days.”