6 novembre 2013
Israel MKs in heated debate on prayers at Jerusalem site
Published today (updated) 04/11/2013 17:00
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- An Israeli parliamentary committee held a heated debate Monday on whether to begin allowing Jews to pray on the compound housing the Al-Aqsa mosque.
But there was no outcome to the Knesset internal affairs committee's hearing, which was repeatedly disrupted by Palestinian MKs who were eventually ejected from the room.
Israeli deputy religious affairs minister Eli Ben-Dahan of far-right Jewish Home party said his ministry was seeking legal ways to enable Jews to pray at the site, which they call the Temple Mount, which is in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem but administered by Muslim religious authorities.
Ben-Dahan, himself a rabbi, said they had approached the chief rabbinate, which is opposed to Jewish prayer on the site, but had not yet received an answer.
He stressed that "if anyone expects me to go contrary to the stance of the chief rabbis of Israel -- that won't happen."
Palestinian MKs warned that enabling Jewish prayer on the compound would spark "a third intifada," or Palestinian uprising.
Committee chairman Miri Regev of the right-wing Likud ruling party argued that Jews should be allowed freedom of religion to pray wherever they choose.
"We cannot have a situation in which a state cannot realize its sovereignty and people can't pray at sites holy to them," she said.
Regev stressed that "we don't want to go into Al-Aqsa or prevent you (Muslims) from praying there, but want to enable Jews to pray on the compound as well."
She called threats of a third intifada "irresponsible."
Regev noted that officials were discussing the topic in a committee closed to the public due to its sensitive nature.
The compound, which sits just above the Western Wall plaza, houses both the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque and is the third holiest site in Islam.
It is also venerated as Judaism's most holy place as it sits where Jews believe the First and Second Temples once stood. The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.
According to mainstream Jewish religious leaders, Jews are forbidden from entering for fear they would profane the "Holy of Holies," or the inner sanctum of the Second Temple.
Al-Aqsa is located in East Jerusalem, a part of the internationally recognized Palestinian territories that have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967.
Ma'an staff contributed to this report
Published by Ma'an News agency.net (Palestine)