Temple ideas

Half of Jewish Israelis support Temple Mount prayer, mostly to ‘prove their sovereignty’

According to a recent poll, more Jewish Israelis support allowing Jews to pray on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem than oppose it.

Half of those polled by the Israel Democracy Institute said they supported Jewish prayer at the holy site, while 40% said they opposed it. The others weren’t sure.

The poll, which was conducted last month, was first released shortly before Jerusalem Day on Sunday, which police said saw a record 2,600 Jews visit the Temple Mount.

Over three days in late April, the IDI polled 601 people in Hebrew — a common way to round up a Jewish polling group without directly asking their religion — about their views regarding the Temple Mount and the restrictions against Jewish prayer on the esplanade under what is called the “status quo”.

Generally, this arrangement is understood to mean that Muslims are allowed to visit and pray on the Temple Mount, while non-Muslims can only visit, not pray. The status quo has also been interpreted to refer to formal, organized Jewish services, not prayers said silently by individuals.

Banning prayer, as well as religious bans against visiting the Temple Mount entirely, was once a matter of consensus among religious and secular Israelis, but in recent years public opinion on the issues has begun to change. , with the exception of Israeli ultras. -The Orthodox population, which still massively accepts and supports these restrictions.

This is primarily due to a growing belief that equates Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount with Israeli sovereignty over the site, widely considered the holiest place for Jews, where two temples once stood and where the biblical patriarch Abraham almost sacrificed his son. Isaac, before God intervened.

To Muslims, the site is known as Haram al-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary. Home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, it is generally considered the third holiest site in Islam, from where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven. Some consider the entire 36-acre esplanade a mosque. Although now Muslims pray towards Mecca, for a time they too prayed towards the Temple Mount. In addition to its religious significance, the site holds immense cultural and national significance for Palestinians.

Muslim worshipers attend the morning prayers of Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan, at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City on 2 May 2022. (Jamal Awad/ Flash90)

The survey found that of the 50% of Jewish Israelis who support Temple Mount prayer, three-quarters said they shared that view ‘because it is proof of Israel’s sovereignty’ on the site. The remaining 25% said they supported it because it was “a religious commandment.”

Most of the 40% who opposed Jewish prayer did so not necessarily out of ideological conviction, but for practical considerations, with 57.5% saying it was because it “would cause a severe negative reaction from the Muslim world”. The rest – largely ultra-Orthodox respondents – said they opposed it because it was prohibited by Jewish law.

The group that was most supportive of Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount was the so-called national-religious camp of Israel – usually Orthodox Jews associated with right-wing politics – with 72% saying they were in favor and 21% saying they were opposed. for religious reasons. The least supportive among Jewish Israelis were ultra-Orthodox Jews, with 86.5% saying they opposed it on religious grounds and 1.5% saying it was for fear of a negative response from the Muslim world.

Secular Jewish Israelis were also split on the issue, with 42% saying they support it and 45% saying they oppose it. The others weren’t sure.

Responses were more striking in terms of political affiliations, with the vast majority (between 65% and 75.5%) of respondents saying they belonged to right-wing parties supporting prayer on the Temple Mount. The minority of those affiliated with the centrist Blue and White, Yesh Atid and Labor parties said they support Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount. And only 10.5% of people who supported the leftist Meretz party backed it.

Although he was unpopular in both parties, there were stark differences between Israel’s two ultra-Orthodox parties on the subject. In the Sephardi Shas party, 28% said they support Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, compared to 3% in the Ashkenazi United Torah Judaism party.

This shift in public opinion about Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount can be traced in political discourse on the issue.

Earlier this year, when Foreign Minister Yair Lapid sought to ease tensions around the Temple Mount, he assured the international press that Israel was determined to maintain the status quo at the holy powder keg site.

“Israel is committed to the status quo on the Temple Mount,” he said. “Muslims pray on the Temple Mount, only non-Muslims visit. There is no change, there will be no change.

And yet, while maintaining the importance of the status quo, Lapid signaled this change of opinion on the matter with an aside. “By the way,” he added, “I don’t feel comfortable with the idea that Jews don’t have freedom of religion in the State of Israel and that Jews are banned of the site”.

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