By Tsvi Sadan, Israel Today

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court has ordered the state to immediately shut the Bab el-Rahma structure that is facing the Golden Gate, or Gate of Mercy. A month ago, the Islamic Trust (Waqf) that oversees the Temple Mount decided to reopen the structure and turn it into yet another mosque, the fifth atop Judaism’s holiest site.

To recap, until 1967, there was only one active mosque, Al-Aqsa, on the Temple Mount. During the 1970s, the regular Friday prayers started to be conducted at the Dome of the Rock, until then only a sacred shrine. In 1996, the underground Solomon’s Stables at the southwestern corner of the Temple Mount were turned into a third mosque, Al Marwani. The fourth was built also in the late 1990s, directly under the Al Aqsa Mosque, where Huldah Gate is located. And now, the fifth, Bab el Rahma, established in a building closed by court order 16 years ago after it became a center of Hamas activity.

This latest attempt to establish yet another mosque opposite the Golden Gate is a response by the Jordanians and Palestinians to allegations that Israel is trying to alter the status quo at the Temple Mount. Since liberating the sacred plateau in 1967, Israel has committed itself to refraining from religious expressions at the site. This agreement was made by then-Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, who believed that for Jews, the Temple Mount was now nothing more than “a historical site,” and that as such, “Arab customs as they are now [1967] practiced should not be disturbed and Muslim’s right to control the place should be recognized.” The practical outcome is that while Jews are allowed to visit, they must not pray at their own religion’s most holy site.

This status quo became part of the 1994 peace treaty between Israel and Jordan. But, perhaps not surprisingly, that’s when things started to change.

For many Jews, Dayan’s status quo meant Islam controls the Temple Mount, which is why there are those willing to constantly challenge it, primarily through sporadic attempts to pray at the site and to increase the number of Jewish visitors. Those Israelis who care about the Temple Mount, and there are sadly very few, insist that it’s the Muslims who are violating the status quo by establishing new mosques.

Jordan and the Palestinians claim the opposite. Continue Reading…