• Nati Huberman

Supreme Court Order Concerning Hebron Highlights Hypocrisy of Court System

Less than 24 hours after Washington announced an official reversal of its policy towards Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria/West Bank, the Israeli Supreme Court announced its decision to allow Muslim worshipers into the holy site that designates the graves of biblical characters Jesse and Ruth.

The outside of the tomb of Jesse and Ruth. Since the Hebron Massacre of 1928 it lay in ruins until the private work of Prof. Benzion Tavger in the 1970s to clean and rebuild it.

Hebron is the biblical city where David began his kingship and the burial site of some major biblical figures. For example, the Cave of the Patriarchs has always been a hot point of contention. That is where a monumental Herodian structure stands over the burial plots of the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob along with the Matriarchs Sarah, Rebbeca and Leah. Because of this, the site is holy to the three Abrahamic religions and it has been built up from the original Herodian Jewish site to include a Byzantine basilica and afterwards the Ibrahimi Mosque, each building built on the preceding layers. This is perhaps the Hebron site that most ignites religious and national feelings in its Jewish and Arab populations.

However of late a different burial site has been the focus of these aspirations: the graves of Jesse, the father of King David, and Ruth the Moabite, of which the biblical Book of Ruth is named. It would appear that the current structure was built as a monastery by the Crusaders in the 13th century upon a Muslim structure that itself had been built on top of a Byzantine structure.

Since the late Ottoman period, the structure has been under the ownership of the Jewish community of Hebron who used the site as a synagogue. The deed can be seen in the book Sefer Chevron by Oded Avisar. However, like all holy sites and houses in Hebron, following the Hebron Massacre of 1928 where the Jewish community of Hebron was horribly massacred by their neighbors, much of the rightful property of the Jewish community has not been returned to them and not even the State of Israel has fully explored the legal ramifications of these property deeds owned by the community.

Since 1994, the IDF has used the outside of the site as a small military post due to the volatile situation in Hebron on the legal basis of a military warrant of seizure given to them for the site. And since around 2001 entrance to the site for Palestinians was officially forbidden due to the sensitivity and security of the military establishment.

In 2015 the Hebron Wakf petitioned the Israeli government for access to the site for Palestinian Muslims and they claim the site housed a mosque by the name of Mashad Al-Arbain. As a result, the Israeli Attorney General, Avichai Mandelblitt, has articulated the “difficulty” of allowing Israeli Jews to pray at the site while not allowing Palestinian Muslims. And following this statement, the State had announced in April 2019 that the military establishment must balance opposing rights and interests involved in the site and allow for equality among the entire Hebron population in general whether they be Israeli or Palestinian - either allow access to none or allow it for all.

Thus, despite the potential security risks to the military post, the Wakf has claimed that if entrance to the site is presently forbidden on a security basis then “their [the Palestinian worshipers] entrance will never henceforth be permitted” - something that directly violates a basic freedom. In lieu of this argument, the Israeli Supreme Court has ruled today (19/11/2019) that it is incumbent upon the military establishment at the site to prepare itself to allow Muslim worshipers into the holy site to pray. How often the Palestinian Muslims are let inside to pray and for how long is yet to be decided by the IDF in communication with the relevant bodies.

A similar situation has existed on the Temple Mount for decades. The Israeli Supreme Court has consistently ruled time and time again that prayer, as well as other forms of religious expression, are basic rights of every person that visits the Temple Mount and that it is incumbent upon the Israeli Police to enforce that right. Not only are these rights trampled upon for every non-Muslim worshiper visiting the Temple Mount but the Jordanian Wakf revels in the opportunity to do so. If the situation in Hebron where there is a literal military post that requires a high level of security and nonetheless is demanded of the Israeli courts to uphold a “balance” of security risks and human rights then surely the Temple Mount - a more holy space for all relevant religions and where there are somewhat lighter security risks - must be a space where these basic rights are strictly upheld

(The above video shows activist group Students for the Temple Mount handing out fliers on the Temple Mount that list Supreme Court orders that allow for Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount. The police removed the group from the mount for "disturbing public order" and restrained them. A copy of the list they handed out can be found at the bottom of this post.)

There is not a single day or even hour in the year where we can point to and say that prayer for Jews or Christians is allowed on the Temple Mount. Jews, Christians and Muslims live in Jerusalem and visit the site regularly. Why is there a perpetual ban on non-Muslim prayer in open Israeli territory? If the Hebron Wakf argued successfully that territory under Israeli martial law cannot allow for a perpetual ban on Muslim prayer, why is the same not applied in territory under the full extent of Israeli law?

The hypocrisy of the situation is stunning. And as a Jew who regularly visits the Temple Mount and whose pleas for prayer are consistently denied by my own police force I am appalled at the limits of my own democracy.

Where is the equality?

Copies of the pages handed out by Students for the Temple Mount on 24/04/2019. They list a number of rulings of the Israeli Supreme Court where it is expressly stated that everyone has the right to religious freedom on the Temple Mount. The activists were removed from the Temple Mount and restrained by the police.


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