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 Growing Challenges to the Status Quo and the Muslim Quarter’s Character amid Ramadan

May 28, 2019

On May 19, the Israeli High Court rejected Ir Amim’s petition to prohibit the Jerusalem Day Flag Parade from traversing through the Muslim Quarter on June 2 despite its coalescence with the peak of Ramadan where hundreds of thousands of Muslim worshippers will be congregating for prayer and fasting.  For the first time in 30 years, Jerusalem Day – commemorating Israel’s 1967 capture of East Jerusalem and “reunification” of the city— coincides with the final 10 days of Ramadan, the most sacred period of the Muslim month of fasting.

In its ruling, the court asserted it sees no reason to intervene and challenge the Israel Police’s decision to allow the parade to pass through the Muslim Quarter, citing their claim to be adequately equipped to manage the security conditions resulting from the concurrence of events. The judiciary panel comprised of Justices Sohlberg, Willner, and Grosskopf, likewise failed to include any reference to the parade’s impingement of Muslim religious rights and liable disruption to the spiritual environment of the Muslim Quarter amid the height of Ramadan. Although petitions against the parade have been dismissed in the past, it was the first time the court imposed court costs on Ir Amim and questioned its right as a human rights organization to appeal in the name of Palestinians, reflecting a growing trend to limit legal advocacy by such organizations. Despite the petition’s dismissal, Ir Amim continues full force in their public advocacy campaign to exert pressure on the Israeli authorities and galvanize civil society support for rerouting the parade.

On May 16, a day following the hearing on Ir Amim’s petition, the High Court adjudicated on a petition filed by Temple Movement activists to lift the police ban on non-Muslims from entering the compound during the last 10 days of Ramadan, in particular on Jerusalem Day, which falls at the same time this year. In light of the increase of religious activity and peak in the number of Muslim worshippers praying at Al Aqsa, the police have for years only permitted entry to Muslims during this period.

In its original response to the petition vis-à-vis the High Court, the police highlighted its longstanding policy of entry restrictions during the final days of Ramadan. While it cited a risk of heightened tensions should the policy be reversed, the police’s response also included recognition of the status quo and a lengthy description of the extensive religious ceremonies held on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif throughout this period.  Following the intervention of the Minister of Internal Security, the police submitted a subsequent response a day before the hearing, stating it would do all in its power to grant access to Jews and other visitors to the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif on Jerusalem Day.  According to the police’s statement, a final decision would be reached pending a security assessment conducted close to June 2

The court ultimately dismissed the Temple Movements’ petition, affirming the decision on entry restrictions to the Holy Compound lies solely with the police. In its ruling, the court again omitted any discussion of the unique circumstances concerning Ramadan and the religious centrality of the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif to Muslim worship rights, while focusing exclusively on the issue of public safety and security.

Although their petition was rejected, Temple Movement activists are ratcheting up pressure on Israeli authorities to allow Jewish access to the Holy Esplanade on Jerusalem Day, exemplified by letters sent by right-wing politicians calling on the police to grant entry to Jews. Changes to police policy on entry restrictions have already occurred, exemplified by the numbers of Jews observed visiting the Holy Compound under police escort since the start of Ramadan’s final 10 days.   

The reversal in the police’s position is a clear indication of the political pressures being exerted upon them, while contributing to the erosion of the status quo and religious status of the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, which avows only Muslims hold worship rights and Jews are visitors. Moreover, the court’s decisions on both Ir Amim’s petition and the Temple Movements’ appeal underscore the court’s reluctance to discuss any factors beyond security considerations in both cases, while upholding the positions of the police who are under immense political pressure.   


Please address all inquiries to:


Amy Cohen

Director of International Relations & Advocacy

Ir Amim (City of Nations/City of Peoples)


Tel – 054-673-1231


Website: http://www.ir-amim.org.il/en




Betty Herschman, Ir Amim’s former director of international relations and advocacy, can be reached at mediator47@gmail.com for personal correspondence.

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