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Flashpoint Whispered prayers defy unwritten rules in the Holy Land of Jerusalem

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Maayan Lubell and Ali Sawafta

* Current state of the Holy Land only allows Muslim worship

* Palestinians believe Israel

* Israel says it maintains longstanding status quo pacts

* Gives small Jewish nationalist groups the right to pray

Maayan Rubel, Ali Sawafta, Nidal Al-Mugrabi

Jerusalem, 5 Aug Reuters) – After several weeks of relative calm in Jerusalem, Israel and Friction among Palestinians over unauthorized prayers by Jewish visitors at the Al-Aqsa mosque complex has heightened danger in one of the Middle East's most volatile places. Holy land.

This site is his third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina, and is the holiest site in Judaism, allowing only Muslim worship It has been. Jews cannot pray there. But some do. And more and more so, angering Palestinians.

Tensions between Palestinians and Jewish tourist groups never go away, but Tisha B'Av, a holy day when Jews mourn the ancient temple that once stood here Dangers of conflict are rising ahead of Sunday, which marks the

On Friday, the Islamist militant group Hamas urged Palestinians to defend mosques "by all possible means" on Sunday. Mosque preacher Sheikh Eklimah Sabri called on believers to attend services and stop "extremist Jewish site raids".

Only a minority of Jews actively seek to pray in the stone square above the mosque, but this week saw an increase in Jewish visits, whispering prayers at the edge of the building. Some whispered

The closure of border crossings with the Gaza Strip after the arrest of a senior Palestinian extremist this week added to temperatures.

The clashes in Al-Aqsa, most recently during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, have unsettled the Muslim world and fanned the flames of state conflicts that religions wished to settle through territorial compromise. caused concern among foreign powers that

There is an unwritten 'status quo' pact with al-Aqsa intended to stop a 'holy war'.

This agreement, which was increasingly challenged by nationalist Jews, has effectively maintained the rule since Saladin defeated the Crusaders in his 1187 year.

However, while control of the facility is in Muslim hands, Israel oversees security.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid has said Israel is fully committed to the deal and has designated those who oppose it as fringe extremists who "skip the cracks."

But the confrontation between Jewish visitors, who ignore the ban, sometimes by raising flags and praying in public, and the Palestinians, who try to drive them away with verbal and sometimes physical attacks, , sparked criticism that the status quo was not properly enforced. It says it tacitly allows Jewish prayers to continue, uses excessive force against Muslims, and disrupts prayers in mosques.

"We don't want religious wars, we don't want religious conflicts. We want Jerusalem to be calm and peaceful." said Sheikh Azam Al-Khatib, director of the Waqf, the Islamic trust that oversees the site.

The Palestinian fear of Israeli aggression is reflected in the language of regular calls to protect against "raids" on places they say belong only to Muslims. .


Muslims believe that the Prophet Muhammad prayed in the grounds of Al-Aqsa, which has a history of over 1,000 years. I'm here. They call it a noble sanctuary.

For the Jews, known as the Temple Mount, this is the most sacred place because in ancient times he had two Jewish temples. It is also where Abraham built the altar of Isaac, according to Jewish tradition.

However, after Israel's victory in the 1967 Middle East war, when Jerusalem's walled Old City was occupied from Jordan, the country's secular socialism The leaders have chosen to maintain the status quo that ensures Muslim control of the place.

Mainstream Orthodox Judaism also forbids Jews for religious reasons, lest they tread the sacred grounds of the Holy of Holies of the Temple. Instead, Jews overwhelmingly pray at the Wailing Wall just below the grounds where worship is permitted.

However, in recent decades some nationalist rabbis have gradually eased the ban, and Waqf officials now say that more than 100 Jews are now making their way into the compound's walkways almost every day. going up It's often the same people, but 20 years ago there were only a few people visiting each day.

Jordan, which has retained its responsibility for the waqf, says Israel is tipping the status quo, but nationalist Jews demanding the right to pray there are denying it.

``The state is infringing on the Jewish people's freedom to worship in the most sacred places,'' says the Israeli parliamentary seat in the November elections. Arnon Segal, an advocate for prayer at this contested site, said.

It is not enough, he said, to occasionally allow police to flee with whispered verses, Segal said.

Tomar Persiko, an expert on contemporary Judaism at the Shalom Hartman Institute, notes that while some Jewish visitors simply seek a spiritual experience, many

That view was championed primarily by a small group of people seen as troublemakers by the Israeli establishment. However, it has been echoed by far-right Israeli lawmakers and heard by Palestinians far beyond Jerusalem. For many Palestinians seeking a capital, the visit amounts to an attack on one of the central elements of their own identity. A Palestinian youth, waving flags and throwing stones, said, "When I see the Israelis coming in, I am moved with enthusiasm and a sense of responsibility for Al-Aqsa."

(Additional reporting by Ammar Awad and Dan Williams; Editing by James Mackenzie and Mark Heinrich)