By Al Arbabiya
A bill drafted last week by a right-wing Israeli lawmaker to schedule separate prayer hours for Jews and Muslims at al-Aqsa Mosque has caused an uproar, regional media has reported.
Palestinian news agency WAFA said the proposed situation would be similar to the arrangement at the Ibrahimi Mosque (Cave of the Patriarchs) in Hebron, but had “already drawn wide condemnation from Muslim and Arab leaders who fear any change in the status of al-Aqsa Mosque could trigger serious violence in the region.”
The Middle East Monitor reported that Sheikh Ikrama Sabri, a senior Imam at al-Aqsa Mosque, denounced the decision by Israel’s legislature to discuss the proposal to split worship times at the third holiest site in the Islamic world, calling it an “an aggressive, advanced step” and saying that it “confirms Jewish designs on al-Aqsa Mosque at all levels.”
In a statement to local media, the Sheikh, who is also the president of the Supreme Islamic Council in Jerusalem, reportedly said al-Aqsa Mosque “is not subject to negotiation, and it’s the duty of Muslim rulers and citizens to defend and protect.”
“The Jews,” he reportedly added, “have nothing to do with al-Aqsa Mosque.”
MK Aryeh Eldad, National Union member, drafted the proposed law Wednesday after a United States government report criticized Israel for preventing non-Muslim prayer at the site, better known to Jews and Christians as the Temple Mount.
“The Temple Mount is the holiest place for the Jewish People, where the First and Second Temple stood,” Eldad told the Jerusalem Post newspaper. “It is also a holy place for Muslims, and is the site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. It also has a special status in Christianity.”
Lawmaker Zeev Elkin of the ruling Likud party later announced he would strive to allow “Jews only” access to al-Aqsa Mosque and bar Muslims from entering it on specific days, WAFA reported.
The U.S. State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report, released last month, pointed out that all non-Muslims were denied opportunities to worship at the Temple Mount, because of security concerns.
The proposed bill, which has yet to be officially submitted because Israel’s legislature is on summer recess, calls for the site must be open to Jews every day except for Friday and Muslim holidays, and open to Muslims every day except for Saturdays and Jewish holidays, the Jerusalem Post said.
Further, it said that Jews would be allowed to worship on the Temple Mount from 8:00-11:00, 14:00-18:00 and 21:00-23:00 while Muslims could pray at the site from 4:00-7:00, 11:00-14:00 and 18:00-21:00.
If Muslim and Jewish holidays fall on the same day, the bill calls for a special schedule to be established by the Religious Services Ministry, the Jerusalem Post said.
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