Shofar Blower barred from Temple Mount*
Israelis concerned sound of Jewish instrument offensive to Muslims
congregating at holy site
Posted: September 28, 2006
News from Israel
JERUSALEM – A Jewish man removed by Israeli police from a key section of
the Western Wall for blowing the shofar, or ceremonial ram's horn,
during prayer services for last weekend's Rosh Hashana high holiday has
been barred from the holy site for the upcoming Jewish holidays.
The shofar traditionally is blown hundreds of times during Rosh Hashana
Shmulik Ben Ruby, a spokesman for the Jerusalem Police Authority, said
the Jewish man, 19-year-old Jerusalem resident Eliyahi Kleiman, was
taken forcibly from the Western Wall last weekend for fear the sound of
the shofar would offend nearby Muslims congregating on the Temple Mount,
which is opposite the wall.
"Hundreds of Muslims went up to the Temple Mount. In order to prevent
any tensions between the two sides, we asked Kleiman to stop blowing the
shofar," Ben Ruby said. "He continued and so he was removed and detained."
The incident took place Sunday morning, the second day of the two-day
Rosh Hashana holiday, when a group of about 20 Jews gathered at the
northern-most section of the Western Wall commonly referred to as the
"Small Wall." The little-known area stands opposite the spot at which
the Holy of Holies is believed to have resided and is considered by Jews
to be the most holy section of the Western Wall.
The Holy of Holies is a room within the Tabernacle of the Jewish Temple
in which Jews believe God's presence dwelt. During the First Temple
period, from the 10th century B.C. to 586 B.C., the Holy of Holies was
said to have housed the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the Ten
Jewish worshippers at Western Wall in Jerusalem
The "Small Wall" is located within a mixed Jewish and Arab section of
Jerusalem and is supposed to be accessible to Jews at all times.
Large prayer services take place at the central section of the Western
Wall, where thousands gather for prayers on holidays. Smaller groups
regularly gather at the "Small Wall."
Kleiman says he had attended services at the "Small Wall" annually for
several years without incident. He said he prefers the smaller wall
because it is less crowded.
After the man began blowing the shofar during Rosh Hashana service, a
nearby police officer asked him to stop, according to Kleiman, the
Jerusalem police and several witnesses.
Kleiman says he continued blowing for about two minutes to finish the
section of prayer that requires the sounding of the shofar.
The officer then demanded Kleiman immediately leave the area for his
refusal to stop blowing the shofar when asked, Kleiman says.
He says he was in the middle of reciting the Amidah, the central prayer
of Jewish liturgy, which according to tradition must be read standing
and cannot be interrupted unless there is a risk of life.
"I couldn't go with (the officer) until I finished the Amidah," Kleiman
The officer called for backup, which Kleiman and observers say arrived
several minutes later. Fifteen policemen then dragged Kleiman from the
site, observers say.
According to police spokesman Ben Ruby, Kleiman was finished reciting
the Amidah at the time he was detained by several officers.
Kleiman and several witnesses said he was removed while still reciting
the Amidah, which is elongated on Rosh Hashana and can take about 20
minutes to complete. They said the police refused to allow Kleiman to
finish his prayers.
"They dragged me when I was trying to finish the Amida," Kleiman said.
Kleiman was taken to a nearby police station for questioning. He was
released after several hours pending an investigation that could see him
charged with disturbing public order and disturbing a police officer in
the line of duty.
Kleiman was informed earlier this week he is banned from all sections of
the Western Wall for the next two weeks. The Jewish holidays of Yom
Kippur, Succot, and Simchat Torah take place within the next two weeks.
Kleiman is petitioning against the restraining order in a Jerusalem
court tomorrow. The man has no prior police record and is not associated
with any group on Israeli watch lists, according to police sources.
Ben Ruby says Kleiman was arrested because a group of "hundreds" of
Muslims had ascended the Temple Mount on the opposite side of the "Small
Wall" and may have been offended by the sounding of the shofar.
"Our job is to keep peace in the city and ensure there are no tensions.
The shofar may have offended the Muslims and could have started a
Miriam Janoff, a Jew who lives near the "Small Wall," called Ben Ruby's
"Several times per day the Muslims broadcast prayer services on
loudspeakers that can be heard for miles, including every morning at 4
a.m. It is extremely disturbing when you are trying to sleep, but you
don't hear the Jews complain about it," Janoff said.
"It is the height of absurdity a Jew cannot blow the shofar near our
holiest site on one of our holiest holidays because a Muslim is nearby."
Also, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which started last week,
Arabs in Jerusalem's Old City regularly celebrate after sunset with loud
explosions from firecrackers and gunshot blanks.
Temple Mount: No-prayer zone
Jews regularly are banned from the Temple Mount, the holiest site in
Judaism. Muslims call it their third holiest site. It is the place
Muslims believe Muhammad, the founder of Islam, ascended to heaven to
receive revelations from Allah.
Even though the Jewish state controls Jerusalem, the Muslim Waqf, or
holy site monitors, serve as the custodians of the Temple Mount under a
deal made with the Israeli government when Jerusalem was captured by
Israel during the 1967 Six Day War.
The Temple Mount was opened to the general public until September 2000,
when the Palestinians started their intifada by throwing stones at
Jewish worshipers after then-candidate for prime minister Ariel Sharon
visited the area.
Following the onset of violence, the new Sharon government closed the
Mount to non-Muslims, using checkpoints to control all pedestrian
traffic for fear of further clashes with the Palestinians.
The Temple Mount was reopened to non-Muslims in August 2003. It still is
open but only Sundays through Thursdays, 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 12:30
p.m. to 1:30 p.m., and not on any Christian, Jewish or Muslim holidays
or other days considered "sensitive" by the Waqf.
During "open" days, Jews and Christian are allowed to ascend the Mount,
usually through organized tours and only if they conform first to a
strict set of guidelines, which includes demands that they not pray or
bring any "holy objects" to the site. Visitors are banned from entering
any of the mosques without direct Waqf permission.
Rules are enforced by Waqf agents, who watch tours closely and alert
nearby Israeli police to any breaking of their guidelines.