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Orthodox Jewish newspaper condemns Ben-Gvir for storming Al-Aqsa Mosque

Israeli newspaper linked to Israel's Hasidic community calls Ben-Gvir’s actions 'futile and foolish'
Israel's National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir visits Al-Aqsa, 3 January (Social Media)
Israel's National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir visits Al-Aqsa, 3 January 2023 (Social media)

A front-page condemnation by a newspaper affiliated with Israel's religious Orthodox community on Wednesday exposed divisions over the actions of Israeli far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque's courtyards a day earlier.

The editorial on Yated Neeman, a newspaper that caters to Israel's Hasidic community, was titled: "Provocation on the Temple Mount, world condemnation blitz."

'What value does a "victory lap" of a few minutes in front of the cameras have - apart from the hope of a media gain?'

- Moshe Gafni, United Torah Judaism

Yated Neeman wrote that Ben-Gvir's visit was an "unnecessary and dangerous provocation" that also resulted in global condemnation.

The newspaper is closely affiliated with the United Torah Judaism (UTJ) political alliance, which signed a coalition agreement with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party last week.

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The editorial said that storming Al-Aqsa Mosque would "unnecessarily endanger the lives of Jews".

"What value does a 'victory lap' of a few minutes in front of the cameras have - apart from the hope of a media gain?" the newspaper said, adding that "these are futile acts full of folly".

The paper said Ben-Gvir's actions played into the hands of groups such as Hamas, who would use such "futile and foolish actions" to convince Palestinians that Jews were planning to destroy Al-Aqsa Mosque. 

Yated Neeman also pointed out that Ben-Gvir visited the site despite "strict prohibitions" in Israeli laws on access to Al-Aqsa, known as Temple Mount to Jews.

Following the condemnation, Israeli lawmaker Moshe Gafni, a member of the UJT coalition, said, "Nothing was gained from this, except taunting the whole world."

Gafni added that not entering the site did not mean Jews were relinquishing their rights over the site.

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"The fact that you don't go there doesn't mean it's not mine, on the contrary, it's the Holy of Holies," he said.

Ben-Gvir's visit also drew condemnation from Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef.

"As a minister representing the government of Israel, you should be acting according to Chief Rabbinate instructions, which have long forbidden visiting the Temple Mount," said Yosef.

Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest site in Islam and the site of the Jewish temple destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE.

Since Israel occupied the site following the 1967 Middle East war, Jewish prayer at the site has been forbidden, though far-right settlers, such as Ben-Gvir, have frequently prayed there under heavy security in recent years.

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