Tuesday, August 08, 2017

The 1931 Status Quo. Yes, That One

With all the talk about a policy of status quo regarding the administration of the Temple Mount, I think some history needs be cleared up.

There is the current 1967 "status quo" 

[Moshe] Dayan thought, and years later committed the thought to writing, that since the Mount was a “Muslim prayer mosque” while for Jews it was no more than “a historical site of commemoration of the past…one should not hinder the Arabs from behaving there as they now do and one should recognize their right as Muslims to control the site.” Dayan believed that the new order he designed on the Mount was the best way to prevent the national-territorial conflict from turning into a religious one that would be much more dangerous.
The basic elements of the status quo he devised included:

  1. The Waqf, as an arm of the Jordanian Ministry of Sacred Properties, would continue to manage the site and be responsible for arrangements and for religious and civil affairs there.
  1. Jews would not be permitted to pray on the Temple Mount, but they would be able to visit it. (This right of freedom of access to the Mount was also eventually anchored within the context of the Protection of Holy Places Law.)
  1. Israel, by means of its police force, would assume responsibility for security in the sacred compound, both within the site itself and regarding the wall and gates surrounding it.
  1. Israeli sovereignty and law would be applied to the Temple Mount as to the other parts of Jerusalem, to which Israeli law was applied after the Six-Day War. (This stipulation was approved more than once by the Israeli High Court of Justice.)
  1. It was later decided that the only entrance to the Temple Mount through which Jews would be permitted would be the Mughrabi Gate, located in the center of the Western Wall, whereas Muslims would be able to enter the Mount through its many other gates.  As for tourists it was established that they would enter through three gates: the Mughrabi Gate, the Chain Gate, and the Cotton Merchant’s Gate.  Today, the entrance of tourists is permitted only through the Mughrabi Gate.
  1. Over the years the raising of flags of any kind was prohibited on the Mount.

The Temple Mount will remain as is and will be managed as it is now. Arrangements for visits by Jews to the Temple Mount are safeguarded; there will be no change in them, just as the prayer arrangements for the Muslims.

and expressed more pithily:

Muslims pray on the Temple Mount; non-Muslims visit the Temple Mount

He shouldn't have been so comprehensive and public. 

There is the 1928 White Paper "status quo".  Here it is as reported by the JTA:

British Government Issues White Paper on Wailing Wall 
London (Nov. 27) 
–Asserting that the status quo, as established under the Turkish regime, was infringed by the Jewish worshippers at the Jewish Holy Site on September 24, the Day of Atonement, the White Paper of the British Government concerning the Wailing Wall incident, made public today, contains a statement of the facts and a declaration that the administration of Palestine intends to maintain the established Jewish right of access to the Holy Site.
 The White Paper, written by Col. Leopold H. Amery, Secretary of State for the Colonies, refers to the communique of the Palestine Government dated the 26th of September and explains that the intervention of the police was caused, as the Jewish action constituted an infraction of the status quo of the Wall. The paper further explains the Jewish rights to the Wall during the Turkish regime, underlining the ruling of 1912 prohibiting Jews to erect a screen on the wall pavement*. The White Paper emphasizes this year’s innovations at the Wall on Yom Kippur were made the cause of the complaints of the Mufti in charge of the Wakf (Moslem religious property) to the Palestine Government necessitating immediate action, according to the practice not to create precedent contradictory to the status quo the Palestine government is obliged to maintain under the terms of the mandate.
 Concerning the complaint that no Jew was among the police executing the order, this happened because, upon the urgent request of the Chief Rabbinate, all Jewish policemen had been released from service for the Yom Kippur holiday. In future, steps will be taken insuring a Jewish officer’s presence at the Wall on all such occasions. The further complaint that the Palestine government should have consulted Jewish authorities before taking action, is not substantiated, because if the infringement of the status quo was committed with the knowledge of these authorities, they were aware of the possible consequences from the experience on Yom Kippur, 1925 [As the Shaw Report noted, page 29, As a result of an incident, which occurred in September 1925, a ruling was made which forbade the Jews to bring seats and benches to the Wall even though these were intended for worshippers who were aged and infirm]. If, however, the Jewish authorities were ignorant of the innovations introduced, they cannot reasonably expect the Palestine government’s countenancing the unauthorized act of subordinates.
The British Government regards it as their duty and have the intention to maintain the established Jewish right of access to the pavement in front of the Wall for the purposes of devotion.



As Seth Franztman notes:

In 1912, chief rabbi of the Ottoman Empire Haim Nahoum appealed to the sultan to permit the Jewish community to bring benches and chairs to the Wall to aid the elderly...The Ashkenazi religious court judge Mendel Hacohen Pakover noted that in 1900, on certain major holidays, he encouraged religious Jews to bring a screen to separate men and women. The Muslim community regarded all of these activities as changes to the status quo, and part of a Jewish conspiracy to undermine the rights of Muslims in the city – one that should be opposed violently if need be.

Now, let's outline the 1931 "status quo", decided upon by an International Inquiry Commission, quite a demeaning document, actually:


A. To the Moslems belong the sole ownership of, and the sole proprietary right to, the Western Wall, seeing that it forms an integral part of the Haram-esh-Sherif area, which is a Waqf property.  To the Moslems there also belongs the ownership of the Pavement in front of the Wall and of the adjacent so-called Moghrabi (Moroccan) Quarter opposite the Wall, inasmuch as the last-mentioned property was made Waqf under Moslem Sharia Law, it being dedicated to charitable purposes. Such appurtenances of worship and/or such other objects as the Jews may be entitled to place near the Wall...shall under no circumstances be considered as, or have the effect of, establishing for them any sort of proprietary right to the Wall or to the adjacent Pavement...

B. The Jews shall have free access to the Western Wall for the purpose of devotions at all times--subject to the explicit stipulations hereinafter to be mentioned...it shall be permissible to place near the Wall the Cabinet or Ark containing the Scroll or Scrolls of the Law and the Table on which the Ark stands and the table on which the Scroll is laid when being read from, but only on the following occasions, viz.:--

(a) At any special fast and assembly for public prayer that the Chief Rabbis of Jerusalem may order to be held in the consequence of some public distress or calamity, provided due notice shall have been given by them to the Administration;(b) on New Year's Day and on the Day of Atonement,and also on any other special "holy days" that are recognised by the Government as such days on which it has been customary...(2) No objection or obstacle shall be raised to the Jews, in their individual capacity, carrying with them to the Wall hand-books or other articles customarily used at their devotions either as a general thing or upon special occasions, nor to their wearing such garments as were of old used at their devotions.(3) The temporarily enacted prohibitions against the bringing to the Wall of benches, carpets or mattings, chairs, curtains and screens, etc., and against the driving of animals at certain hours along the Pavement are to be made absolute, as is also the injunction as to keeping the door at the southern end of the Wall locked during certain hours. The right, however, for Moslems to go to and fro in an ordinary way along the Pavement shall be respected and remain inviolable as hitherto.(4) It shall be prohibited to bring to the Wall any tent or a curtain or any similar object with a view to placing it there--even though for a limited space of time.(5) The Jews shall not be permitted to blow the ram's horn (Shofar) near the Wall nor cause any other disturbance to the Moslems that is avoidable; the Moslems on the other hand shall not be permitted to carry out the Zikr ceremony close to the Pavement during the progress of the Jewish devotions or to cause annoyance to the Jews in any other way.(6) It is to be understood that the Administration shall be entitled to give such instructions as they may think fit respecting the dimensions of each of the objects that it is permissible for the Jews to bring to the Wall, respecting the particular days and hours above referred to...(7) It shall be prohibited for any person or persons to make use of the place in front of the Wall or its surroundings for all political speeches or utterances or demonstrations of any kind whatever.(8) It shall be held to be a matter of common interest to Moslems and Jews alike that the Western Wall should not be disfigured by having any engravings or inscriptions placed upon it or by having nails or similar objects driven into it, and also that the Pavement in front of the Wall should be kept clean and be properly respected by Moslems and Jews alike; it is herewith declared to be the Moslems' right and duty to have the Pavement cleaned and repaired, if and when that is necessary, upon due notice being given to the Administration. (9) Owing to the Wall's character as an historical monument its fitting maintenance shall be entrusted to the Palestine Administration, so that any repairs to it that may be necessary shall be carried out by them and under their supervision though only after consultation with the Supreme Moslem Council and the Rabbinical Council for Palestine.(10) If any repairs to the Pavement that are necessary are not attended to by the Moslems in due time, the Palestine Administration shall take the necessary steps to have the work done.(11) The Chief Rabbis of Jerusalem shall be required to nominate one or more officials to be their authorised representative or representatives for receiving the instructions and other communications that will be issued from time to time by the Palestine Administration regarding the Western Wall, the Pavement in front of it and the formalities to be observed with regard to the Jewish devotions near the Wall. 

SCHEDULE II.2.--(a) The Jews may bring daily to the Pavement before the Wall a stand containing ritual lamps, and may place on the stand a zinc case with glass doors in which such lamps are lighted. They may bring also a portable wash-basin and a water container on a stand. None of the objects above mentioned shall be affixed to the Wall or to any wall of the adjoining Waqf buildings.(b) From sunset on Friday evening to sunset on Saturday, and from sunset on the eve of any Jewish holy day recognised by the Government to sunset of that holy day the Jews may place at the Northern end of the Wall a stand containing prayer books, and at the Southern end of the Wall a table on which to stand a cabinet or ark containing Scrolls of the Law and another table on which the Scrolls are laid for reading. The tables and cabinet or ark and the stand shall be removed at the end of the Sabbath or holy day as the case may be.(c) On the two holy days of the New Year Festival and on the Day of Atonement each Jewish worshipper may bring a prayer-mat which may be placed on the Pavement before the Wall but so as not to obstruct the right of passage along the Pavement.3. No benches, chairs or stools shall be brought to or placed on the Pavement before the Wailing Wall. No screen or curtain shall be placed on the Wall or on the Pavement, for the purpose of separating men and women or for any other purpose.4. Between the hours of 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Sabbath days and Jewish holy days recognised by the Government, and between the hours of 5 and 8 p.m. on the eve of such days, and throughout the eve and Day of Atonement, save between the hours of dawn and 7 a.m., no animal shall be driven along the Pavement before the Wall.5. The wooden door giving access from the Pavement to the Zawieh at the Southern end of the Wall shall remain locked on the eve of the Sabbath and Jewish holy days recognised by the Government from 5 p.m. and throughout such days until after sunset.

So, what we have is a degrading status quo that denies historical truth and Jewish rights. 

One more element is required for understanding what is wrong here: knowing that Jordan ignores its requirements according to a peace treaty.

The Jordan-Israel Peace Treaty:


  1. Each party will provide freedom of access to places of religious and historical significance.
  1. In this regard, in accordance with the Washington Declaration, Israel respects the present special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in Muslim Holy shrines in Jerusalem. When negotiations on the permanent status will take place, Israel will give high priority to the Jordanian historic role in these shrines.
  1. The Parties will act together to promote interfaith relations among the three monotheistic religions, with the aim of working towards religious understanding, moral commitment, freedom of religious worship, and tolerance and peace.


  1. The Parties will seek to foster mutual understanding and tolerance based on shared historic values, and accordingly undertake:
  1. to abstain from hostile or discriminatory propaganda against each other, and to take all possible legal and administrative measures to prevent the dissemination of such propaganda...

Today, the King declared that

Tampering with status quo in Jerusalem would impact region

But who is tampering with that status quo?

And without working with Israel
His Majesty, the Custodian of Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem, reiterated that Jordan will continue to protect the holy sites in the city, through working with the international community.

And it seems this was discussed

a habitual encroachment by Israeli forces on the Al-Aqsa compound. 

There is no status quo and no fulfillment of the Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty.

And that is a shame.



NormanF said...

The British were far more liberal as to what the Jews were allowed to bring upon the Temple Mount and in fact, we have seen a serious erosion in that interpretation of the status quo since 1967.

In enforcing it, Israel ignores it own laws, its obligations under the peace treaty with Jordan and international law - to the detriment of Jewish rights.

What a shame, indeed.

Mr. Cohen said...

Why do anti-Israel textbooks continue to thrive?

Mr. Cohen said...