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Jan 30, 2012

Banning Shofar Blowing Reminiscent Of The British Mandate

In an interesting lawsuit the court in Jerusalem ruled that the police had the right to stop people from blowing the shofar on Rosh Hashana at the Kotel HaKotton.

The Kotel HaKotton, the "Little Kotel", is a stretch of wall further down in the Muslim Quarter that is an extension of the Kotel. The Kotel HaKotton is actually located much closer to the area of the Holy of Holies, the Kodesh Kodashim, and is a popular albeit fairly neglected, place of prayer for those "daring enough" to walk through the Muslim Quarter to get there.

This past Rosh Hashana during prayer services at the Kotel HaKotton, a fellow blew the shofar. A policeman who was in the area told him to stop. When he did not, the shofar was confiscated and the fellow was detained for a few hours and then slapped with a restraining order keeping him away from the area for 5 days.

This fellow then sued the police for damages resulted from wrongful arrest, theft of the shofar and other reasons.

The court ruled against the fellow and in favor of the police. You can read the entire 9 page court decision at the court website (like all Israeli government websites it only works in Internet Explorer). To be brief, it all boils down to the point that the area is a sensitive one and the police have to weigh freedom of religious expression versus public safety. Considering that the blowing of the shofar in that area could upset the Muslims and create a dangerous situation, the police have the right to limit the religious expression.

This decision is very similar to the decision used by the police to limit prayer, to ban prayer actually, on Har HaBayit. The courts defended the rights of Jews to pray on Har HaBayit as aright of religious expression, while at the same time giving the police the power to choose to overrule that and limit prayer based on issues of public safety.

It is a shame that the police use such outdated methods instead of controlling the potential violence. We should be sensitive to the history of the place, that being that the British banned the blowing of the shofar for those very same reasons, while we have turned those who blew the shofar despite the ban into heroes, not just religious heroes but national heroes as well for standing up to the British. And for our own authorities to now be enforcing a similar ban due to similar concerns is perhaps an expression of the once expressed dream to be a nation like any other.


Our authorities should allow such activities, while working to maintain control and keep the peace. Without getting into legal arguments, as the courts made the legal decisions, it seems from a more national perspective it is in our interests to not limit Jewish expression the way other governments in history tried to.

9 comments:

  1. Maybe part of the issue is the police and courts know that there is no reason to be blowing shofar now, as opposed to Rosh Hashanah time and so they concluded the only reason he did so was to create extra noise and be inciteful?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Shaya - Read the post. It was on Rosh Hashanah.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I never understand why the defendants in these cases don't cite the case of the Jerusalem Pride Parade, wherein, IIRC, the Supreme Court said that threats of violence should not provide a legal basis to limit freedom of expression.

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  4. You see... gay pride parades are politically correct.

    Jews blowing the shofar or engaging in prayer would offend the Arabs and it can't be allowed.

    Some forms of free speech in Israel are more equal than others.

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  5. Why do you call it the Kotel HaKotton? The Hebrew word is Kattan.

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  6. oops, completely missed that. d'oh!

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  7. Will there ever be enough people willing to stand up for their right to pray on har habayit or blow shofar on Rosh Hashana anywhere they like?

    Until then, don't expect any change.

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  8. How is the behavior of the Arabs threatening violence any different than the haredim who threaten violence

    Could you imagine a court ordering women to sit in the back of the bus because otherwise the charedim might attack her.

    Are we surprised the haredim resort to violence when it works so well for the muslims

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  9. Mordechai, why bring in the Arabs or muslims? Israeli Arabs want to have rights, many muslims don't accept Israel's existence. The haredim have a long history of spitting on hilonim and stone throwing, and attacking followers of other sects. They feel entitled and self righteous. Meanwhile they are Jews and they live on State lands and enjoy schools and services provided by the State. Don't equate or excuse or even attempt to find reasons for the biryonim. In another country they would be in prison where they belong.

    ReplyDelete

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