The authority of police to ban Jewish prayer services on Jerusalem's Temple Mount will be maintained, Joseph Burg, Minister of the Interior said here.
Burg, a veteran leader of the National Religious Party was speaking in his new capacity as head of police administration. Prime Minister Menahem Begin has abolished a separate police ministry placing it under the administration of the Interior Ministry.
The Temple Mount at the highest point in the Old City, is a raised enclosure, whose Western Wall - holiest of holy places for Jews throughtout the world - is a section of the retaining wall of the Temple of Herod (destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D.)
Above and beyond the Western Wall is a broad raised platform called by Muslims the Haram Al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) - the actual site of the Herodian Temple, built according to Jewish tradition, upon the rock where Abraham had been prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac.
On the platform, and enshrining a large section of the rock, stands the seventh century gold-and-mosaic Mosque of Omar, better known as the Dome of the Rock - Islam's third holiest shrine.
Just to the south of the Haram, within the walls of the enclosure, is Al Aksa, the largest mosque in Jerusalem, on a site consecrated by Muslims about 700 A.D.
Israeli government regulations permit Jews to enter Temple Mount but not to hold prayer services there, owing to the sensitivity of the area and the strong feelings such prayer services might arouse among Muslims.
Strictly observant Jews refrains from setting foot on the hallowed mount out of fear of treading over the spot of the Holy of Holies of the ancient Temple. But militant Jews have conducted pray-ins in the area as a political protest.
A ruling last year by a Jerusalem magistrate - later annulled by the Israeli Supreme Court - that Jews could not be prevented by police from praying on the sacred hilltop shrine sparked a protest that coupled with other alleged Arab grievances, spread in a wave of unrest and violence throughout the Israel-occupied West Bank of the Jordan River.