The Temple Mount is the location where the Jewish temples mentioned in scripture have been located down through the centuries. Muslims who came to Jerusalem many years later declared the site as their own and built what they called the Al-Aqsa mosque. Under informal understandings, Jews are not allowed to pray there.
The ruling by a magistrate court in Jerusalem concerned a Jewish man who had been barred from the site for 15 days after Israeli police caught him quietly praying there. The court lifted the ban several days early, ruling that the man, “like many others, prays on a daily basis on the Temple Mount."
Noting that he did so quietly and privately, the ruling said “this activity by itself is not enough to violate the police instructions."
Magistrate courts make up the lowest level of the Israeli judiciary and hear cases concerning relatively minor crimes.
Under a longstanding but informal arrangement known as the status quo, Jews are allowed to visit the site but not pray there. The agreement has broken down in recent years as large groups of Jews, including religious nationalists, have regularly visited and prayed at the site. The Israeli government says it is committed to maintaining the status quo.
The Palestinians and neighboring Jordan, which serves as the custodian of the holy site, fear that Israel plans to eventually take over the compound or partition it — as it did with a similarly contested holy site in Hebron, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Israel captured east Jerusalem — including the Old City and its holy sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims — in the 1967 war and annexed it in a move not recognized by most of the international community. The Palestinians want east Jerusalem to be the capital of their future state. The city's status has been among the most divisive issues in decades of failed peace efforts.