Controversial J‘lem photo gifted to U.S. Ambassador Friedman causes storm

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman was caught off guard on Tuesday when he was presented with a poster-sized photo of Jerusalem during a visit to the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) city of Bnei Brak.

The seemingly authentic photo of the capital was in fact edited to depict a rebuilt third temple on the Temple Mount, the site where the al-Aqsa mosque currently stands.

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Friedman received the picture from an activist from the NGO "Achiya," which works to ensure the rights of children with learning disabilities in the haredi sector and led the tour Friedman was on at the time.

The US Embassy subsequently demanded an apology from the NGO, and clarified that "US policy [supports] the status quo on the Haram Al-Sharif/Temple Mount."

"We apologize to Ambassador Friedman and the U.S. Embassy. One of our staffers presented a picture to the Ambassador that was not cleared or approved by our organization or the embassy and Ambassador‎," it said. "The Ambassador and his team were professional and generous with their time in visiting us to highlight the important life changing work we do. Unfortunately the entire experience has been clouded by a cheap political stunt."

Achiya then formally assured the embassy that the respective employee "has been identified" and that he will be dealt with internally in an appropriate manner.

"Ambassador Friedman was not aware of the image thrust in front of him when the photo was taken," the US Embassy spokesperson said in a later statement. "He was deeply disappointed that anyone would take advantage of his visit to Bnei Brak to create controversy."

The spokesperson then reiterated: "US policy is absolutely clear: we support the status quo on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount."

The controversial event has the potential to cause backlash and dissent among Palestinians, who have long accused Israel of threatening to damage the status quo at the Temple Mount.