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Rabbis ask Netanyahu to allow Passover sacrifice on Temple Mount during Ramadan

Jerusalem police is vigilant, as Temple Mount activists are urging Jews to offer biblical Passover sacrifice at the holy site.
Palestinians pray outside the Dome of the Rock shrine at Al-Aqsa mosque compound, during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan in Jerusalem on March 29, 2023. (Photo by HAZEM BADER / AFP) (Photo by HAZEM BADER/AFP via Getty Images)

Fifteen rabbis have asked the Israeli government on Thursday to ascend the Temple Mount and al-Haram al-Sharif next Wednesday, when the Jewish holiday of Passover begins, a move that could exacerbate tensions in Jerusalem during the ongoing Muslim holy month of Ramadan. 

The rabbis have put a request to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir on Thursday to ascend to the Temple Mount and for Jews to be allowed to offer the Passover, the way it was practiced in biblical times.

Over the years, a majority of rabbis has ruled that Jews are not allowed to ascend the Temple Mount site, since purification rituals cannot be performed in times when the temple is destroyed. Most rabbis also object to reviving biblical sacrifices of lambs or goats. Still, far-right religious activists have registered a clear trend in recent years of an increase in the number of Jews ascending the Temple Mount compound.

The request by the rabbis to enable Passover sacrifice is not new. Temple Mount activists have been making similar demands frequently in recent years, mostly ahead of the major Jewish traditional holidays. Israeli police is monitoring for such attempts regularly. Ten people were detained by police in 2016, on their way to offer the Passover sacrifice on the Temple Mount. A well-known far-right activist who purchased a young goat was arrested last year for intending to take it to the site as a Passover sacrifice.

The movement “Back to the Mountain,” which preaches for Israel to take over control of the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif complex from the hands of the Muslim Waqf authorities, offered on Thursday prizes for Jews who would try sneaking a lamb into the holy site. A person detained by police trying to get into the complex with a lamb would receive a prize if 1,200 Israeli shekels ($330), a person arrested inside the complex with a lamb would be awarded 2,500 shekels ($690) and a person succeeding to offer a lamb or a young goat on Temple Mount would get 20,000 shekels ($5,500).

The calls for a Passover sacrifice come on the backdrop of especially high tensions in Jerusalem this year, as Ramadan and Passover overlap. Traditionally, Jerusalem police limits the entry to the site for Jews during Ramadan in order to minimize frictions, especially in the last 10 days of the holy Muslim month. The fact that Ben-Gvir, who had called over the years for Jews to ascend Temple Mount, is currently responsible for Israel's police, seems to aggravate the already volatile situation. Ben-Gvir’s wife is a known Temple Mount activist.

In parallel, measures were put into place last week to enable Muslims from the West Bank and Gaza Strip to enter Israel in order to pray at the Muslim holy sites and to celebrate Ramadan with family members living in Israel. A report by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on Friday around noon said that more than 100,000 Palestinians entered Israel, most of them heading to Haram al-Sharif for the Ramadan prayers, twice the number compared with last Friday. Still, the IDF decided Friday morning to close all West Bank and Gaza crossing points on the first and last days of Passover.

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