Top rabbi moves to prevent Passover sacrifice at Al-Aqsa Mosque compound

AFP , Tuesday 4 Apr 2023

A top Israeli rabbi moved Tuesday to prevent Jewish prayer rights activists from breaking a ban on holding a traditional Passover sacrifice at the flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied east Jerusalem.

Al-Aqsa Mosque compound
File photo: The move by the rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinowitz, comes amid fears of violence at the holy site as the Jewish holiday coincides with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which draws tens of thousands of worshippers to pray at Al-Aqsa. AFP

 

The move by the rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinowitz, comes amid fears of violence at the holy site as the Jewish holiday coincides with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which draws tens of thousands of worshippers to pray at Al-Aqsa.

"Following reports of intent to bring a Passover sacrifice up to the Esplanade: Rabbi of the Western Wall to prevent bringing animals to the Mughrabi area," said a statement from the Western Wall Heritage Foundation.

The Western Wall is the site where Jews can pray and sits below the mosque compound.

Passover begins on Wednesday and traditionally sheep and goats are sacrificed on the eve of the Jewish holiday.

In previous years, Jewish activists have tried to smuggle animals into the mosque compound, which is administered by Jordan's Waqf. Non-Muslims can visit the site at specific times but are not allowed to pray there.

"Under the direction of the rabbi of the Western Wall and holy sites, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, (we) will work to prevent bringing animals to the Mughrabi ramp area," the Foundation said, referring to the entrance to the mosque compound used by non-Muslims.

The Returning to the Mountain movement, a radical Jewish group, said it will pay 20,000 shekels ($5,570) to anyone who succeeds in the "holy mission" of carrying out a sacrifice at the compound, Islam's third holiest site.

The organisation's director was arrested Monday as a preventative measure, Israeli police said.

Israel's Sephardi chief rabbi, Yitzhak Yosef, published a notice on Tuesday barring the faithful from visiting the Al-Aqsa compound because it is "a severe breach of Jewish law".

The Islamist group Hamas, which rules Gaza, warned Monday that permitting Jewish sacrifice in the compound "would fuel an already explosive situation, for which the Israeli occupation government bears full responsibility".

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