Tensions Sizzle at Temple Mount Before Passover
Jerusalem (TPS) – Tensions are once again flaring at the Temple Mount and Al-Aqsa Mosque in anticipation of Passover as politicians traded sharp words on Thursday.
“The [Jewish] visits to the Al-Aqsa Mosque are escalating and we must stop them by all means,” said Israeli-Arab MK Jamal Zahalka in an interview with the Palestinian site Al-Watan Voice.
“The third Intifada came about because of these problems,” he added, referring to the ongoing wave of terror attacks against Israelis. “The continuation of the Intifada depends upon the decision of the Palestinian factions—will they take up the popular struggle or leave it to the youth and isolated individuals?”
“The Palestinian nation stands with the Al-Aqsa Mosque and will defend it with all its might. The Palestinian people protects its holy sites,” declared Zahalka, head of the Balad party and a self-described atheist.
Israeli politicians roundly condemned Zahalka’s remarks as an attempt to stoke tensions and violence surrounding the hotly contested holy site.
“There are all kinds of extremists spreading lies about our policy on the Temple Mount in order to provoke riots and inflame the situation before Passover,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday.
“I can confidently tell you: There are no changes in our policy regarding the status quo on the Temple Mount. Don’t believe the lies, even when they are unfortunately spread by some members of Knesset,” Netanyahu said, adding that the government is acting against “inciters” and intensifying security forces at known flashpoints.
Palestinian officials have repeatedly claimed that Israel plans to change the “status quo” on the Temple Mount, which allows for small groups of Jews to visit parts of the 36-acre compound but not to pray there. President Mahmoud Abbas said in September that the Al-Aqsa Mosque “is ours and they have no right to defile it with their filthy feet.”
Israel has strenuously denied any plans to alter the status quo on the holy site and had reached an agreement with Jordan—who maintains control over the Al-Aqsa Mosque—to install cameras to ensure that no violations take place.
Meanwhile, Jewish Temple Mount activists are planning to hold a “practice sacrifice” of the Paschal lamb next week on the Mount of Olives, adjacent to the Temple Mount. The event will include rabbinic figures and priests reenacting the now-defunct ancient Passover service, complete with specially-made ritual trumpets and the slaughter and roast of a lamb.
The ceremony is designed to “revive the words, colors, and smells that have been lost to us for 2,000 years,” according to the event’s crowdfunding page.