Police on Thursday arrested two people when officers broke up an illegal demonstration and effort to light Hanukkah candles on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.
A group of about 40 members of the extremist right-wing group Returning to the Mount planned to ascend the flashpoint holy site, but police stopped them from entering the Old City via the Jaffa Gate. One of the two people detained was a minor, Haaretz reported Friday.
The demonstration was timed for the fourth day of the Jewish holiday Hanukkah, which celebrates the restoration of the Second Temple by the Maccabees in the second century BCE.
Jews consider the Temple Mount, formerly the site of the two temples, to be Judaism’s holiest site. Muslims regard the compound — which today houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, known in Arabic as the Holy Sanctuary — as the third-holiest site in Islam.
The site has been the focal point of violence wracking Israel and the Palestinian territories — including dozens of Palestinian stabbing attacks on Israelis — in the past month, amid claims by Palestinian leaders that Israel plans to change the status quo on the Temple Mount. Israel has vehemently denied those charges.
Returning to the Mount advocates the instating of Jewish sovereignty on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount and its activists go to the site and try to pray there in violation of a ban.
Suspected violators of the ban on Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount are routinely arrested by Israeli police.
In October “Returning to the Mount” offered NIS 2,000 ($516) to anyone who goes to the Temple Mount and is caught praying, Channel 2 reported.