A Temple Mount activist who posted a digitally created image of a pig at the holy site in Jerusalem was arrested Wednesday for insulting religion and ordered by police to remove the post from his Facebook page.
Haim Brosh, 30, from the West Bank settlement of Tekoa, was released after several hours of questioning and told that if he didn’t delete the photo he would be re-arrested. He was also given a 15-day ban from visiting the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem.
In the photo a pig can be seen drinking from a puddle in the Temple Mount enclosure with the golden Dome of the Rock reflected on the surface of the water.
Although Brosh did remove the image from the timeline of his Facebook posts, he didn’t delete it, and it was still being shared by many other users on Thursday morning in protest of his arrest.
Brosh had posted the image with a message saying, “The Israeli government lets live pigs rule the holiest site for the Jewish people and everyone is crying out over a pig’s head at the tomb of a righteous man in anti-Semitic Europe?”
His comparison was a reference to an attack early Wednesday morning in the Ukrainian town of Uman during which a number of assailants threw a pig’s head into a building at the gravesite of Rabbi Nachman, founder of the Breslov Hasidic movement, and also daubed fake blood on the walls and floor of a synagogue at the site. Some Jewish worshipers present were attacked with pepper spray.
Brosh’s Facebook feed includes pictures of visits he has made to the Temple Mount in the past as well as other references to Jewish right of access to the compound.
Brosh, who intends to appeal against the ban on visiting the Jerusalem holy site, told the Ynet news site he explained to investigators that he was exercising his freedom of speech.
He said that his intention was to protest that “the Israeli government is letting a foreign body — the Waqf — control and act in an aggressive manner and harm the basic democratic rights of Jews who only want to go up and pray without any provocation.”
“I go up to the Temple Mount and they harass me, curse me, and call me a pig,” Brosh said. “In every mosque they call Jews monkeys and pigs and they haven’t arrested anyone for offending religion.”
“I felt like I was in the thought police,” he continued, adding that police had accused him of trying to ignite the whole Middle East with his provocative actions.
Police said in response that any posts about the Temple Mount have that potential to be provocative and that they therefore conduct frequent investigations into such offenses, including against Arab residents of East Jerusalem for posting material relating to the Temple Mount.
Police added that Brosh is a well-known Temple Mount activist and, as such, would be fully aware of the provocative nature of the photo.
Jewish activists have advocated both going up onto the Mount and praying on it to establish a Jewish presence on the site, on which the third-most important holy site in Islam — the Al-Aqsa Mosque — rests. The Mount itself and the area under the Dome of the Rock are the holiest sites in Judaism and the locations of both the ancient Jewish temples.
Under Israeli law, Jews are allowed to visit the Mount but not to pray there, as part of a “status quo” agreement put in place by Israel after it captured the site from Jordan in 1967. The Mount is administered by the Jordan-based Jerusalem Islamic Waqf.