Extremist group offers Jews $500 to pray on Temple Mount

‘Returning to the Mount,’ which advocates construction of a third temple, encourages visitors to flout ban on prayer at site

A Jewish man looks towards the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, 2013. (AP Photo/Simone Camilli)
A Jewish man looks towards the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, 2013. (AP Photo/Simone Camilli)

A far-right Israeli group that advocates Jewish sovereignty on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount has launched a campaign to encourage worshipers to violate a ban on Jewish prayer at the flashpoint religious site.

“Returning to the Mount” has offered NIS 2,000 ($516) to anyone who goes to the Temple Mount and is caught praying, Channel 2 reported Tuesday. Suspected violators of the ban on Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount are routinely arrested by Israeli police.

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.

Raphael Morris, head of Returning to the Mount, said that “the situation for Jews on the Temple Mount worsens with each passing moment; the ruthless restrictions on Jews for every matter on the Temple Mount constitute a precedent for discrimination against Jews in general and Judaism in particular. We are not prepared [to let] the situation deteriorate. We must act not only to end the slide, but moreover for the addition of rights for Jews on the mount, the first of which is prayer.”

Returning to the Mount leader Raphael Morris (screen capture: Facebook)
Returning to the Mount leader Raphael Morris (screen capture: Facebook)

Morris was arrested by police ahead of US President Barack Obama’s 2013 visit to Israel, and was ordered to stay away from the presidential entourage. He and another right-wing extremist, Hanamel Dorfman, were suspected of planning to disturb the president’s state visit.

His wife, Aviya Morris, also belongs to the extremist group, which advocates the realization of Jewish sovereignty on the Temple Mount and the construction of a third Jewish Temple at the site. She recently made headlines for calling the Muslim prophet Muhammad a pig during a visit to the Mount. Her personal Facebook page features a link to a website memorializing the Jewish ultranationalist mentor Rabbi Meir Kahane, who was assassinated in 1990.

“We hope that hundreds and thousands of Jews will begin to exercise their rights on the Temple Mount in defiance of the Arab terrorists,” Raphael Morris was quoted by the Srugim website Tuesday as saying. “The Temple Mount is the holiest place for the Jewish people, on which the First and Second Temples stood, and on which we will soon build the third temple.”

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