ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 141

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Far-right groups plan march through Jerusalem Old City’s Muslim Quarter Thursday

Concerns have been raised that march organized by ultranationalists could spark unrest in capital and anger Arab Israeli community

Jeremy Sharon is The Times of Israel’s legal affairs and settlements reporter

Long time Kahanist political operative Baruch Marzel speaks at the launch of the far-right 'Otzma Yehudit' party campaign, ahead of the Israeli elections, in Jerusalem on February 15, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90/ File)
Long time Kahanist political operative Baruch Marzel speaks at the launch of the far-right 'Otzma Yehudit' party campaign, ahead of the Israeli elections, in Jerusalem on February 15, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90/ File)

Two far-right ultranationalist organizations and multiple Temple Mount activist groups are set to conduct a march through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem on Thursday night to call for the reestablishment of “Jewish control” over the holy site.

The event, entitled “March of the Maccabees” — since it is taking place on the first night of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah — will proceed through the Damascus Gate and into the Muslim Quarter, pass by the offices of the Jordanian Waqf which administers the Temple Mount, and finish by the ramp to the Mughrabi Gate, the entrance to the Temple Mount for non-Muslims located outside the Western Wall plaza.

The march has raised concerns, with a former Jerusalem police chief saying the event could spark inter-communal tensions in Jerusalem, as well as with Arab Israelis around the country, and further inflame tensions in the West Bank.

According to Channel 12 news, current Jerusalem police chief Doron Turgeman will decide on Thursday morning whether to approve the route of the march through the Muslim Quarter

The goals of the march, as stated on a social media flier for the event, are to bless the memories of IDF soldiers who have fallen in combat against Hamas in the Gaza war, “eject the Waqf from the Temple Mount,” and “restore full Jewish control in Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.”

The organization behind the march is called “Sons of Mount Moriah,” a radical new Temple Mount group established three months ago by an individual by the name of David Ben Moriah. Mount Moriah is one of the biblical names for the Temple Mount.

A poster for the ‘March of the Maccabees’ by ultranationalists and Temple Mount groups, published on December 6, 2023, planned to be held the next day. (Sons of Mount Moriah)

The X account for Sons of Mount Moriah expresses praise for the late Jewish supremacist rabbi Meir Kahane and has numerous images of a Jewish Temple replacing the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount, as well as images of aerial strikes raining down on the Muslim holy site.

Another participating organization is the Kahanist “Jewish Truth” movement, whose chairman Baruch Marzel was the former faction secretary of Rabbi Meir Kahane’s Jewish supremacist Kach party and a founder of the ultranationalist Otzma Yehudit party. Marzel is also one of the organizers of the march.

The movement advocates for the removal of Muslim holy sites on the Temple Mount, the rebuilding of a Jewish Temple there, and the forcible transfer from Israel of anyone who voted for Arab political parties.

According to Ben Moriah, he submitted a request to police for a permit for the march with the help of Attorney Baruch Ben Yosef, who also serves as a legal adviser for The Jewish Truth.

Ben Moriah likely used the services of Ben Yosef, since Sons of Mount Moriah is not yet a registered charity and would not be able to get a police permit for a public demonstration.

Police have given approval for the march to go ahead, but have restricted it to 200 participants and also refused a request by the organizers to go to the Temple Mount itself.

“The Temple Mount needs to be clean of enemies, especially because it is the most holy place to Jewish people, and whoever governs it governs the whole of the land,” said Ben Moriah, who said that his organization is demanding full rights for Jews at the site and “Jewish sovereignty in the whole country.”

Non-Muslims are generally prevented by police from conducting open prayer on the Temple Mount, and visiting times for non-Muslims are extremely limited.

Ben Moriah denied the march was a provocation, and said that ignoring Islamist activity on the Temple Mount, such as Palestinian chants of “We will liberate Al-Aqsa with blood and spirit” had led to the atrocities committed by Hamas on October 7.

Palestinians wave Palestinian and Islamic flags as they rally at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, following the last Friday prayers of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, on April 29, 2022. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

“Our enemies determined the goals of the war. They called it the ‘Al-Aqsa Flood.’ They always say everything is because of Al-Aqsa. If we ignore that, next time it will be 14,000 Jews murdered and then the time after that 1,400,000.”

Former Jerusalem Police chief Yair Yitzhaki told Army Radio on Wednesday morning that the influence of Otzma Yehudit party chief Itamar Ben Gvir, the far-right national security minister, was clear.

“Police are not operating in a vacuum. They are working within a specific political reality in which the national security minister is a dangerous pyromaniac, a convicted criminal who would go with Marzel on this march if he weren’t a minister.

“They are deliberately setting the territory on fire and when the prime minister doesn’t stop it and say ‘Stop this madness,’ he is endangering you, me, and the listeners,” said Yitzhaki.

Hamas itself put out a statement about the march, calling on Palestinians to mobilize against it and on the Kingdom of Jordan to take action.

The Jerusalem Police said in a statement that it will bolster its forces for the event and will “deal determinedly” with anyone who tries to act against the permits given for the march and who does not listen to police instructions, “whether they are participating in the march or anyone else.”

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